JT Hodges Starts His ‘Journey’ Into a Country Music Career
New singer JT Hodges is making people sit up and take notice, but not just with his gorgeous blue eyes and movie star good looks. His debut single, ‘Hunt You Down,’ has been one of the most talked about songs to hit the country radio airwaves this summer.
Signed to Toby Keith‘s Show Dog-Universal Music record label, Hodges first album is slated for release later this year. Taste of Country was able to talk one-on-one with the hot newcomer, and we are thrilled to introduce you to the fabulous JT Hodges.
Tell us about your musical background.
I was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas … cow town! I’m from a musical family. My parents started up the first multi-track recording studio called Jim Hodges Buffalo Sound Studios. My pops went to Juilliard for concert piano for his undergraduate work, and then went and studied and got his Masters in jazz composition at the University of North Texas. He was 27 at the time, and in order to pay his way through that he started a cover band called First Cross. They auditioned female lead vocalists, and a 17-year-old girl got the gig. Two years later he robbed the cradle and married her, my mom. They had my older brother Jason, then had me and then my dad raised funds for a 10-song record. Went back and forth to Nashville … took some outside songs in, wrote some songs, produced the record and the first label they pitched it to was MCA Nashville. They dug it and wanted to sign them. My mom didn’t want to go on the road for 300+ days a year, so she turned down the deal. The song they felt was gonna be a hit single on her record, went on to be a hit for the band Highway 101. The song was called ‘Bed You Made for Me,’ and I still have my mom’s master cut of that.
So I was born and raised in a studio, always around music. My pops had a lot of clients and projects coming in, and there’s a huge audio library. Country music was always very predominant, but I was exposed to a lot of different styles. A great song is a great song, in my opinion, but it always came back to country music.
What kinds of things did you learn about music from being around that environment your whole life?
I learned a lot during that time. My parents never forced music upon me. They said, “Look, if you’re going to do this, just know that it’s going to take millions of hours to hone your skills as a writer, performer, singer, player, and then multiply that by infinity when you go out to try and find out what’s true to you as an artist.” So my dad taught me the basics: how to play in time, how to sing, pitch control, how to be in a studio, what the process is like. Then I learned how to play live. I played with different bands in Texas all around, ventured out west for a little while. Came back and finally moved to Nashville. Two years later, here I am talking to you about my whole adventure. So I feel this record is a great introduction to what I’ve worked up to. It’s a great introduction to who I am, and it’s left of center country music. It’s contemporary, but it definitely pays tribute to what the history of country music has always been about, and that is a song and a story. Hopefully people will like my interpretation of the very few themes of songwriting.
Are you still in the studio working on the new album?
The album is done! I’m excited … no regrets! It’s scary, but that’s kind of what is exciting about it.
Did you write many of the tunes that will be on your debut album?
I co-wrote nine of the 11. I moved to Nashville to be a songwriter. I love the process. There’s so many wonderful songwriters in the town. I’ve learned so much the past year and a half. I cut two outside songs because they were just that good. I had production meetings with the head of my label and the other producers. It was actually Don Cook who co-produced this record and he was responsible for Brooks and Dunn … writing a lot of those hits and getting them started. Mark Collie used to be an artist in the ’90s, and he’s back from the dead [laughs]. He’s a very good friend of mine. He brought me into town and vouched for me. The head of my label Mark Wright, too. All three of those guys agreed to work on my project. I would have production meetings with them and say, “Look, I don’t have to write every song on this record, I just want the songs I do cut to be songs that I wish I had written. More importantly though, I want them to be ones that I can go to that same place, like I would with one of my own songs.”
Has Mark given you any advice of things to look out for as an artist on the rise since he’s been there and done that?
Yeah: “Don’t do what I did!” [laughs]. That’s the best advice he can give. He’s one of the most talented guys I’ve ever worked with. He’s worked with my manager. It kinda started with the two of us, and then we met Don and it’s been a fun ride. It’s had its ups and downs, but that is part of the journey. You go through those hard times and it makes you a better artist.
Watch JT Hodges Perform ‘Hunt You Down’ Live at WGNA