Viral Country Artist Don Louis Is Ready to Fight for Music Stardom: 'It's Always Been a Battle for Me' (Exclusive)

"I'm really bringing a new wave of country that I just couldn't find," he tells PEOPLE. "Nobody's done half of what I've done, and I'm not even halfway started"

Don Louis never seemed destined to be a country music star.

"I met a girl, got a girl pregnant, ended up dropping out of school, went to work at a sawmill and then started working building trailer homes," recalls Louis, 27, during an interview with PEOPLE. "But that wasn't my calling. I knew I wasn't supposed to just be out there building trailer houses."

Instead, at the time, Louis believed his true calling was to play football, which he proceeded to do as a superstar defensive end both at Ouachita Baptist University and Southern Arkansas University. "I was doing real good," he remembers. "I was in shape. I was a physical specimen. I kept getting invites to pro camps, but then I ended up getting a knee injury real bad."

<p>Caylee Robillard</p> Don Louis

Caylee Robillard

Don Louis

It's that knee injury that led Louis to where he finds himself right now: an accomplished singer/songwriter currently laying the bricks down to form a firm foundation in a genre he has loved since he was a little kid.

"I come from a 12-acre farm that's just mud all around us," Louis says of his East Texas upbringing that had him listening to Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Toby Keith just as much as he listened to Michael Jackson, The Weeknd and Kanye West.

<p>Austin Leih</p> Don Louis

Austin Leih

Don Louis

Crazy enough, Louis started playing the guitar just a handful of years ago. "I thought a lot of mediocre stuff was getting celebrated in America, and I thought I could figure it out," says Louis, who went viral on TikTok courtesy of his 2023 single "Neon You." "I tried to write music that I wanted to hear that wasn't getting played, and now I got kids out here that want to pull the pants up and sing country. So, it's a blessing."

So too is the chance to tour the country, bringing his brand of music to an audience that seems to be craving it.

<p>Caylee Robillard</p> Don Louis

Caylee Robillard

Don Louis

"I'm also going to be able to do hip-hop," says Louis, who shares the music video for his latest single "Long Time Comin'" on PEOPLE. "I'm also going to be able to do R&B and country and rock, and ain't nobody going to be able to stop me. I've just been taking over. Just got a kick in my shoulder for all the people that doubted me."

More importantly, Louis has a slew of famous supporters rooting him on.

"I left my town and went to Nashville and started making believers out of celebrities like Shaquille O'Neal and Jimmy Butler," says Louis, who has also received the seal of approval from country music titan Jelly Roll and Beyoncé's very own mother Tina Knowles. "It just feels amazing to see people who actually have a name underneath them showing any kind of love towards what you're doing."

Related: Jimmy Butler Plans to Release Debut Country Album When His 'Other Job' as NBA Star Is Less Busy

Granted, Louis is the first one to admit that it's been a climb to get here, and that climb is far from reaching its completion.

"There was a time when I was like, 'I don't want to be cocky or conceited, but I feel like I'm putting the same amount of work on the same level as all these people and I'm not getting any kind of recognition,'" Louis remembers. "I was really upset there for a bit, but I ended up just focusing on my music. I stayed disciplined."

It's this discipline that has led him here, announcing the Aug. 23 release of his album Liquor Talkin’. "I'm really bringing a new wave of country that I just couldn't find," he says. "Nobody's done half of what I've done, and I'm not even halfway started."

<p>De Randle</p> Don Louis

De Randle

Don Louis

Certainly, those could be considered fighting words. But Louis knows that he is worthy of this fight for country music stardom.

"I don't like pulling the race card, but it gets pulled on me," he says. "Being a Black and white man, I've never quite fit into anywhere, and I've always had to grow a little stronger or be a little smarter, so they didn't try to hang my ass with just nonsense. I've always had to have this fight because I've never been given anything."

<p>Caylee Robillard</p> Don Louis

Caylee Robillard

Don Louis

Even worse, people have started calling him lucky.

"I did the same three things every day," he says. "You didn't notice it because you don't ever pay attention. You don't see game day and you don't see the practice in between every day that you go out there and do the same thing." He pauses. "It's always been a battle for me. I have to have my head in the fight, but I got God on my side."

He lets out a laugh before admitting, "And I want to be famous, and I don’t know why."

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