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Classic Country Is Alive And Well On Debut Album Looking Forward, Thinking Back From JD Darling

Jeremy M. Thomas
JD Darling

JD Darling is a singer and songwriter originally from Alabama and by way of Texas, he’s now based in rural Middle Tennessee in a town called Hampshire. I had to look that up, I’ve been here twenty years and was not aware of Hampshire. I always find it fascinating to hear where artists grew up and what shaped them musically and how landscapes, communities, cities and rural areas all seem to play a part in an artist’s sound. We’ll find out how Alabama, Texas and now Tennessee have contributed to JD Darling’s blend of classic country and rock n roll and learn about his debut album, Looking Forward, Thinking Back out now. Tune in to the Local Brew Hour this Sunday at 8am to hear the track, “You Can Feel It”.

AnaLee: Congratulations on releasing your debut album! You released a three-song ep last fall and now this full length, tell us a little about your journey from Alabama to Texas and how you came to settle in Hampshire, Tennessee.
JD: Thank you! I had such a great time making the record and I’m really glad that it’s out in the world! Well, I was born in Scottsboro, AL.,but my dad went into the Army. So, we moved around a bit. GA, KY, NC, back to KY, then to El Paso TX in 3rd grade.We were in Belgium for my 8th grade year then back in El Paso for high school. I rambled around from the time I was 18… Had a long stay in Los Angeles where I started writing music to picture. I went back and forth from LA to Nashville a bunch until I didn’t really see a reason to live in LA anymore. Hampshire was really the right land at the right price. But, my wife and I are so glad to be a part of this community. We’ve been here almost 10 years and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

AnaLee: The first song I heard from Looking Forward, Thinking Back was, “1995” and it stuck with me for weeks after I played it on The Local Brew Hour. It has such a great 90s country feel but it’s a little bit rock and it feels like 1995 when you sing that opening line. Did this song or the album title come first? Tell us about this song.
JD: 1995 came first. Well, it wasn’t the first song written on the album… Maybe the 3rd or 4th. But, I wasn’t really trying to tie a record together when I wrote it. After a long break from songwriting, I was just writing because it felt good. The song is loosely based on my maternal grandparents. Pawpaw was a truck driver and I used to carry loads here or there with him in the late 80s and 90s, when I was a kid. So, even referencing Clay Walker’s, “If I Could Make A Living”, in the chorus, nods to time spent with him back then. You know, I was convinced that I was going to be a truck driver growing up. Who knows, maybe I still will. Haha I’ve always just liked the idea of… going. Not aimlessly. With a sense of duty and purpose. I’ve asked my grandma, since Pawpaw passed on, how that worked for their relationship. The summary answer is always true love.

Album Cover Art
Jeremy M. Thomas
Album Cover Art

AnaLee: Your songs are personal yet relatable and timeless, yet current if that makes any sense! Talk about your songwriting process and if you are the kind of writer that draws inspiration from everyday life or if you like to go into the depths of your imagination to create characters and stories… or a little of both!
JD: That means so much to hear. Thanks! Personal, relatable, and timeless, in my mind, is the checklist for releasing a song. Current is so important to me too. I have no desire, at all, to walk around cosplaying Merle Haggard. Haha I can’t go back in time and write My Favorite Memory. So, I’m not walking into the future as anyone but me. If I put a little bit of a bygone vibe in a song, it’s generally because I associate the lyrics with that time. As far as inspiration, I’ll take it from anywhere I can! I feel like I come up with some of my favorite lyrics while doing anything but writing. So, I really lean on the notes app on my phone to put a lyric somewhere. Or, when I’m driving, voice memos. This record kind of tells stories from my life and personal stories shared with me
by people I know. All but A Good Man. I was reading a random article from the 1850s, I think, that had the expression “seeing the elephant.” I had to look up what it meant. It was something like “experiencing the world with a high cost to oneself.” That was just too good to leave alone. I wrote a 6-minute story around that adage. I don’t mind being a little extra sometimes. Haha

AnaLee: Can you talk about the recording for this record, who you worked with and the studios you recorded in?
JD: I got to work with some amazing people on this thing. We did two days at Saxman Studio in Mt Juliet and two days at Sound Emporium in Nashville. John Kennedy produced the sessions at Saxman with Tim Miller engineering. So he and Grady Saxman put the band together for those sessions and John mixed at his place. Grady played drums, Nathan Keeterle- electric guitar, William Moore- bass, Devin Malone- acoustic guitar, Luke Moseley- keyboards, and Andy Ellison- pedal steel. When we went to Sound Emporium, I talked with Mike Stankiewicz about engineering and mixing and also asked Nathan, Andy, William, and Luke to come in. I had been a fan of so many recordings that Miles McPherson had played drums on, that I blindly asked him to do a
holiday weekend session and he agreed. Miles said to me after the session “man, you were supposed to be a dentist or something. NO ONE good records on the weekend. Much less a holiday weekend.” Which I thought was really funny. Joanna Finley was the assistant engineer at Sound Emporium and Daniel Bacigalupi at Infrasonic mastered.

AnaLee: You have a show in Nashville on June 16th, a little north of Nashville actually. The venue, Union Hill Trading Post in Goodlettsville is also featured in the video for “Last Dance”. Tell us about the show, full band or solo, and besides your album release show at the Mule House in Columbia tomorrow night, do you have any upcoming tour plans?
JD: I love Union Hill Trading Post. It’s owned by my good friends Robert and Elena Longhurst. They have a great, intimate, little outdoor stage. I’ll be playing acoustic that night along with Dicarlo, Brian Van Meter, and Aiden Brown. It’s gonna be a great hang. I’m working on a late summer tour. I’ll definitely fill you in when it comes together. I’m really looking forward to it!

AnaLee: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me about your debut album. I am always excited to discover new artists and I’m glad to have found you!
JD: Thanks very much! It’s been great talking with you!


“Last Dance”

Ana Lee is the host and producer of "The Local Brew," a weekly radio show plus a live showcase for Nashville based artists. She hosts mid-days on 89.5 WMOT Roots Radio, Nashville, is a voice over artist and curator of musical experiences for events.
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