Free concert at Dover International Speedway Saturday

Sam Grow wasn’t born in the First State. But the rising country artist has spent the last handful of years gigging here so much that he’s an adopted Delawarean.

One of the most Delawarean things a person can do is watch a race at Dover International Speedway.

Yet Grow, a native of Maryland, will up the ante this time. Not only will enjoy seeing the action on the track this weekend, but he’ll perform for fans in a free concert on the Xfinity stage at Victory Plaza, sharing the stage with national country acts John Rich and Cowboy Troy on Saturday, Mary 4.

The concert will be part of the speedway’s 50th anniversary bash.

The day before Grow’s performance, on Friday, he’ll release his new album, “Love and Whiskey,” featuring the singles “History” and “Boots.” The latter song was a tribute to his late father, who passed away Sept. 11, 2018. 

At the top of the year, Grow was named one of “7 Country Acts to Watch in 2019” by Billboard.

Do you follow NASCAR?

I do. My dad was a huge Dale Earnhardt Sr. fan, which made me love Sr. Then after the passing of Sr., I loved [Dale Earnhardt] Jr. But I’ve gotta tell you, this year my favorite driver is a guy named Brandon Brown. He’s working to raise money for an organization called the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes. That’s who we’re kind of partnering with this year, so Brandon is who I’ll be cheering on. The coalition does a lot for the military and vets. You know that’s a huge soft spot for me. 

If you could be a driver, have any company as a sponsor and receive an unlimited amount of their products, which would it be?

I’m going to have to go with Firestone tires, because if I could roll the Firestone tires onto my bus, that’d be great, since we pop tires like crazy, dude [laughs].

“Boots” was inspired by your father, wasn’t it?

I unfortunately lost my dad on Sept. 11. It was the day before his 68th birthday. My dad was a huge influence when it comes to music. When most musicians talk about their influences, they normally list off another musician or another player, but my dad was my biggest influence. He truly was what made me fall in love with music. Losing him in September was one of the lowest points of my life.

Then 12, 13 days later when the valley was as low as it could get, I then signed my record deal, which [emotionally] was about as high as it could get. We jumped right into the recording process and there’s a guy named Josh Thompson. He’s written a ton of No. 1s for Jason Aldean and several others. They do these things called pitch meetings where songwriters and their publishers pitch you songs that they feel like are relatable to you.

We were in this one particular pitch meeting and this lady heard about my father. She said, “I’ve got a song for you” and then she played it. Instantly it reminded me of my dad. One of my memories of him was in his cowboy boots. He always wore them. He never took them off, even when he cut the grass. He’s out there in gym shorts and his cowboy boots. I heard [“Boots”] and I knew it was a straight letter to me from heaven.

The song is sad and happy at the same time. Every night I play it, it brings me back to him. I’m really excited about this video when it comes out. I’m super sensitive to the blue collar/hardworking men and women in the military who strap up everyday to really keep this country running. Not only is this video a tribute to my dad, but also a tribute to all those men and women as well.

Are your dad’s boots still around?

My sister was kind enough to let me have a pair of his boots she found. The cool thing about them is a few years ago I lost my poppop, too, who was a big male influence in my life as well. He bought those boots for my dad. Now they’re displayed in the foyer of my house, right next to a picture of him.

Your dad also bought you a guitar. Was it your first?

It was my very first guitar. 

Do you still play it?

I don’t even bring it out, man. I leave it in its case. My dad used his last $500 on his credit card, he maxed it out, to get me that guitar. It’s a cool memory for me. It was the first steps of me really pursuing music. 

Not many artists get to play the Speedway. What’s this mean to you?

I’m so thankful and grateful for the opportunity. I know what a big deal it is to the state of Delaware. I’m not from Delaware, but a lot of people feel I’m a local there, because everybody there has been a family to us. It definitely feels like another one of my home states.