For 20 minutes on Thursday night (May 16), Brett Eldredge owned the crowd that was still trickling into Houston's Toyota Center to see perhaps the biggest tour of the year -- Taylor Swift's 2013 Red Tour. It was a short set for the country newcomer, but like he did at each of the other 18 shows he played with the superstar, he maxed out every second, walking onstage armed with ammo given to him by his grandfather and Swift herself.

"I've been in front of so many new people. I'm the first person out there every night, but I'm walking out to a minimum of 8,000 new fans right off the bat," Eldredge shared with Taste of Country over drinks following his set. "I just go out there and win them over. That's what my grandpa always told me to do, he's like, 'Just go out there and win 'em over. Turn on your charm [laughs].' So I just go out there and I sing and have fun!"

Charm them he did. The 27-year-old Illinois native captivated his diverse Texas audience with unmatched energy, moving about the stage and grabbing hands that were waving so wildly you'd think it was his headlining show.

After several months on the road, it's obvious that Eldredge picked up a thing or two from Swift, who is known for being especially good to her fans. "What I've learned the most about her tour, and that any artist can learn from, is the way she connects with her fans," he confirms.

The reason Swift connects so well with her audience, he thinks, is because of her honest and willingness to be forthcoming about who she is. "She's just very honest in her songs. I think when songs are really honest, they work the best, because the fans know you really mean it. And she's experienced a lot of stuff and she writes it down and tells it. That's her feelings and, people might say this and that about it, but she admits: 'Yes, I talk about my feelings and I'm not scared of that,'" Eldredge explains. "And I like to talk about my feelings too, so how 'bout them apples? It's revealing, but if you're not afraid to reveal yourself, you're going to win more people over that way anyway."

The singer shares that as the Red Tour dates passed on his calendar, the fans who recognized him and sang along to his on-fire new single each night grew in number. Despite notching several huge arenas and even Detroit's Ford Field (which seats 50,000) off of his live performance bucket list, he swears that he enjoys the rush -- and the nerves -- that come with playing for Swift-sized crowds.

"I'd never played giant arenas like this, let alone stadiums. We've played festivals that have huge crowds, but when you have them closed in on you like that, it's an adrenaline rush like no other," Eldredge tells us. "I mean, walking on that stage gives you energy, and I actually love that nervousness; that feeling before you go on. It's a good nervousness."

It probably doesn't hurt that Swift gave him such a warm welcome, either. He celebrated his birthday while out on the road with her, and says that she gave him a very sweet card in celebration. "She wrote 'Thank you so much for being on my tour' and she drew on the card and all sorts of stuff, it was very personal," Eldredge spills.

"She's very sweet like that, though," he continues. "From the very first night we walked on the stage, before I even walked on, she came out and gave me a hug and said, 'Thank you.' And I was like, 'Are you kidding me? This is such a great opportunity -- thank YOU.' She's one of the most real artists I've ever met, and to be perhaps the biggest artist in the world, I mean…"

With the experience now behind him, Brett Eldredge will embark on his next journey: becoming a country star in his own right. This summer, he's got several music festival dates lined up, as well as shows with Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert. That will give him time to introduce himself to new fans -- in addition to those he collected on the Red Tour -- before his debut album drops on August 6. The first single from the record, 'Don't Ya,' is currently climbing the country radio charts with the same steam as the singer's live performances. Buy it here.