Tuesday was a big day for JT Hodges. In many ways, it was the day he'd been pointing to ever since he was a kid in Fort Worth and decided he wanted to be a music star.
Hodges officially became a recording artist and his fans were able to walk into a store and leave with his self-titled debut album.
"It feels like a weight has been lifted. It's out there, and people get to hear it now," he said, hours after the album was released. "If it touches people, maybe it will build a groundswell and people will tell other people about it."
There's nothing local about JT. I'm writing about him because I think his story is exciting and to tag along as he embarks on the start of what, hopefully, could be a long career.
Nashville is filled with success stories like Taylor Swift, who rolled into town at the age of 14. It was her personality, poise, and songwriting skills. She connected with country music fans.
But for every Swift, there are hundreds of artists who couldn't connect. I thought Jason Michael Carroll was going to be a huge star when his debut album was released in 2007. He's still one of my favorite singers, but he hasn't been able to break out.
Hodges is not having much success with radio. Maybe it's because his music is different, and sometimes it takes people a while to warm up to different. His first single, "Hunt You Down," topped out at No. 39 on the charts. His current single, "Goodbyes Made You Mine," is at No. 43. Why it's sitting at No. 43, I have no idea. It's got a great hook that rattles around in your head. More important, it's a cool story that just about everyone in a relationship can relate to. It's about his wife, Kasey, and a conversation they had when they were dating.
"I sat down with her, looked her in the eye, and said, ‘I know you just got out of a bad relationship and you're holding back. Don't try and bring all that into our relationship. I'm not that guy or even the guys before that guy. I'm here for a reason. You're here for a reason. Good-byes made you mine.'"
JT came from a musical family and moved to Nashville because he wanted to be around the best songwriters in the world. He's not a polished speaker, and sometimes he has trouble explaining a point he wants to make. But I don't need to tell you about him because he does that on his album. He wrote eight of the 10 tracks, each from experiences or observations about the world he lives in. The songs are fused with the rock and country influences that shaped him.
The man has talent, and he's different, and country music needs him.
"I'm taking it one day at a time, and one day at a time starts today with my record getting out there, and that's exciting to me."
It's exciting to me too. The journey begins.
Brian Dugger's column on country music runs in The Blade the last Saturday of every month. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.