Buddy Jewell

Yeah, rags to riches stories are fun to read but, sometimes, they just teeter a little high on the bull-ometer. But it’s easy to see that Buddy Jewell is still getting accustomed to suddenly being a Nashville star.

The country singer, who couldn’t even get arrested in June, is heading out with Trace Adkins this winter, has his first album debuting at No. 1 on the country charts, and has his first single debuting at No. 3.

All this from a guy who had been passed on for a decade because his voice was either “too traditional” for record labels or he was too old (he’s a whopping 42 years of age). That all changed when he won the “Nashville Star” television contest this spring.

Since then, it’s not like he suddenly walled himself up in a trailer and surrounded himself with bodyguards. His interview with POLLSTAR had to be a short one because he had to drive into Nashville for a doctor’s appointment, then have lunch, then come back home and “be a dad.”

So he wanted to arrange a second chance to talk. That’s right, he wanted to talk to the press more.

Jewell was the recent headliner at Tim McGraw’s annual Swampfest. He wasn’t supposed to be, but McGraw had to leave the stage four songs into his set because of dehydration. Jewell had played his set earlier in the day but now everyone had to fill McGraw’s shoes. Faith Hill came out to help finish up the show, but even she was dealing with people chanting for McGraw’s return.

“You know man, it felt great to go back out there but I was kind of scared because I thought these people, I mean, Faith was onstage and they’re chanting, ‘Tim! Tim! Tim!’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God, what are they going to do when I go back out there?

“And I had already gotten out of my Buddy costume, you know? I had on a Dallas Cowboys jersey and a baseball cap and shorts and sneakers, man. My road manager said, ‘Aw, just go back out there. They’ll love you anyway.’ And I went out and I actually did a couple standard rock songs, ‘Turn the Page’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ The crowd was very receptive and got into it. And how can you go wrong singing ‘Sweet Home Alabama?'”

Of course, anyone who’s had to play at a dive bar anywhere between the two coasts knows that, and Jewell has played them all. He was a honky-tonk musician in the ’80s, playing with a band called White Oak. When the band broke up, he booked himself doing solo gigs around the Dallas / Ft. Worth area.

He moved his family to Nashville in ’93 and became one of the city’s best-known studio musicians, singing on 3,000 publishing and writing demos to pitch songs to people like George Strait and Alan Jackson. He supplemented his income as a bouncer and a UPS driver, along with other odd jobs.

“A lot of people in the industry knew who he was but he says that he has had meetings and was passed on by everyone in town as an artist because he was either too old or too country,” Jewell’s manager, Terry Elam, told POLLSTAR. “Those were the two common themes that came back to him over the years.”

Buddy Jewell

But he eventually did earn enough money to not need a day job, making a living off those demo songs. He was good enough to sing to Strait and Jackson, but apparently not good enough to sing to the rest of us.

Elam said he watched Jewell on “Nashville Star” and approached him about three days after he won. As for getting an agent, though, Jewell didn’t have a clue.

“Ironically, my pastor’s wife at my church works with Rick (Shipp) over at William Morris,” he said. “Her name is Sue Ann Cordell. She was really instrumental in me deciding to go over there just simply because of the big trust factor and, obviously, the name William Morris speaks for itself.

“I talked to Sue Ann shortly after the show was over with and I said, ‘I’m so naive; I still don’t know if I’m supposed to approach you guys or are you supposed to approach me? How does this work?’ And she said, ‘Let me talk to Rick and see if they’re interested.'”

Jewell met his management team at Fitzgerald Hartley Company from, of course, doing a demo tape for them a few years earlier. He said he knew of the company’s track record with Vince Gill, who has stayed with them for practically his whole career.

“I had to make some choices really quickly,” he said. “I had to get a band together, get a booking agent, a business manager and a personal manager within the space of a week and a half because I had all these offers coming in and man, I didn’t know what to do with them.

“One of the weirdest things is getting used to saying ‘my manager’ or ‘my agent.’ I remember not long ago, I’d hear somebody say that and I’d go, ‘Oh God, what an idiot.’ Now when it starts to come out of my mouth, I’ll go, ‘I wonder how stupid this is going to sound?’

“But yeah, to have somebody like William Morris and those guys over there at Fitzgerald Hartley? I’ve got a great, great team around me. I couldn’t ask for better people.”

Pull Quote: “One of the weirdest things is getting used to saying ‘my manager’ or ‘my agent.'”

Booking Agency William Morris Agency Rick Shipp 615.963.3000

Management Terry Elam Fitzgerald Hartley 615.322.9493

Record Company Columbia / Sony Music Nashville 615.742.4321