What would you have done to see the early days of Eric Church, Justin Moore, or even Gary Allan‘s careers? Country music fans who played their cards right were able to see one of the new underrated talents on the Blake Shelton Cruise last week with JJ Lawhorn. The 19-year old signed to Average Joe’s Entertainment in 2011 and he’s your good ol’ Southern boy – who isn’t afraid to make sure everyone knows it, too. The singer, who was raised on a family farm, stole the spotlight in one of the many atrium shows on the NCL Pearl last week.
JJ might not be a name that country fans are familiar with yet, but they soon will be. He’s hitting the road with Colt Ford on the “Answer To No One Tour,” and with his gritty songwriting style and rocking vocals he’ll soon be taking over radio. Fans who are looking for someone along the lines of Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore, or even Eric Church should keep their eyes peeled to this newcomer.
We had the chance to get to know JJ during the Blake Shelton Cruise, and as the week went on, word about his performance had spread to the passengers. His final show was a packed one- with two levels of the atrium watching the young singer with the rock-styled vocals. His influences on his writing are obvious: he calls Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings his influences in his official bio. JJ is a rebel, one of the new branches of Nashville that’s finally getting the spotlight thanks to the success of Brantley, Eric, and Gary.
It was interesting to watch the build-up of JJ’s show in just seven nights. With all performing artists’ merchandise on-sale at one of the ship’s duty free shops, we stopped by every few days to see what fans were picking up. By the end of the week, four people in line ahead of us had something of his in their hands. Word gets around with rising talent, which isn’t new for the singer – he was discovered through YouTube by EMI Publishing.
JJ was only one of two artists who kept things old-school, by performing with only his own acoustic guitar. During his set, he played a cover of “Guns” by his friend, Justin Moore, and threw in some political commentary that had the crowd cheering. It’s a brave move for any singer to voice their opinion on something as big as a Presidential Election in the United States, and usually something too scary to do for a new artist. JJ’s move worked perfectly with the fans on-board, and even earned him some brand new ones for being who he is. No apologies, no tip toeing around what he believes. There’s no filter with JJ, and you know you’re getting the real deal.
Don’t be fooled by his age – JJ isn’t going to change to fit in the Nashville mold. That’s exactly the kind of thing the industry needs right now. He has the rebel attitude, the real country lyrics, and the voice to stay around long term. With only a short set to see what he’s really made of we were impressed. There’s no polish, no Hollywood stylists to create an image for the artist. JJ is simply just JJ, and that’s who he’s going to be. He’s following in the footsteps of country outlaws and here’s hoping he’ll have a role bringing back real country music to radio over the next few years.
For fans looking for that rebel sound, the outlaw vibe, or good ol’ country songs about fishing, hunting, and guns they need to check out Average Joe’s young star. He’ll be hitting the road with Colt Ford on a 12-city “Answer to No One Tour”. The tour is named after a single the pair have together on Colt’s “Declaration of Independence” album.
Check out our gallery of JJ’s show from on-board the NCL Pearl here on our Facebook page. Did you catch JJ’s shows last week? What did you think?