Country and rock & roll shaped his artistry, John Mayer ignited the performer passion, and songwriting runs in his veins. That perhaps, is one way to describe Sony Music Nashville’s new artist, Joey Hendricks. The rising singer-songwriter hails from Anacortes, Washington, and boasts an eclectic list of musical influences, ranging from Willie Nelson to Nirvana, and Johnny Cash to Mayer. In July, Hendricks signed a record deal with Sony after moving to town almost three years ago, being one of the few to defy Music City’s notoriously infamous reputation as a “ten year town.”
The 23-year-old has since released his major label debut song, “Yours Or Mine,” a flirtatious feel-good love song. It marks the first of many releases fans can expect from the country newcomer in the coming months. Sounds Like Nashville got to chat with Hendricks recently about his musical influences, artistry, “Yours Or Mine,” and the incredible (and almost surreal) story behind getting his first publishing deal. Hint: the latter story involved cold turkey emails sent to numerous Music Row executives. Another hint: it worked.
How did you chance upon country music out of all the other genres, especially being from Washington?
I grew up in Anacortes, Washington, which is about an hour and a half north of Seattle, Washington. I grew up on rock & roll. Grunge came out of Seattle, so I grew up on that, and Nirvana and Pearl Jam and all those guys and whatever my Dad was listening to; which was usually Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Doors, just like a bunch of the old rock & roll bands. So I got bit by the bug early on as far as that kind of music [is concerned]. But it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school when I started writing songs, I found guys like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash and just fell in love with the storytelling of country music. I was in a really cool position. A lot of people in country music, they grew up in country music so that’s kind of inherently in them. But for me, it was something I found later on in life, and it’s kinda given me a unique take on country music because it’s been somebody who grew up on rock & roll and John Mayer and kind of the singer-songwriter stuff, and then finding country music and giving my interpretation of what it is. I think what’s really cool about Nashville. What’s really cool about this genre right now is that it is kind of a broad genre and there is a place for different types of country music. You got the Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Chris Stapleton, Brothers Osborne and Sam Hunt [type of country music]. There’s just a big variety, and I think it’s really cool to be a part of that. […] Nashville and the country music community has really nurtured that aspect of songs.
Was there a concert you saw that was an ‘aha moment’ for you where you knew you wanted to be a performer?
Yeah, I think one of the first concerts I ever saw was Aerosmith, and I remember seeing Steven Tyler up on stage. That was like, “Aww man, I wanna be a rockstar!” But I think a very special moment for me where that was really the case was right around that time around sophomore year of high school when I was finding guys like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, I was also really big into John Mayer. John Mayer has always been a big influence for me as far as his artistry and his creativity [goes]. He’s kinda covered a lot of ground. I remember, I saw him at The Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington when I was about 16 or 17 years old. This is kinda like Washington’s version of Red Rocks, so it’s a beautiful, scenic venue. I remember, the sun was going down, and he was playing me songs that I knew and loved and people were dancing. I was just looking around and there was this magic feeling in the air. I remember in that moment thinking, “Man, this is what I want to do. I want to do this for a living.”
How did your publishing deal with Parallel Music Publishing come about?
I moved to town in October 2017 with only $3,000, got a Craigslist roommate, and by sheer luck, my roommate happened to work in a publishing company downtown on Music Row. So I kinda fell in with his friend group and he introduced me to a few of his friends who were in the industry. I remember asking around and being like, “Where do I start, who do I need to talk to, where do I go?” and all that stuff. [I also] asked like, “Would it be bad to cold email all the publishing companies?” and they were like “Eh, it’s probably not the best thing to do. You don’t want to be annoying, and you don’t want to be the new guy that’s like ‘Hey, I’m new to town, I play guitar.’” But I ended up cold emailing every publishing company anyway and nobody responded except for a guy named Eric Hurt over at Black River Entertainment. He was the only who responded. I had copy and pasted an email and sent it out to everybody, and it essentially said “Hey, I’m Joey Hendricks, a new songwriter in town, I would love to grab coffee and pick your brain about music stuff. Let me know if you have any time in the near future.” Again, nobody responded, but Eric Hurt responded and said, “Hey man, I don’t really have the time to meet for coffee but feel free to send a couple demos over.” So I sent them a couple demos and he ended up like what he heard and that led to a meeting after that. So I met with him a couple times and he eventually ended up telling me “Man, I think you’re really talented. Keep doing what you’re doing, but we’re not really looking into signing anybody right now. But keep doing what you’re doing.” And probably two weeks later, he ended up running into [Parallel Music Publishing’s Co-Founder] Tim Huntze at a popular bar here in Nashville called Red Door, and he said, “Hey man, I’ve been talking to this kid named Joey Hendricks. I think you’d dig his stuff,” and he passed my name along to Tim. So I got an email from Tim Huntzy shortly after that and he said “Hey, I love the stuff he sent me. Feel free to come into the office and play me a couple songs. I’d love to get to know you and hear your story.” Anyway, I kinda went into that meeting, thinking it was gonna be one of those get my foot in the door [kind of meetings]. I didn’t think much of it. And I remember talking to my Dad on the phone and was like, “Hey, I’m going to have this meeting and hopefully it goes good but I’m not expecting much. I’m just getting to know the town and get to know people in town.” So I went into the meeting and I played five songs acoustic, and after the fifth song, Tim literally sat back and was like, “Man, I really love what you’re doing. I’d love to offer you a publishing deal,” which at that time blew me away. I was like, no way! And he said “You can tell your friends and family that this is real, I am offering you a publishing deal.” I was just blown away, but I had to pretend because I had some friends who had told me “Don’t just jump into anything, you don’t want to make the wrong decision either.” So I had to pretend in that moment like “Oh, thank you so much, I have a few more meetings lined up.” (laughs) But anyway, about two weeks go by and I eventually get to know [the people] over at Parallel well and realize that Tim Huntzy and [then Senior Creative Director] Travis Myatt were just genuinely good guys who really believed in me. So I ended up going forward with them.
What about your record deal with Sony Music Nashville? How did that transpire?
I initially moved to town not even wanting to become an artist, I just wanted to become a songwriter and focus on writing songs. [But] Tim had a pitch meeting over at Sony Entertainment and I think he pitched one of my songs to Margaret Tomlin, who’s my current A&R person over at Sony. She asked him, “Is this kid trying to be an artist?” And Tim was like “No, he’s just focusing on the songwriting and wanting to follow that path.” But she was like “Well, can I just take a meeting with him?” Anyway, that led into a meeting with Margaret and she kinda talked me into [being an artist] and was like “I think you got something special, and I think you’d be a great fit for our team.” So I think three or four months after I signed my publishing deal, I got an offer from Sony Records and that started everything. Still, to this day, I pinch myself. I’m just so grateful. We’ve been writing some really cool songs that I’m really excited about. They feel genuine to me and it just feels super cool. I feel super lucky to be able to talk about it right now.
You’ve probably written and recorded a whole ton of songs as a songwriter. What made you choose “Yours Or Mine” as your introductory single?
I wrote “Yours Or Mine” with my good buddies Daniel Ross and Michael Whitworth, and it was the first time all three of us wrote together. We’ve since become best friends! But it was the first song we ever wrote together and Daniel Ross went on to become my producer, so he ended up producing the whole project and Michael Whitworth went on to become one of my favorite co-writers and friends in town. [“Yours Or Mine”] just felt like a good place to start the story. It’s more of an uptempo fun song but it still feels 100% genuine to me, and it felt like a good place to be like, “Okay, here’s what I can do and here’s the basics…” I think for me it’s just a good entry to what’s to come.
And talk about your brand-new video for “Yours Or Mine”. What was the process of filming it like? Was it done over quarantine?
Yeah, we filmed it over quarantine with social distancing in place. Everybody besides me for the shooting of it had masks on. It was kind of a strange experience especially for me because it was my first time ever doing a music video. So to have that as my first time doing a music video and everybody was wearing masks and stuff, it was kinda weird. (laughs) But it was definitely a fun experience. I realized I really need to work on my lip-syncing skills, they aren’t quite as good as they need to be yet. (laughs) I’m probably gonna look back at it in ten years and be like, “what the heck was I doing!” But it was a super fun experience. My initial idea was to do it in a really pink room that we had and then in a darker room that was the contrast of “yours or mine” was the idea behind it.
“Country music” has many varying definitions. So, how would YOU define what it means to you?
To me, country music is a melting pot of a bunch of different genres. I think especially in 2020, if you listen to the radio, there’s just so many different styles. There’s people that are really really country, and then there’s people who are a little pop leaning, and then there’s [the] more folksy and rootsy country. I think country music as a pot, and the ingredients are everybody’s influences. But at the end of it, it remains country by the fact that it’s [all] storytelling-driven and lyric-driven type of songs. To me, that’s what I love about it. It’s a very broad genre I would say.
What do you want the readers and new fans to know about Joey Hendricks both as a person and an artist?
As a person, I’m just a small guy from Anacortes, Washington who’s a dreamer, who just fell in love with music and made the move to Nashville to try to make it happen. And as the artist, I hope people see that I like the fun radio songs, you know everyone wants hits. But also, I want people to know that I want stuff that has heart and some actual depth and meaning to it. I take the art side of [music] very seriously, and I want people to see that side of me too.
When can fans expect more new music from you? What’s on the horizon in Joey Hendricks world?
People can expect new music in the very near future.