EDINBURG - Local singer-songwriter Eddie Saenz started the top of his set at Hillybilly’s with lots of energy, despite a sparse crowd. As people continued to trickle in halfway through, Saenz and his band played a few old country favorites in addition to his original songs. In no time, couples were off their chairs, and ladies were being twirled to the honky-tonk beats. It was a successful night for the Edinburg native, and a positive sign for the upcoming release of his first full-length album, “17 Hours,” on June 16.

Saenz, who has played guitar since he was eight years old, grew up in a family that loved country music. Whether he was practicing songs with uncles or just riding to school, country music was ever-present.

“In the car with Mom, it was like Dwight Yoakam, Garth Brooks, George Strait, [those] that were kind of relevant at the time. With Dad, it was like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, like all the older influences,” Saenz said.

That early introduction to country’s iconic artists sparked a passion for the genre and inspired Saenz to perform in school talent shows, and eventually pursue a career in the industry. After graduation, Saenz moved to Nashville where attended Belmont University and earned a degree in commercial music with an emphasis in songwriting. It was during this time that Saenz recorded his first five-song EP, which included the now-popular track “Highway 281.”

“‘Highway 281’ I especially remember writing because I was coming back home the first summer after college, and I got pulled over just outside of Falfurrias,” Saenz said. “I was typing lyrics in my phone and going like 85 miles per hour.”

Four years later, Saenz is ready to release his new material. His album “17 Hours” shows a more focused and introspective artist than the one writing songs in college. The title represents the drive time between Edinburg and Nashville, but it also reflects Saenz’s journey going from and coming back home.

“Now that I’ve kind of grown into my artistry, and finding out what my message is, and what I want to give to the world with my music, that’s where these songs were really carefully selected for this new album,” Saenz said.

Before the June 16 release of “17 Hours,” Saenz is releasing three singles from the album. “Poor Man’s Son” and “Hometown” will be available on May 5 and May 26, respectively. “When I Was Young” is available now on iTunes and wherever you purchase or stream digital music.

To learn more about Saenz, check out tour dates or hear some of his music, visit www.eddiesaenzmusic.com.