05 How Waylon Jennings Changed My Career

Last week I told you about my brush with the reality TV on the show, Nashville Star. Today I’m gonna pick up where things left off when I got home from that audition, and I'll Waylon Jennings changed the course of my career.

To say that Waylon Jennings is one of my biggest influences would be an understatement. In fact, I tell people all the time that I believe Waylon is my honky-tonk guardian angel. Now, before you decide that I’ve purchased a ticket to board the crazy train, allow to explain why I believe this to be true. You can here episode 5 here:

Throughout my entire musical career, Waylon has always been there for me in the moments when I’ve needed a mentor most of all. When I find myself frustrated or stuck in a rut musically, he shows up with some form of wisdom or encouragement to keep me grounded and focused. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

In 2006, before I auditioned for Nashville Star I had plans to uproot my life in Seattle to make the move to Nashville. Ultimately those plans fell apart under the financial pressure associated with making a cross-country move.

I did eventually make the move to Music City, but I realize now just how big a blessing that initial financial hardship was. I wasn’t ready for Nashville then. That's not to say that it wasn't a huge disappointment in the moment. My spirits were crushed, but I kept pressing on and found ways to keep moving toward my dream.

It wasn’t long after I had decided to postpone my move that I auditioned for Nashville Star (I shared that story in episode 4. You can hear it here), but to sum it up, it was a great learning experience, but I didn’t make the cut. I felt so out of place at that audition and when I got home I felt just as lost.

I definitely wasn’t Nashville Star material, but then what was I and where was I going with this whole thing? I was struggling desperately for some direction. So one night I sat down with my dreams and a documentary called Waylon: Renegade. Outlaw. Legend.

I was sitting on the couch hanging on every word Waylon had to say. He talked about the importance of playing your songs the way they feel to you and never compromising when it comes to your music. Waylon turned to the camera, which made it feel like he was looking right at me, and he said:

“When you’re starting out don’t be running to Nashville and running here and there and everywhere. Go somewhere, sit down and make some racket. Play your music and make ‘em notice you! If they come to you then the doors will always be open. If you come to Nashville the doors are never open. If you’re paying your dues, you’re learning your craft.”

Something divine happened in my living room that night. It was such a powerful moment for me, and one I’ll never forget. It was exactly what I needed to hear and his words helped me to re-frame the way I was approaching my career and I don’t know where I’d be without his council.

The next day I wrote a song about the experience called Waylon’s Words and I went to work putting together my first band. I didn’t have much, but I had my songs and my dreams and I was bound and determined to make some “racket” in my own way.

In 2008 I recorded Waylon’s Words with my band on my first record, Circle on the Floor and that tune ended up being the very first song of mine ever to be played on the radio. That song made its way to the airways overseas, became a fan favorite at my live shows, helped to form friendships that I cherish to this day and it's always been my dream to rerecord it with Waylon's band -Waymore's Outlaws. Maybe someday.

When that record came out I got Waylon’s signature flying W on my wrist with the phrase, Waylon’s Words. It serves as a reminder for me every time I picked up my guitar or grab the mic to just be me and to always play my songs in my own way. It’s almost like a pact in permanent ink between Waylon and I and it’s hugely sentimental to me.

I could go on for days recounting the ways that Waylon has shown up in my life over the years. In my darkest moments when I’ve felt the most defeated, Waylon has shown up in one form or another to reignite a fire in me and I’ve just got a funny feeling that he’s up there somewhere looking out for me.

And maybe that does make me crazy after all, but like Waylon said “ I’ve always been crazy, but it’s kept me from going insane.”

Thanks for reading! I’ll see ya at the Opry!

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