When you’ve been on a world tour and signed to a major record label at the age of 16, played on both Letterman and Conan, built your own studio, started your own record label, formed a new band whose first full-length record spawned three top 20 singles on the Texas charts and a hit video on CMT Pure Country, it’s hard to imagine what kind of barometer John David Kent (JDK) uses to measure future success. “I want to continue to blur the lines of genres and spread my music across the world,” says Kent. Ask five listeners to describe this band’s musical genre and you are sure to get five different answers. A breath of fresh air in the music industry, John David Kent’s music is “influenced by ...” without “sounding just like ... .”
John David Kent released an EP in 2009 that evolved into John’s first full-length record as a front man. Released on his independent label, Blackland/Roustabout Records, JDK’s eponymous debut saw instant success. Propelled by three top 20 singles on the Texas Country chart, “Runaway,” “Back To The Country,” and “My Girl” (also a CMT Pure Country hit video), JDK has generated a following of thousands of listeners waiting to see what he will do with this momentum. Originally from Greenville, Texas, currently residing in the neighboring town of Celeste, and packing up for his future home in Spicewood, Texas, JDK is on the move in many ways.
Before The Sun Comes Up, JDK’s highly anticipated sophomore record, “embodies everything that the first record foreshadowed,” explains Kent. “It was during a recent acoustic set when I realized that I often write about driving, open roads, moving, and being gone ... which makes total sense because that’s what I know. I've been gone for half of my life.” Fans of the first record will once again ride shotgun as JDK drives you from sunset to sunrise in a teenaged American summer. Fueled by his trademark sing-a-long melodies, these songs are as ready for audiences seated on dancehall barstools, as they are for those on lawn seats at an amphitheater. Characteristic of JDK's sound, Before The Sun Comes Up balances commercial appeal with raw energy. Whiskey Myers’ frontman, Cody Cannon, tells listeners to expect “country-infused rock and roll delivered in a very honest way. JDK's new record is tighter, more mature, and keeps his signature sound that’s very vintage, but still modern. This kind of music is rare these days.”
For his sophomore album, John stepped back from the producer’s seat and tapped the internationally renowned writer/producer/mixer/engineer, Dwight Baker, to take the reins in Baker’s Matchbox Studios in Austin. Baker has worked with artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Blue October, David Archuleta and Bob Schneider. A collaboration between two individuals who are comfortable blurring genre lines was fitting. On working together in the studio, Kent recalls, “Dwight works fast, which we had to get used to. It forced us to be in the moment, quick on our toes to know when to move forward before we start overthinking it.” The result is a collection of songs that JDK hopes will do the same thing for his listeners that songs like “Ramblin’ Man” did for him as a teenager. “It’s that feeling of driving with the windows down in the summer with your girl leaning on your shoulder, and that perfect song comes on the radio. It’s those melodies and lyrics that color those moments. I want this record to create those memories for other people.”
Fans may notice some newer faces in the band, but these guys have a long-standing musical relationship. Drummer Tony Kent is John’s brother and he feels that “playing with him every night is truly a blessing.” Lead guitarist Colton Gilbreath is someone John remembers seeing play when he was a kid. “Even back then, he was this 14-year-old monster on guitar. We’re really glad to have him on board.” Bassist Randall Fuller is someone that John has known for over a decade when they met at former bandmate Ben Kweller’s house. Put simply, this is a band of brothers ready to capitalize on the sweat equity they've cultivated in the music industry over the years.
So exactly how does John David Kent measure future success? With characteristic humility, Kent answers, “before I was in the music business, I was a music fan. I will continue to be one no matter where this leads.” Perhaps College Station Radio DJ, Adam Drake, can help JDK see where his art is leading his listeners. “This music will take you on a ride; it’s got everything from the fun and upbeat songs, to the stuff that just tears at your heart. The older I’ve gotten, the less time I have to hop in the truck and drive down to the beach. I love it when albums like this make me want to do just that.” Whether opening for Merle Haggard or playing festivals in France this summer, it would appear that this band’s road trip is just getting started.