Prairieville, Kansas, can’t be found on any map, but it’s become a way of life and living for Logan Mize, a Clearwater native and country music singer who has found his greatest success after moving back home from Nashville.
“It’s tough to write a country song when you’re in this rat race of the fastest-growing city in the United States,” recalled Mize, who was living in a subdivision 30 miles south of Music City. “I’d feel like I’m lying when I get in the bus and we’re playing somewhere in the middle of Nebraska at a festival. I’d think, ‘I used to know what this stuff was like, now I’m living in a completely different life. You feel like you’re lying to them.’”
Mize moved his wife and children back to south-central Kansas three years ago, living near Andale but with a Mount Hope address, where he helps his in-laws farm when he’s not songwriting, recording or touring.
“I just try to live kind of like an average Midwest life and I think that kind of helps me have a better perspective writing,” Mize said. “I’m still going to have that artistic bone and chase it, but it’s good to have some normalcy. You can get caught up in that plastic world of who’s-who and all that.”
His newest album, “Welcome to Prairieville,” was released in October and, although it reflects the perspective of returning to Kansas, it’s also the creation of Mize and a fellow Kansas native, Blake Chaffin.
“It’s definitely inspired by growing up in this area for sure,” Mize said. “I started writing that album in 2011 when I was still living in Nashville. It was kind of a 10-year process writing that. It started off as a concept album of this fictitious town and I started to dig the concept.”
It came to fruition when Mize met Chaffin, a Hays native who has been a songwriter in Nashville for decades. The two were set up on a songwriter “blind date” to collaborate on possible country songs, either for themselves or to pitch to other artists.
By their second meeting, they both realized the other was from Kansas and immediately had shorthand in which to communicate.
“As we were calling it, we both spoke windmill,” Chaffin said.
Their weekly songwriting sessions on Tuesdays have continued for eight years.
“There are just certain ways about writing or talking about a small town, and how do you necessarily describe it to people who’ve never been there,” Chaffin said. “I think there’s a Kansas influence in both of us and in our lives and who we are. It’s just a constant that’s made writing for each of us so easy to collaborate through the years.”
Of the 11 songs on “Welcome to Prairieville,” eight are co-written by Mize and Chaffin (sometimes with a third writer), one each by the pair individually and one in a collaboration with Mize and another writer.
Videos from the album reflect Mize’s roots as well, shot in and around Pretty Prairie and in Clearwater, including his relative’s Mize’s Food Store.
“Welcome to Prairieville” is Mize’s fifth album since his self-titled debut in 2009. Like a growing number of music stars in all genres, he isn’t as concerned about album sales or radio airplay as much as the hits he gets on music streaming services.
“It’s bizarre how the music industry has changed so fast, and things are different now,” Mize said. “I made a conscious decision to focus on streaming and let the radio game be something where if it happens, it happens.
“You can kind of see the new age coming where streaming would eventually take over, so I put all my eggs in that basket,” he added. “So far it’s paid off.”
Chaffin added, “It’s hard to do the national radio thing with a Nashville label to push you up the charts. You can still have access to Spotify and Apple Music playlists, that’s really become the name of the game.”
Social media is as much if not more of a launchpad for performers than radio, Chaffin said.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen with TikTok and things like that these days. Is Oprah gonna see a song and tweet about it?” he said. “I do see him forging his own path, and he’s got a huge following online — millions and millions of streams on his songs.”
Although he has signed previous deals with divisions of Sony and Atlantic Records, he’s happy at a more independent label, Big Yellow Dog Music, where he signed a songwriting deal not long after moving to Nashville.
“I kind of learned in my experience a major label deal can be a positive thing if you’re open to that,” he said. “But you can kind of become a product. It loses that personal relationship. It seemed very cold to me, and it wasn’t something I felt natural doing. I’ve always been better at DIY.”
After moving to Nashville, Mize worked as a truck driver during the day and at 4 p.m. clocked out to make his way to one of many songwriter nights at Nashville bars. Not long after, he signed a deal with a publishing company to begin writing songs for $16,000 a year.
“I didn’t even know what a publishing company was,” he recalled with a laugh. “My first thought was, ‘What am I gonna do with all this money?’”
Mize’s house in Kansas, which sits on five acres carved out from his wife, Jill’s, five-generation family farm, includes a studio where he records demos, but he doesn’t have the personnel to try and record an entire album, he said, although he is considering a studio in Kansas City for the next project.
“I’d love to be recording everything here, but there’s just so many resources in Nashville that it’s tough to make that move,” he said.
Billed as Jill Martin, Mize’s wife is also a songwriter who met when the two collaborated in Nashville in 2009. They have two children, 10-year-old Lincoln and 6-year-old Violet.
Songwriting is his favorite part of his work, Mize said, but he didn’t believe he could have been happy only writing on Music Row.
“I love being able to go places and love loading into a venue and figuring out what the cool local coffee shop is and finding the cool local music store,” he said. “There (in Nashville), it’s a 9-to-5 job, which is what I was trying to avoid in the first place.”
Next month, Mize will achieve a landmark in his career with his first performance at the Grand Ole Opry. He is scheduled to perform two songs on the Jan. 7 performance.
Mize said he’s not nervous about the prospect of playing the best-known stage in country music.
“I don’t get too nervous anymore. I had a chance to spend 13 years on the road, really working out all the kinks and learning how to become a performer,” he said. “There is going to be that nervous feeling, especially since it’s the Opry. But it feels good to get the nod of approval from the mothership.”