J.D. Shelburne, by his own admission, was something of a late bloomer in terms of his career path. Unlike many of his peers, Shelburne wasn’t performing by the time he got to pre-K. He didn’t actually choose music until after high school. “I started playing music late in my life,” says the Taylorsville, Kentucky, native. Well, relatively speaking, anyway. He was 19 and attending college when his grandmother passed away, which led to an important event. “After her death, I ended up discovering a guitar in her house,” Shelburne explains. “I taught myself how to play. Music was something I always enjoyed but then I began to take it more seriously. I started to play shows around my college town and that’s where I cut my teeth.”
Shelburne packed up and made the move to Nashville in 2008. “It was crazy,” he remembers with a laugh. “I didn’t really know anything about the business.” He figured out one important element early on, though – if you’re going to get a leg up in Music City, you need to develop your songwriting skills. “I noticed from looking at my favorite artists’ CD’s that they were co-writers on many of their songs,” Shelburne says. “I learned that songwriting was just as important as the performing.”
As might be expected, there were some bumps along the way before Shelburne found some smoother road. In 2015, Shelburne made a significant breakthrough with the video for his song “Hometown.” CMT embraced the nostalgic clip and Shelburne debuted as the top trending artist on cmt.com, ahead of such mega-stars as Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean. Success continued last year as he released his album “Two Lane Town,” which garnered some serious attention from fans and reviewers alike. That came exactly ten years after Shelburne moved to Nashville, adding further credence to the oft-stated notion of Music City being a “ten-year town.” This past year, Shelburne found some chart success with the single “One Less Girl,” which he notes helped him increase his fan base.
Recently, Shelburne released a new single “She Keeps Me Up Nights,” co-written by his friend, top Music Row songwriter Mark Nesler. Shelburne also filmed a video for the single, currently airing on CMT and other outlets. “I have had that one about a year,” Shelburne notes. “When I played it live, fans would always come up and say that it was a great song.” Shelburne and Nesler met a few years ago when Shelburne moved to the Brentwood area of Nashville.
“I discovered that I had moved next door to Mark Nesler,” Shelburne says. “He’s written songs for George Strait, Keith Urban and Tim McGraw and other people.” Nesler’s best-known cuts include “Living and Living Well” by Strait and “Just to See You Smile,” a six-week No. 1 for Tim McGraw. Shelburne was indeed in some accomplished company all of a sudden. “He and I wrote some,” Shelburne says. “He gave me some demos to sing and I got to cut a lot of his stuff. Mark has been so helpful in teaching me to be a better writer. I have to say he has been a great asset to my career.”
It could also be rightly stated that Shelburne’s unrelenting work ethic is an additional asset. He keeps up a rigorous tour schedule that has him playing more than 200 dates a year. “We are road warriors,” he says matter-of-factly. “I rarely take time off. I work almost every weekend, and last year, we put about 36,000 miles on my truck. I get to play a lot in Kentucky and we do tons of festivals.” One of those multi-artist festivals on the calendar is the Hometown Rising event in Louisville, September 14th. “I’m going to play that with Tim McGraw, Dwight Yoakam and a lot of other great artists,” Shelburne says with a measure of anticipation.
In the midst of all that activity, the hard-working man will also be putting together a new record project in the fall. “I have been writing with a lot of A-list writers,” he says. “I think we have some great songs on the way.”
J.D.’s NASHVILLE FAVES
J.D. Shelburne seems an affable, outgoing guy, so we asked him to list a few of his go-to places around Nashville.
“I love Jeff Ruby’s [Steakhouse] downtown. It’s always great. We have a Local Taco out in Brentwood that I go to a lot. Firebirds in Brentwood is my favorite spot, though.”
“We didn’t have pro sports in Kentucky, so I grew up a Cincinnati Reds fan. They were about the closest team to us. But since I moved to Nashville, I have gotten into the [Tennessee] Titans more. I’ll be playing at Ole Red a lot on Sundays during football season, so we’ll draw the football fans.”
J.D. Shelburne’s current single “She Keeps Me Up Nights” is available now. For more on this artist, please visit his website and follow him on social media.