Showdog-Universal’s J.T. Hodges is about to have one heck of a year. If all things continue like they’ve already started for the talented singer-songwriter, he’ll be one very busy man in 2012. J.T. gave us a call last week in-between some writing sessions at his home in Tennessee. He’ll be releasing his debut album later this year, and he’s one of the semi-finalists nominated for the Academy of Country Music’s New Artist of the Year category. He’s competing against seven other finalists for the final three nomination spots for the April 1st award show. (See our interview with J.T. and his reaction to the nomination here).
We asked J.T. some of our readers’ questions, found out a little bit about who he is, how he pranked Eric Church on tour, and what we can expect from his debut album on Showdog-Universal this year. Learn all about the man behind “Hunt You Down” and see why he’s one our picks of Artists To Watch for 2012:
So how is your knee feeling these days? You had surgery not that long ago..
I did! The knee feels great, and actually, tomorrow I’ll be able to take off this knee brace that makes me feel like a pirate. I just need the eye patch. I’ve been walking around in this for five weeks, the doctor wants me to keep it straight for precautionary reasons. It’s feeling okay, just a pain when you have to walk. The leg feels great and the brace comes off tomorrow, so I’m really forward to it.
You grew up surrounded by music in your family, but what is it about country music that attracted you?
My Dad started the first multi-track recording studio in Fort Worth, Texas called Buffalo Sound Studios. Country music was always predominant, but I was exposed to so many different types of music. My Dad had this huge audio library and there were all these different artists coming in and out like T-Bone Burnett and Wayne Newton. Through all this music it would always come back to country music. My Mom was a country singer. I think it’s probably all-and-all who I am and what I am. I think what makes my music unique is that I go outside of the grade a little bit because of how I was raised, but it always goes back to country.
You’re planning on releasing your second single pretty soon. Is there a story behind “Goodbyes Made You Mine”?
You know there is! One of the things you reflect on when you’re writing is your life and life’s scenarios. We were talking about relationships and talking about what was going to go down for me. “Goodbyes Made You Mine” is one of those things that means more than just the little meaning. Basically, you are telling your significant other, your special someone, that “hey, look. Whatever it was that happened in the past with you is not going to happen here. I’m not the same person, I’m different. When you let all that go, and when you realize that all those broken hearts and all those goodbyes is what made you mine, is what brought you here.”
In the chorus I say “I ain’t the same old let you go, run you around…” and that is personal to me, it has a special meaning. It’s telling everybody out there that I’m not the same old artist, that I’m a little different and this is what I do. I’m excited about it because it means two things on it to me. I can reflect on when I met my wife: I can tell her that I’m not the typical guy that she’s been with before. It’s exciting and I’m really looking forward to people hearing it.
You had the chance to play at the Opry last year. What was that whole experience like?
Not only was it The Grand Ole Opry, it was also held at the infamous Ryman Auditorium – the church of country music! So many people have been on that stage, and here I am up there too. I was telling everyone in the audience, it was a packed house, that I was so honored to be able to sing another story in that place. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to get another chance to perform there.
You’ve toured with some pretty big acts in Eric Church and Toby Keith. There must be some funny stories about those guys…
(laughs) You know you would think I would have some great stories, but for the most part whenever I would get together with those guys it would be over a few beers. It was football season! So it was pretty much get our football pools together, you know we play different over and under games every week. We’d get together and talk football.
A kind of things happened near the end of the tour. All of the guys on Eric’s crew and Toby’s crew played a prank on me and came out with kazoos on “Hunt You Down” on the last show. So we got all dressed up like Eric Church and went out in our sunglasses and hats when he was playing. We did the same thing to Toby and came out with our red solo cups and acted like we were just hammered drunk all over the stage while he was performing. Those were a few of the fun things we got to do, but for the most part we were all business and enjoyed watching each other play each night.
What’s the best piece of advice someone’s ever given to you in the industry, and do you still listen to it?
Oh absolutely! My father gave me the best advice I could ever get. He said, “if you’re gonna do this, first and foremost, you have to do it because you love it. Secondly, if you’re gonna do this, you’ve got to plan to put in millions and millions of hours honing your skills as a writer, a singer and a performer.” That still sticks with me to this day, to constantly try to better yourself, to try and make yourself a better musician. I make sure that I continue to do this because I love it. If it ever gets to a point where I do this for other reasons than because I love it then I won’t do it anymore.
Speaking of writing, what usually comes first for you when you’re writing – the melody or the lyrics? And where do you get your inspiration from?
It depends really. Some days it will be something that I jot down on a bar napkin. A verse might pop in my head, or a lyric line, or a chorus. Sometimes I’ll be messing around on whatever instrument I have in front of me, and something comes out. Or maybe I’ll come up with a melody when I’m in my car. I just try to keep my mind open and ears open for anything. Inspiration can come from many things. From something I have read, or a conversation I’ve had, or something I’ve overheard someone say and think ‘hey! that would be a great line in a song.’ I’m always keeping my ears open.
How has the work on your album been going?
The album has been going great! It’s actually done. It’s in the can and ready to rock. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it, it’s my first record. I’m excited about it. If somebody didn’t like “Hunt You Down” I’m convinced that there’s going to be another song on this record that they will. I am diverse but I do my thing, but at the same time it all fits. It fits into a frame of mind, a frame of me I guess.
Do you have any idea when fans can expect it out?
This year for sure. Probably late summer I would imagine. Maybe before?
This is a real random one, it came in from Twitter. They want to know if you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
If I could have any super power? Wow. There’s so many different things that I could do… I think it would be really cool to be invisible. (laughs). But let’s not do that because it’s kind of creepy, right? Fly. I’d love to fly ’cause I don’t know. I don’t know. I just always thought it would be cool as a kid, to be able to fly. I have no idea why. Just ’cause it’s cool. Maybe because it would be nice if there was tons of traffic and you just needed to go five miles down the road to pick up a burger or something.
What was your reaction when you heard your single on the radio for the first time?
I didn’t really have much of a reaction because my Mom, my Dad, my Grandmother, everyone was calling me going ‘oh my gosh! We hear it!’. I was in my hotel room in Lakeland, Florida when I heard it. I was more listening to how it was sounding sonically on the radio, wondering if the vocals needed to be up or anything. I’ll never forget the moment though. It was amazing to be sitting in a hotel room and having it come on.
If you could put together a tour with any artist of your choice, who would it be?
I always thought it would be really cool to open up with U2. That would be pretty cool, but as far as for what I do I’d have to say Keith Urban. I love Keith, and I think it would be an amazing opportunity to open up for him. His show is so high energy, and kind of what I do. I think it would be a great compliment.
Is there anything on your iPod that fans might be shocked you listen to?
I have a lot of oldies on my iPod. A lot, a lot, a lot of those 50′s rock and roll. I love listening to that stuff.
Do you have any pre-show rituals you go through?
I’ll usually warm up a little bit vocally and take a shot of Jack Daniels and head out on-stage. That’s usually what I do every time.
How would you describe yourself as an artist for people who might not be familiar with you yet?
Melodic classic rock country music (laughs). If they can listen to a George Strait song then go and listen to a John Mellencamp song I think that they’ll like me. I lie somewhere in-between.
Is there one thing you haven’t accomplished yet that you’re hoping to in 2012?
Oh there’s several things that I haven’t accomplished yet that I want to. In 2012, it would be nice to get two singles out this year instead of one. Maybe get on another big tour like I did last year. I think it would be really cool to perform at one of the award shows – be it the ACM, CMT or CMA awards.
Is there a song on the radio that you wish you wrote?
God, there’s several. Do you mean currently? Miranda Lambert‘s “The House That Built Me.” I wish I had written that song.