John King is having the time of his life. The young singer from Habersham County, Georgia has a song on the country charts, “Tonight Tonight,” and he’s staying on the road, trying to kick start a music career.
King, who performs toight at the 16th annual Ribfest in its new location at Dunbar’s Shawnee Park, said, “The last couple of weeks, it’s just been crazy.”
In a little more than a week, he’s been from coast to coast to coast, playing in New York and then California before coming back to Pittsburgh to open for country star Jason Aldean.
“He’s such a great guy,” King gushed. “His crew are just the nicest people. Anything we needed, they treated us like royalty.”
King could probably get used to that, but right now, he’s just getting started. Everything is new and exciting.
“It’s been a blast,” he said. “We’ve been making a lot of new friends, meeting fans and getting to see the country. It’s been great.”
As he’s traveled, King said he’s watched more people recognize him where he’s played. Audiences are picking up his song. They’re getting to know it.
“You look out and see the crowd singing along,” he said. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Like a lot of country performers, King got his start singing and playing in the church.
“My mom played piano for the church choir,” he said. “I got a guitar when I was about 11, and I’d sit with her.”
King said he was mostly self-taught.
“I got a little book that showed you where to put your fingers to make the chords.”
His parents encouraged him to play, but it was his grandmother who talked him into getting up in front of the church to sing solo.
“I remember being so nervous about it,” he said. “But I sang a hymn, and it just felt natural to me. It felt like I was home.”
King spent his teen years playing in church and out with his friends. Through his parents, he listened to a lot of singer/songwriters including Jackson Brown, Neil Young and Bob Seger.
“My parents raised me with a love for that kind of music,” he said.
What King loves about these musicians isn’t just that they write their own music, but that you can hear their connection to the songs.
“You could feel it coming through.”
King’s own songwriting happened almost by accident.
He said, “I remember sitting around campfires, goofing off with friends, making up songs to be funny. Before I knew it, it became serious, and I was writing new songs.”
King said he’s still getting a handle on a songwriting process and very much evolving as a songwriter. His debut record, which should be out in a few weeks, is mostly his songs. He’s proud of that.
“There were just two on the record that weren’t,” he said. “One of them was ‘Tonight Tonight,’ but it was such a great song. I fell in love with it right off and just wanted it on the record.”
The singer is trying to stay grounded. When he has time off from the road, he spends a lot of time at home in Georgia.
“I love to fish. I love to hunt. I love to just get out,” he said. “It’s good just to get away from the noise, get inspired and just live a little bit, get some experiences.”
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter.