Rising country artist, Jacob Powell, played on the Whiskey Jam stage at the 2018 Windy City Smokeout in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to his performance, I caught up with Powell to chat all things music. He divulged on his early days as a musician, and how a tremendous disappointment in his career turned into a blessing that led him to where he is today.
We’re at The Windy City Smokeout; this weekend’s home for the best beer, BBQ, and country music! What are you most excited for at the Smokeout, or Chicago in general?
“I got here yesterday and I’ve been hanging out, checking everything out. I love Chicago! It really is one of my favorite cities. Especially Joe’s Bar. We’ve played there a few times and I love that place. I haven’t had a chance to eat yet today but I’m excited to try all of the food here!”
You’ve been on quite a few tours and played with many artists throughout the years. Do you have a favorite artist to tour or play shows with?
“I love playing with Cadillac Three. They mostly play clubs, usually for like 1,500 people or so, and it’s always at capacity. They play rock type shows, and I love that atmosphere. Aside from that, I opened up for Don Williams one time, which was unbelievable. We’ve also done some shows with Charlie Daniels Band and Travis Tritt. To play with legends like that has just been really cool.”
If you had a bucket list of artists to tour with, who would be on it?
“Eric Church, for sure. Chris Stapleton would also be great. Those are my top two!”
What motivated you to become a musician, and what did that process look like?
“I went to college and was majoring in chemistry. I was doing the pre-med thing, which wasn’t for me. I started playing music at college bars, then I transferred to MTSU and got more involved with music there. I signed at Sony ATV about six years ago, and about two years ago I got out of that deal. Now, I’m signed at Ole Music Publishing. I’m writing songs every day and playing shows on the weekends.”
That sounds like a dream. Before a dream comes to fruition, there are usually some big hurdles that can make or break that dream. What is one hurdle you’ve had to overcome & how did you overcome it?
“There’s been a lot of hurdles, actually (sighs, smiles). I was dropped from my first label at Sony. I was a staff writer for three years & wrote something like 500+ songs. my deal ended and they said ‘we believe in you but your deal’s up and we have to let you go’ so I was out of a deal for about nine months. Not having any income and just relying totally on the road. I was working on my new deal during that time, but that nine months was very trying.”
A publishing deal allows you to focus on the writing aspect so I can see how that would be difficult. For those that don’t know, as an artist, you still have to write, essentially without getting paid, while trying to figure out the next step and a new deal, all while playing shows to gain exposure and a paycheck. It’s not as glamorous as many think!
“Right. My publisher at Sony signed me, then he left to Ole (where I’m at now) then I was with another guy named Mike, but he left to Ole as well. So now I’m working with them again and that’s how it all came full circle in that aspect. We’ve been working together for six years now.”
Now that you’ve transitioned and overcome all of that, what are you working on currently?
“I’ve changed directions writing wise and stylistically. It’s all kind of shifted and I love it. I’m in a lane that I’m very comfortable in. We’ve released six new songs on iTunes and Spotify, and we have another song which will segway into the next six that we will be releasing shortly. We will release them two songs at a time for a total of 13 songs that should be released within the next six months.”
You can keep up with Jacob Powell on his website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.