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Lakeville's rising country music star Dave McElroy watches his belongings more closely now. He was thoroughly ripped off six months ago at the Nashville YMCA.

McElroy is such a loving spirit, it's easy to see how he became a mark. A few months ago we met for the first time at Fox 9 and he laid a firm, yet proper, hug on me. "I'm half Italian and half Irish; everybody hugged and kissed. It feels natural to me when you see somebody you like to give them a hug," he laughed. "I've been reading your stuff for years. You didn't know me but I felt like I knew you!"

McElroy is having a great ride with current hit "Nowhere With You," which sounds like him because as he told me in an interview last week, "It's a happy, positive love song about a couple and all the memories they are making. We haven't shot a video for it because this one took off so fast. It charted its first week on the radio; only been on the radio [nine] weeks. I believe it's 49 on Music Row, 28th on Traction Hot 30, ... 59 on Billboard Indicator. All those numbers are going to jump this week.

"I'm about that happy vibe," said McElroy, who knows that when it comes to country music, there's a lot of singing about bad luck, heartache and trucks. He's covered some of that terrain: "My first single 'Tangled Up,' we didn't put any promotion behind and that thing ended up charting all on its own. Then in true country fashion, I had to have a breakup song — 'Without You,' " he laughed.

See him Thursday at Wild West Fest, in Richmond; Friday at the Pourhouse in Minneapolis and Saturday at Strawberry Fest in Cottage Grove.

Q: At what age was it apparent you were going to be a singer?

A: All my family played multiple instruments. We all sang. I think my mom knew as early as the second grade. My very first musical influence was Louis Armstrong. My great uncle was playing Louis Armstrong and I was mesmerized by his voice. My mom got me some videos. We had to write a book report on someone; in the second grade I wrote mine on Armstrong. It was supposed to be one paragraph and I wrote two pages. [Laughter.] I got a gold star on that one!

Q: Did you think Louis Armstrong had a good voice?

A: I was mesmerized by the raspiness of his voice. It was soulful and it was soothing to me. It's funny, here I ended up with a raspy voice, not quite as raspy as [his].

Q: The guy behind your current single worked with Taylor Swift?

A: Yeah the guy who co­produced it and engineered it, Chad Carlson, I think won three or four Grammys with Taylor Swift, in her country days. We had a couple of big hitters, a couple of Dierks Bentley's guys and one of Eric Church's guys laying down the tracks for that single. And I co-wrote the single with Bridgette Tatum.

Q: How did you get the management company that also handles Tanya Tucker?

A: It was a cool Minnesota connection but also I was the 2016 Breakout Artist of the Year at CMA Fest. After that everything started to take off, people started to know my name. My name was already circulating because I was playing with a lot of really top end artists, had some huge opens. Opened for Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Joe Nichols, Old Dominion.

Q: How did your boots get stolen?

A: I had just come off a run of shows and I had a meeting at Music Row in Nashville. I had a couple hours to kill. Good time to catch a workout. I'm sitting there in my underwear and this fan walks up, Hey man, are you Dave McElroy? I'm trying to talk to him at a normal level, but he is getting more and more excited, talking louder and louder. When I came down from my workout, every single thing was gone out of my locker — car keys, credit cards, signature sunglasses, signature hat, signature boots, my bag of clothes. Yeah, he set me up. I think that's the guy who probably stole everything. I almost threw up, it made me that sad. Luckily, I had my granddaddy's belt buckle with me. It's 80 years old, from Ireland. He gave it to my dad, a beautiful guitar player and singer, who gave it to me.

Q: Favorite place to chill?

A: Whenever I get off a long road run, I retreat to my acreage in Lakeville and I fall asleep to my frogs in my pond. They put me to sleep every night. It's my sanctuary.

C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9's "Buzz." E-mailers, please state a subject.