For his first single, JT Hodges has come out of the gate with a song about hunting. It does not involve bird calls or camouflage, but rather the most universal pursuit known to man. In a rollicking song that recalls a hot night in Memphis, Hodges sings: “She said, ‘Look me up when you get back to town.’” His answer: “’Look you up?’ I said. ‘Hell, I’m gonna hunt you down!’” Catch-and-release never sounded so steamy.
Country fans are wanting to hunt Hodges down, too, after getting a listen to this undeniable summer hit single. Besides “Hunt You Down,” there’s plenty more to be pursued in JT Hodges, the Texas newcomer’s alternately tender and raucous Show Dog - Universal Music debut. The singer/songwriter worked with a trio of top producers—Mark Wright, Don Cook, and Mark Collie—who collaborated for the first time to bring their find to the public. Those aren’t the only Nashville “names” putting their imprint on this freshman effort: Hodges’ co-writers include top veterans like Rivers Rutherford and Chris Stapleton. Vince Gill even adds his harmony vocal and a guitar solo to one ballad. What these insiders already know, fans are quickly finding out: Behind those baby blue eyes lies the seasoned soul of a true country artist.
JT was raised in a recording studio… literally. “My family started Fort Worth’s first multi-track recording studio,” Hodges explains, referring to Buffalo Sound Studios, a facility that played host to artists as disparate as T Bone Burnett and Michael Bolton. Were the kids allowed to hang around? “Oh, it was part of our chores!” he laughs. “On weekends when there were sessions, Pops would make us vacuum and clean the bathrooms. Once we were done, my brother and I would be so excited to go into my dad’s audio library and listen to record after record, on vinyl or quarter-inch tapes. That was the environment that I grew up in, crawling around under the console starting at 8 months old.
Hodges’ parents weren’t just studio owners: They had their own band. “My mom had a country record deal with MCA Nashville but she didn’t want to leave us kids and ended up choosing motherhood.” His folks had met under professional musical circumstances. Dad studied concert piano at Juilliard and then went to the University of North Texas to get his masters’ degree in jazz composition. He also had a country covers band to help pay his way through grad school, and when he was 27, a 17-year-old girl drove up to audition. She got the gig and got the guy—and they both got a boy who shared their consuming love of all kinds of music.
“Country is the first thing I ever remember hearing. My grandmother loved Conway Twitty and we used to listen to him all the time. His parents, meanwhile, had a fixation on the early rock of Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Buddy Holly, whose influence can certainly be felt in some of the new album’s original songs, like “Rather Be Wrong Than Lonely.”
There was a post-college detour to L.A., after Hodges graduated from Texas Christian University. He followed some buddies out to the west coast for a couple years, hitting the coffeehouse circuit to test out the material he was writing. That’s where he met his “future” wife, an expat from Missouri, who had moved out to L.A.
Hodges and his wife soon migrated to the Music Row songbelt, and in the spring of 2010, he landed a record deal. “Mark Collie brought me in and introduced me to all the songwriters in this town. He introduced me to Don Cook, who was responsible for a lot of Brooks & Dunn hits. Together they brought me to Mark Wright, and the three of them agreed to co-produce me. Don and Mark Wright had been friends for a long time but I was the first artist they’d ever worked on together and for that, I am truly honored.”
There is the sense of a dream deferred and fulfilled, as Hodges’ musical parents “argue over who’s my No. 1 and No. 2 fan.” As more and more people get to hear the new album, Mom and Pops may encounter a lot of competition for those slots.