In fact, he won "Independent Artist of The Year" at the 2020 MusicRow Country Breakout Awards and earned the most radio spins for an independent artist last year with songs such as “Ain’t A Train” and “Same Kind Of Crazy As Me." These honors are just the latest in a long list of accolades Jinks has received since the release of his gold-certified 2015 breakthrough album, Adobe Sessions, which featured the platinum-certified, fan-favorite single, "Loud and Heavy."
His 2016 full-length I'm Not the Devil also reached No. 4 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, while 2018's Lifers and a pair of 2019 albums (The Wanting and After the Fire) reached No. 2 on the same chart. On top of this, Jinks has nearly 2 billion streams to date across platforms, to go along with his 2.18 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Much of this success is due to Jinks' songwriting, which is refreshingly raw and honest about life's ecstatic ups and agonizing downs. And so, in early 2020, when faced with being off the road for an indefinite period due to the pandemic, Jinks decided to hunker down, stay busy and work on his craft. "My wife and I were sitting on the front porch and I said, 'You know what I'm going to do with this time? I'm going to become a better songwriter. I don't know how long the lockdown is going to be, but I need to reach out to songwriters I haven't written with before and pick their brains. I need to get better at my craft. I need to learn from some other people.'"
Jinks ended up connecting with old friends, frequent collaborators and even some of his heroes for virtual writing sessions. The result was a productive time: In May 2021, he simultaneously recorded two full-length albums in two different styles: a solo country record, Mercy — written entirely during the pandemic — and a metal record, None The Wiser, under the band name Caned By Nod.
"It was very different recording them at the same time," Jinks says. "Literally, it was being in one studio and walking next door and going from this beautiful country song that we're doing to just this really angry metal song, flipping a switch." However, he is uniquely suited for this switch. Although he sometimes found the process taxing, Jinks came to view the experience as an opportunity to fully translate his brain for the first time, simultaneously exploring the multiple facets of his artistry.
The country album, Mercy, reflects the chemistry Jinks has with Thompson and his long-time bandmates. In fact, there was no stress or ramping-up process even though they hadn't seen each other in 14 months before entering the studio to record. "We've been playing together for so long that we just jumped right back in," Jinks says. "It couldn't have been more seamless, and I'm so thankful for that. Everybody was on the same page when we got there; everybody was ready to go. Really, you couldn't tell that it had been 14 months since we had sat down together. It was pretty incredible."
The songs are loose and reflective, and demonstrate both the band's interplay and Jinks' eclectic songwriting; Mercy is a mix of forceful twang-rock (the ominous "Hurt You"), bar-band country-blues (the freewheeling "All It Cost Me Was Everything") and classic ballads (the pedal steel-driven "I Don’t Trust My Memories Anymore"). However, Mercy's diverse songwriting also reflects an eclectic lineup of collaborators, as Jinks was able to schedule writing sessions with Jim Lauderdale, Brent Cobb, Channing Wilson, Chris Shiflett, Kendell Marvel, Adam Hood, TN Jet, Josh Morningstar, David Matsler, Greg Jones, and Ward Davis, as well as his wife, Rebecca. "Normally, if I'm going to go write with other people, I'd normally fly somewhere, or they'd fly here. But we couldn't do that, so we got very good at doing Zoom call writes."
Jinks says Mercy's songs mirror the uncertainty and emotional roller coaster the world was on last year, with raw emotions on the surface—from the narrator who's at a tough crossroads ("Like a Hurricane"), a protagonist feeling the weight of the world and trying to keep going ("Shoulders") and someone consumed by anger and revenge ("Hurt You").
"There's nothing in the songs about what happened to the world, but some of the songs are heavy, just in the context," he says. "On some days, we'd get up, and everybody would be bummed out because it was another day of not being able to do anything. And then some days, it was like, 'Man, we're going to write a fun song today. We're going to write, like, the ending track to the country record that we're about to drop.' You had all of these emotions. You couldn't be all doom and gloom." Indeed, Mercy also features a song about the restorative power of love ("Feeding the Flames") and a cautionary tale about what happens when a night goes astray thanks to the hard stuff ("When the Whiskey Calls the Shots").
Caned By Nod's None the Wiser takes its cues from arena-caliber classic rock, thrash metal and even psychedelic-tinged grunge, thanks to stinging guitar riffs, hulking low-end grooves, and Jinks' gruff, vocals. The album's lyrics are also darker, and feature protagonists who are disillusioned by people and the world around them, or struggle with self-destructive tendencies and regret over poor life choices. There are no easy answers or happy endings on None the Wiser, just the harsh reality of consequences.
Jinks isn't a metal novice (in the late '90s/early '00s, the Texas native fronted a thrash metal band called Unchecked Aggression) although switching back into a rock-leaning mindset was a challenge. "I was scared of going into to start that record, because that's uncharted territory for me," he admits. "I hadn't recorded like that in over 20 years. I kept asking everybody, 'Does that sound cool? I think this is cool. Is this cool? Does this song translate well?' It was nerve-racking. But it was fun."
None the Wiser includes both new songs and ones that date back to the late '00s, though Jinks co-wrote all of them with guitarist Ben Heffley, his Unchecked Aggression bandmate. "We started playing with each other when we were in high school; we go way back," Jinks says. "Ben and I have always been able to sit down and write a song, and that's a rarity. So it was just natural thing to collaborate. I mean, I've been making music with that guy for the last almost 25 years."
Although the songs on None the Wiser span an extended time period, Jinks is proud that the album is cohesive, and the older material fits in seamlessly with newer songs. "It's not a concept record, but it does flow well," he says. "It's a testament to their quality that the songs we did 12, 13 years ago held up with the songs that we were spitting out literally while we were recording. Like I said, Ben and I have always just been able to just grab guitars and go."
Although both None the Wiser and Mercy were recorded at the same place, Sonic Ranch in Texas, they were two separate projects using two different bands and two different studios. About the only crossover happened when his country band helped with backing vocals on a few metal songs. Jinks admits switching back and forth like this could be stressful, though the recording sessions had a grounding force in Edward Spear, who produced, mixed and engineered both albums.
"He's quite possibly one of the most talented people I've met in this business," Jinks says. "On None the Wiser, I was going, 'Ed, I'm not in my comfort zone right now. I need help. I need to help finding keys to sing in. I don't know where we need to go after this, or this and that.' But the consistency there is what made me comfortable having him be on both projects at the same time. I trust him implicitly, and he's a genius at what he does. No matter what style it was, he approaches it with ferocity. He doesn't mince words."
Despite the separation between the albums, Jinks wanted to make sure both None the Wiser and Mercy contained grit. "I don't want it to come out like a slick Nashville record," he said about the latter. "I want it to come out sounding like us, like me. I want it to sound real."
However, both Mercy and None The Wiser reflect Jinks taking great leaps forward in his songwriting, and adding even more perception and nuance to his already-rich character sketches. "The actual art of writing was the only thing I really had to focus on to keep myself sane," he says. "In our world, we're called singer-songwriters. I'm a songwriter-singer. The song comes first. If I'm not writing a great song, then I'm dead in the water. I really, really focused on being a better wordsmith."
Yet, if anything, Jinks sees this exercise in self-improvement as a full-circle moment of sorts. "We all started out as teenagers in our rooms, either beating the hell out of drums or trying to figure out new Metallica lick or whatever," he says. "We went back to that, in a sense where I'm sitting there, I'm 40 years old, and it's like, 'What am I going to do?' It's like, 'Well, I can go practice my guitar.' What the hell else am I going to do?"
Zach Bryan is a singer/songwriter from Oologah, Oklahoma, proud of his small-town roots and whose music is fueled by a desire to stay true to himself. The 25-year-old served 7 years in the Navy before being honorably discharged. His success is found in his raspy voice, a mix of classic folk melody and outlaw country with a raw edge that cuts to the bone.
His breakthrough moment makes all that clear as day. In the video for “Heading South,” shot by phone outside of his Navy barracks in humid 95 degree heat, Zach’s passion echoes off the strings of his trusted Guild. Drenched in sweat and belting words that he had written minutes earlier, the moment is authentic, brutal, and real. Millions of fans have now seen that video without any sort of industry assist, and millions more have connected to the tender, sincere songs found on Zach’s 2019 debut album DeAnn. A man of simple words, Zach’s ability to create depth in his work is rivaled by few artists. He believes that who you are only extends to the person you are today, an ideology reflected in everything he creates.
Sometimes he can’t even believe it.
With over 148 million on-demand streams, believers at country radio and the support of over a dozen digital tastemakers – Spotify, Amazon Music and Pandora among them – Kameron Marlowe has exploded onto the country scene, emerging as the big-voiced authentic talent modern fans crave. But if you ask the humble everyman himself, he’ll tell you straight up: He never saw this coming.
“I didn’t think I had what it took to be an artist,” says the all-natural singer-songwriter, blessed as he is with a tender, dynamic vocal growl. “So, I took a different route at first.”
Lucky for everyone, all roads lead to destiny. Now singed to Columbia Nashville and standing on the verge of a bright future, the North Carolina native is right where he belongs – in the spotlight. It just took a few twists and turns to get here.
Growing up, Marlowe lived in the Charlotte-area suburb of Kannapolis, and his path was indeed headed elsewhere. He did love music from a young age – schooled by his grandfather on the ‘90s country giants, and captivated by high-energy rockers like Stone Temple Pilots, Puddle of Mud and Kings of Leon. Plus, he sang in church and loved classic vocalists like Ray Charles and BB King, even forming a teenaged cover band that turned heads (the wrong direction, he jokes).
But after starting college in hopes of studying music, life intervened, and Marlowe left to help his family, taking a steady job selling car parts in his hometown instead.
A hint of what could have been came in 2018, with a Top 24 appearance on Season 15 of NBC’s The Voice. But even with a resonate baritone as inviting as a Southern breeze, and a genuine small-town swagger, Marlowe left with nothing more than some new friends in Nashville – plus an interest in songwriting. It seemed like music had passed him by, and to be honest, he was fine with that.
By 21, he was back home and back on the job, ready to settle down with a white-picket future. He was ready to put a ring on his girlfriend’s finger. But when she abruptly ended the relationship, telling him she wanted a different future, his whole world shook. Suddenly adrift and questioning the path he’d chosen, Marlowe put pen to paper for just the third or fourth time in his life … and that musical therapy session changed everything.
“It was a really hard break-up situation, and I didn’t know what I wanted to say,” Marlowe explains, thinking back to that fateful night. “So I came home, and just tried to write something down for myself to get over it.”
Over a day-and-a-half, Marlowe wrote and revised, whittling the track down to a tight, classic-heartbreak ballad with a modern edge, totally by himself. Full of raw emotion and vivid, heart-on-the-floor storytelling, it became “Giving You Up,” and for most people the story would end there. He’d scratched the itch to express his pain.
But not Marlowe. He was raised to finish what he started, and decided instead to get it recorded – after all, it’s not like he had a wedding to pay for. Once again, he had no idea it what was coming.
“I just felt like I was supposed to finish that song,” he says now. “It was my ‘If I am ever going to try music, now is the time’ moment. My life had just been flipped upside down, and the whole plan I had made with trying to get married was gone. So I spent a little money to get recorded, and figured I’d see what happens. … After that? I’ve just been blessed with the reaction to it.”
Showcasing his easy Carolina croon, equal parts velvet and vinegar, and built around the done-me-wrong devastation, fans flocked to the song in the millions, feeling for Marlowe as he kicked the habit of loving his ex for good. He soon made the move to Nashville full time, and now just a few short years later, the real work has begun.
After signing with Columbia and releasing a self-titled EP in 2020, Marlowe tapped another electrifying power ballad as his single debut, sending the buzzed-and-broken “Sober as a Drunk” to country radio. In response, he was named to more than a dozen “ones to watch” lists, opened for stars including Lee Brice, Dustin Lynch, and Chris Young, and sold out headlining club shows throughout the Southeast. He’ll join Brad Paisley for his TOUR 2021 beginning in July. And now by working with mega-producer Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett, etc.), he’s being challenged to believe in himself like never before.
“I think the next batch of music is going to be a lot better,” he says. And by early accounts, he’s right. Matching a muscular mix of country’s timeless and trendy with a hardwired connection to his heart, these fresh songs show an artist who’s just beginning to tap his from-the-gut potential – and find a home for that show-stopping voice.
His vocal shines through a wide grin in the first new release, easy going “Tequila Talkin’,” as Marlowe matches the fun of Friday-night flirting with an upbeat, summertime sway. He co-wrote the tune with Dan Isbell and Ray Fulcher, and makes no apologies for the good natured pick-up line – or its fiddle-laced sound, pulled straight from his ‘90s favorites.
“Honestly, it kinda just came from trying to meet girls at the bar,” he says with a laugh, thinking back to his earliest days at Nashville’s Red Door. “It was like ‘Man, I always get a little extra confidence from tequila, I don’t know about you!’ And I’m such a sucker for a fiddle in a country song that I just decided to go for it.”
It was Marlowe’s love of music, and the steady tug of destiny which pulled him into the spotlight. And now that he’s here, he’ll see it through to the end – just like his first hit. With a debut album in the works, he’s living a life he never thought possible, and it’s all because he gave his dream a shot. Now he’s hoping fans will do the same.
“It feels really weird, because my life was completely different a couple of years ago,” he admits. “But I really put in a lot of effort to write these songs from the heart, so check out the lyrics. See what you think on a deeper level.”
Morgan Wade has never sounded like anybody else, and for a long time, she thought that meant her songs were just for her. “Honestly, I think that was really good for me,” she says. “It made me think, ‘Alright, well, I’m not going to sing for anybody else––but I’m singing for myself.’”
Since then, Wade has figured out that when you grow up in Floyd, Virginia, where bluegrass sustains everyone like the Blue Ridge Mountain air but you hear other sounds like pop and punk in your own head, singing for yourself is the way to become the artist you were always meant to be.
Produced by Sadler Vaden––Jason Isbell’s longtime guitarist and an acclaimed solo artist in his own right––Wade’s full-length debut Reckless is a confident rock-and-roll record that introduces a young singer-songwriter who is embracing her strengths and quirks as she continues to ask questions about who she is––and who she wants to be. Her voice, a raspy soprano that can soothe liltingly or growl, is on brilliant display. “I feel like the last couple of years have been me trying to figure out where I fit in, who I fit in with, and what’s going on,” Wade says. “I’m almost four years sober, so a lot of the friends I had, I don’t really hang out with anymore. When I wrote these songs, I was going through a lot, just trying to figure out who I am.”
Now living in Damascus, Virginia, about two hours east of where she grew up, Wade remains connected to the roots that raised her, even as she stretches. “All these bluegrass players would get together out in the streets and play music together,” she says of her little hometown. “My grandfather would go up there every Friday night, and I’d go up there with him and my grandma. I remember falling asleep on their laps, just sitting up there, listening to music.” When Wade began to write her own songs, country radio was dominated by svelte voices like Shania Twain and Faith Hill––and Wade couldn’t hear herself in any of them.
“I’d write songs but didn’t tell anybody about it,” Wade says. “It was like some kind of secret. Even as a kid, it was what I liked to do: I’d go off into my own little world and write songs and stories.”
Wade was 19 and in college when she first performed in public: an open mic in Floyd, backed by a band she had cobbled together via Craigslist. She loved the stage––and soon, her secret writing and singing became a public––and beloved––soundtrack. Wade began touring with her band, the Stepbrothers, and generated a grassroots following and high-profile attention––including that of Vaden.
Asked how she feels about the head-turning voice she used to hide, Wade is characteristically honest, self-deprecating, and insightful. “I still go through moments. I was in the studio two weeks ago and I thought, ‘Can I actually sing? Is everybody just mocking me right now?’” She laughs a little and sighs. “I think it just takes a while. After spending all those years feeling like you weren’t good enough, it takes time to rewire your brain––to know hey: You really do have a good voice.”
Today, with Reckless in tow, Wade is ready to for her voice to be heard. “This is different than anything I’ve ever done before,” she says of the record. “It’s opened up a bunch of different lanes––and I’m proud of it. A lot of the songs are about figuring out what the hell I’m doing.” She pauses and grins. “Maybe record number two will be a little bit more about knowing who I am.”