Lately, newcomer Willie Jones has been turning heads as one of country music’s brightest new stars, and he recently got a big vote of confidence on some hallowed country ground.
In a behind-the-scenes video premiering on Sounds Like Nashville today (October 10), Jones explains what it was like opening for Dwight Yoakam at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville this September. Commonly known as country’s Mother Church — it was the longtime and most-famous home of the Grand Ole Opry — the significance of the moment wasn’t lost on the Louisiana native, and he seized his opportunity. With an effortless, playful fusion of hip-hop attitude and country heart, the largely-unknown artist was given a standing ovation two nights in a row.
“I’ve been to a few shows at the Ryman, but getting a chance to perform my own original songs on the Mother Church stage just hit different,” Jones explains about the experience. “Plus, having my parents come through and get to experience this milestone moment with me and everyone in the room was just special. This was definitely a night that will stick with me for a long time coming.”
Jones first caught country fans’ attention by applying his butter-smooth baritone to a cover of Josh Turner’s “Your Man” on The X Factor, and earlier this year released the chill-country single, “Down For It.” He followed that up with last month’s release of the Nashville-celebrating “Bachelorettes on Broadway” — a lighthearted party anthem filled with the kind of anything-goes craziness that Music City tourists have become famous for.
“Traveled from far and wide / To have a good ass time / Her new fiancé should be worried, worried,” goes the song’s chorus lead-in. “Bachelorettes on Broadway / Party like everyday’s Friday / twang it on over my way, my way.”
Jones also toured with Chase Rice this year and is currently featured on Spotify’s Breakout Country playlist. Later this month he’ll head overseas to support Michael Ray on five concerts across the U.K., but for him, it sounds like his Ryman debut is going to be hard to top.
“Just to be on this stage as a young black man doing this different style of country and just connecting people through music, just feels really good,” he says. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else, but it’s crazy that I’m here. It really is.”