Uncut with Jay Cutler: Country Star ERNEST Opens Up About Having a Heart Attack at 19, Dealing With Newfound Fame

by Chris Haney

It’s Wednesday and that means we’ve got another episode of your favorite podcast with another special guest in tow. Country music fans won’t want to miss the newest Uncut with Jay Cutler since we’ve got one of Nashville’s brightest stars joining the show.

Ernest Keith Smith, simply known as ERNEST, is a Nashville native who’s taken his hometown by storm in recent years. The singer-songwriter has written hits for some of the industry’s biggest artists while making his mark with his own music as well. In fact, ERNEST just released his second studio album earlier this month on March 11, FLOWER SHOPS (THE ALBUM).

Jay Cutler and his guest dive into ERNEST’s early influences that set him on a path to a career in music. The musician opens up about suffering a heart attack at only 19 years old as a high school baseball player. He shares what it’s been like to collaborate with some of country music’s most popular artists. Plus he talks about getting recognized in public these days and how he’s dealing with his newfound fame. We’ve got that and much more in this week’s brand new episode of Uncut with Jay Cutler.

ERNEST Talks to Jay Cutler About His Path to a Career in Music

If you’re a country music fan, you likely know who ERNEST is whether you realize it or not. You should know the blonde-haired, mullet-wearing artist by now. But if you don’t, you’ll likely know some of the songs he’s written.

ERNEST has worked on tracks for the likes of Sam Hunt, Chris Lane, Jake Owen, and Florida Georgia Line. He even co-wrote country superstar Morgan Wallen’s “More Than My Hometown,” which was the lead single from Wallen’s smash hit album Dangerous: The Double Album. Yet growing up, Ernest K. Smith had varying musical tastes that would influence his path to a career in music.

While speaking to Jay Cutler early on in the interview, ERNEST revealed his diverse love of music that began in elementary school. Believe it or not, ERNEST credits the original Space Jam soundtrack for his initial interest in music in 3rd grade. He loved hip-hop and R&B, and would take in even more influences as he got older. By the time he was a teen, he listened to country classics, hardcore punk, more rap, and gained a huge appreciation for John Mayer. ERNEST made beats at home while also learning the banjo. If that’s not an eclectic taste in music, then we don’t know what is.

“In 3rd grade I would’ve just gotten a banjo for Christmas, and the Space Jam soundtrack. The Space Jam soundtrack changed my life forever,” ERNEST explained to Jay Cutler. “It sent me down a rabbit hole [of hip-hop and R&B]. The one that changed my life was [‘Hit ‘Em High (The Monstars’ Anthem)’ by B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man]. So little 3rd grade me is walking around rapping and playing banjo. I wanted to entertain my whole life.”

The Singer Opens Up About Having a Heart Attack at Only 19 Years Old

As ERNEST grew up in Nashville, sports also were a huge part of his life. He would attend Lipscomb Academy where his father coached baseball for more than 40 years. His son would not only play on his team, but the father and son would go on to win a state championship together in 2011.

However, the future musician suffered a scary setback in the middle of the season that year. Host Jay Cutler asked his guest about the well-known story when saying, “Didn’t you have a heart attack?” While still a teenager during his senior year, ERNEST started feeling a burning sensation that was at first misdiagnosed. Thankfully, a return trip to the hospital likely saved his life.

“Had a heart attack at 19 – myocarditis,” ERNEST said to the host while talking about his baseball career. “Yea, total fluke. We were like on a great winning streak senior year. And just a random Sunday, woke up with a crazy burning sensation. Went to the hospital, they said it was probably a allergic – like I was having allergies and an asthma attack, which I never had asthma.

“So, they gave me a breathing treatment and sent me home. That night it came back, went back [to the hospital], they did the whole thing and were like, ‘You’re having a heart attack.’ Yea, I was out for two weeks and then came back and played against BA and we went on to win the state championship with my dad who had coached for 46 years at David Lipscomb. It was a storybook ending, dude.”

For those wondering, the singer has been completely fine ever since the incident, which he assured host Jay Cutler of. “No problems [since]. Other than self-inflicted injury for the next couple years,” ERNEST joked. “But it’s all been good.”

ERNEST Shares How He’s Dealing With His Newfound Fame

By 2016, ERNEST started to make a name for himself as a songwriter when he co-wrote the title track of Florida Georgia Line’s third studio album Dig Your Roots. Yet now that he’s come out with his second album, which contains the lead single “Flower Shops” featuring Morgan Wallen, country fans are starting to get to know ERNEST the artist as well. And with that recognition comes a new level of fame that he and his family are having to get used to.

At shows, more and more fans are singing along to his songs in the last year. But fans are also recognizing him a lot more when he’s out and about. At times, that makes for some awkward and amusing interactions.

“Things are going fast. I can definitely tell a difference, just like at shows with people singing songs and stuff. And there might be a person here or there that’s like, ‘Are you ERNEST?’ Which is always a funny question,” the musician said with a laugh. “Just say what you’re gonna say. It’s me, I’m right here.”

“The balance of wife and kid, and blowing up fast is something I’m navigating on the fly. And they are too,” he added.

Jay Cutler and ERNEST cover that and much more on the podcast, which you can watch above. You can also tune into Uncut with Jay Cutler on Spotify, Apple, or wherever else you listen to your favorite podcasts.