Q&A with JT Hodges

Spend a couple minutes talking to JT Hodges and the first thing you'll realize is that the guy likes to take it easy. If you're familiar with his music, this might not be too surprising. A country star with a penchant for acting, JT's songs tend to focus on simple things and simple times, kicking back and avoiding the hoopla of the country star lifestyle. JT takes this laid-back attitude towards a lot of things in his life. In a constantly-evolving music industry, he goes with the flow. If the right sort of acting gig pops up, he takes it. When JT sat with the Q&A, we talked about great country storytellers, a few of his favorite things, and much more!

GGM: You just wrapped up your video for “Already High,” which was shot in one take. How challenging was that?

JT: (laughs) There was a lot of preparation for sure. But it was something I always wanted to do and I thought it worked perfectly for what the concept of the song is. When I was discussing that concept with Mason Dixon, who I worked with before (he directed “Goodbyes Made You Mine”—he and I have a good rapport), he said, “That’ll be challenging, but I’m up to it.” He had never shot a one-take video either. Honestly, though, we were prepared. When it came the day, everything worked pretty smoothly. It only took eleven takes, and Mason was able to get two or three that he really liked. I feel accomplished!

GGM: In the video that you have to break in pool and sink the 8 ball. If you screwed that up, did that mean you had to restart the whole thing?

JT: Thank goodness for CGI! That was one thing that if we didn't have CGI, the shoot probably would've taken four days. The whole concept was basically I have to avoid all types of temptation, like a drink or a pretty girl, get out of that bar and get to my pretty lady, and we can get in my Cadillac and ride off into the sunset, like a cowboy. I got to see it last week, and I’m excited!

GGM: You’ve released “Already High” and “Lay it Down” prior to even announcing a new album. I’ve read that you want to get as much music out to your fans as possible before the release of a new CD. Why is that important to you?

JT: I think the dynamics of the music business are constantly changing. It seems like every day, really. “Lay it Down” was something Sirius XM The Highway wanted to champion. It wasn’t the official single. They just really liked it. “Already High” was always the choice for the first single to go to FM radio with. Look, I think it’d be fun to release a new song every month! But the music business is trying to figure itself out. The cool thing is there’s not a whole lot of rules. We thought, “Why don’t we have ‘Lay It Down’ play on The Highway, and then we can have a separate single to go to terrestrial radio with?” As you know, it is all about the fans. Country music fans are diehard, loyal fans. I have fans out there that would love to get as much music from me as they can. I’m all about that. I think it was a no-brainer to me.

GGM: Musically, how does what you’re writing now compare to your self-titled debut?

JT: Well, it’s better, I think (laughs). I think I’ve gotten better as an artist, and I’ve grown tremendously. The songs, writing, the sound, I’ve definitely built upon. I feel like I’ve developed something unique on this record. Not that the first record was very unique, but the concept on that was that I worked with one or two producers on the whole record. On this one, I worked with several different producers, kind of A&R-ing my own project. I worked with Ross Copperman, Kevin Griffin, Nathan Chapman, and even co-produced a couple of the songs myself. It’s something I’ve taken more ownership of than on the first record. It’s been nice because the label really likes what they’re hearing, and I think that’s a victory for me right there. I can’t wait for the fans to hear it because it’s something I’m really proud of.

GGM: You were in Hallmark Channel’s Finding Christmas, highlighting your acting and theater chops. Were you a huge theater kid?

JT: I always loved theater. It’s funny, I studied theater in college. That was simply because my pops, who was a music major who went to Juilliard and got his masters at the University of North Texas, was basically straight-up like “Don’t be a music major. You’re discovering all this music, and the way you’re doing it is cool. You don’t need to mess all that up.” And so what do I do? I start studying theater and television (laughs). My Dad was like “That’s not what I meant!” I think they’re very similar, Theater and TV, in terms of where you can go. You go to the same place on stage as you would on set. It’s a feeling I enjoy. It’s something I love to do. I’ve always said music is my number 1, but I love acting, and if I can approach it kind of how Tim McGraw’s done, or Dwight Yoakam, they’ve done roles that have made sense to what their brand is and it hasn’t affected the music. That’s my goal. Recently I just did a role in a small independent film that was shot in Nashville called “The Dust Storm.” It has Colin O’Donahue who plays Captain Hook in “Once Upon a Time,” and that was an amazing experience. Yeah, I’m always ready for the next role, if it’s the right one!

GGM: What was your favorite play or musical?

JT: I definitely love a lot of musicals. West Side Story is always a good one. I actually played Conrad Birdie in Bye, Bye, Birdie in high school!

GGM: That’s pretty on brand!

JT: (laughs) Yeah! I love The Fantasticks. That’s a beautiful musical. And then, to me, you start getting to Broadway. Phantom of the Opera, the longest running show in the history of Broadway. I could watch that show night after night! It’s an amazing production.

GGM: You’ve said country will always be a lyrics and storytelling-based genre. Who are some of your favorite storytellers?

JT: Oh wow. You gotta love the writing of Johnny Cash. He had a bit of rock and roll in his writing, but he’s a great storyteller. Hank Williams Sr. and Jr. They have their own creative way of telling a story. It’s interesting, people like Garth Brooks and George Strait, they didn’t write all of their stuff, but they were able to sing other great songs written by great songwriters and tell the story with their voice and mood. Those two you have to put in there. There’s a lot, but those are some of my favorite off the top of my head.

GGM: What are some of your favorite classic country albums?

JT: My grandmother, when me and my brother were younger, she’d take us out on Sunday afternoon runs with her in her truck, and we’d deliver bread packages to lower income families. She was always playing Conway Twitty, to the point where we were like “Ugh, please play anything but Conway Twitty!” But going back now I’m older and can appreciate it, Conway Twitty is a classic country singer and those are classic country songs.

GGM: What are some of your favorite current country songs?

JT: I’m really liking McGraw’s “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” written by Jared Johnson. He’s a great songwriter. As far as one you don’t have to think about, I think Dierks Bentley’s “Drunk on a Plane” is hilarious. It’s also so true! It’s actually kind of genius because every time I have to fly somewhere I’m thinking about that song. I really like Jamie Lynn Spears’ song How Could I Want More?” I’ve been spinning that on the highway a lot. I’m sure everybody had their preconceived notions of what her music was gonna be because of who she’s related to, but she’s her own thing. You can tell she wants to make real music that’s true to her. I applaud her for that.

GGM: Do you have a song you like to jam that people might not expect you to be a fan of?

JT: It’s funny, I’ve been going back to a lot of my Gipsy Kings records. It’s what happens to me in the summertime: I listen to Baila Me and relax. It makes you wanna have a margarita as the sun is setting. Hopefully you’re on a beach somewhere.

GGM: I’ve heard you’re a huge football fan. What are your teams?

JT: I am a diehard football fan. I love the TCU Hornfrogs, my alma mater. I’m constantly getting my heart broken by the Dallas Cowboys, but I will forever be a diehard Cowboys fan. It’s getting that time! Football fever’s coming! I’m sure once again I’ll fall in love and get my heart broken again this season. But hey, that’s part of it.

GGM: Favorite movies?

JT: Depends on the mood, man!

GGM: How about a comedy?

JT: I’m really liking We’re the Millers right now. I think it was probably one of the best ab workouts of my life—I was so sore from laughing! Jason Sudekis and Jennifer Aniston they had a really cool rapport. It was really funny, very well done.

GGM: Are you doing a lot of reading on tour?

JT: When I have time. I love to read Malcolm Gladwell. He recently came out with a new book and I think that’s gonna be my next venture. But I’m also keeping up with my ESPN app and Fox News and CNN. I like to get both sides—that’s practically entertainment.

GGM: TV shows?

JT: I’m really sad that Dexter is done. True Blood—my wife and I are really into that and this is the last season. Boardwalk Empire. These HBO, Showtime shows, they’re doin’ 'em right. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

GGM: Where, in your opinion, is the best place to get a bite in Nashville?

JT: The restaurants in Nashville in the last three years are really exciting. A lot of great restaurants are opening. Husk, this new restaurant, just opened and has really good food. I love The Southern, Etch, all new restaurants I would definitely recommend. Actually, just went and had dinner last week at a place called Sinema. It’s only been open for two months, and it was the best food I’ve had yet. It’s an old movie theater they turned into a restaurant and bar.

GGM: You’ve done a ton of traveling, obviously. What’s your favorite road story?

JT: The first one that pops into mind is when we hit a deer at 3 o clock in the morning in the middle of nowhere. Everyone woke up except me. My tour manager is a very sweet, soft-spoken guy, and all of a sudden I hear Mike go “Hey guys… we hit a deer.” Everyone else knew except me. I woke up like “What?!” and everyone else is like “Yeah, did you not feel it?” Our entire front bumper and the car was totaled, but I was awoken by this calm quiet voice. That ended up being a pretty crazy night because we had to get the bus towed and get to a hotel and figure out how the heck we were gonna get home. It was stressful, but looking back it was pretty funny.

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