Hotstar: Jameson Rodgers – From The Basepaths To The Boards
Two of the most notoriously difficult of careers to break into are professional sports and entertainment. Jameson Rodgers made a good run at the first and is poised for stardom in the second.
Rodgers played baseball at his high school in Batesville, Miss., and at Northwest Mississippi Community College. He was recruited as an infielder by Crichton College in Memphis but instead finished at the University of Southern Mississippi. He took up music along the way, inspired by a concert he’d seen at Oxford’s Lyric Theatre, and decided to pursue that instead of baseball, heading for Nashville about 10 years ago.
“When I played baseball, we played a lot of AC/DC, Creedence Clearwater, stuff like that,” Rodgers tells Pollstar. “When I get in the truck, I crank up the old time rock and roll and I kind of grew up listening to that and ‘90s country. Now my favorite is kind of a blend of all that, all kinds of hooky ‘90s music.”
That explains the harder-edged sound of much of his music, which owes as much to rock as it does country.
Like many in Nashville, his road to success was about a decade in the making, first by writing for a publisher with other artists having hits with his tunes.
“I moved here in 2010 and didn’t know a soul,” he says. “So I started writing with anybody and everybody.” Rodgers did that for about four years and got a publishing deal with Combustion Music, went into a songwriting boot camp and came up with four songs he thought were good enough for his own EP. And then another writer, enamored with a song called “Midnight Daydream,” reached out to him on Instagram.
Luke Combs hadn’t hit the charts with his breakout, “Hurricane,” yet. The duo started writing together, but Combs was about to come into his own as a performer and Rodgers was penning hits for Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Chris Lane and others. They drifted apart but stayed in touch.
Rodgers credits Chris Farren of Combustion Music with introducing him to his future agents, Darin Murphy and Sam Forbert at CAA Nashville, who whisked him away from at least one other major agency suitor.
“[Combustion Music] brought him to us and we became instant fans. He’s got something special,” Forbert says of Rodgers. “They handed me the keys and now it was about building out a team and putting him in a position to win.”
Forbert asked Rodgers how he envisioned the moment he would know he’d made it. “He said, ‘When I headline the Lyric Theatre in Oxford, Miss.’ That was where he was inspired to pursue music. And I said, ‘We can do that.’ We had him on that stage within 18 months and it sold out in advance.”
Red Light’s Durant calls the Lyric Theatre show his “oh, shit” moment.
“He’d already done some touring, and was set up at a club called Proud Larry’s near Oxford, Miss. And then there’s the Lyric, a 1,250-cap theater that’s more like a GA club,” Durant says. “We’d released “Some Girls” around September 2017, and maybe released two more singles right before we were going to do this monthlong run of headline shows.
“We sold out Proud Larry’s, a 400ish-cap room, for the second time. Then Sam convinced the talent buyer to put Jameson into the Lyric. It was the first real glimpse for me.”
Durant concurs with Forbert that Combustion Music played a major part of Rodgers’ story.
“They found him and developed him as a songwriter. They helped fund the EP; they’re an integral part of the team,” Durant says. “We rented a bus with them and we took a label rep down with us and some CAA agents and sold out the Lyric. We put it on sale in December and sold like 100 tickets – it went crickets because of the holidays. Sam and I were just, ‘holy shit.’ But every day we sold more and more until it finally sold out.”
It was virtually a hometown gig for Rodgers, and Durant recalls “Twelve-hundred college kids singing every word to all nine songs he’d released.” He and Forbert realized that they could take that across the country.
A few months later, Luke Combs was on the phone, inviting Rodgers to join his tour for three dates. Combs, by that time, had blown up and was headlining arenas. Rodgers had written some more hits, including “Some Girls,” “Missing One” and “Like You’ve Been There.”
They reconnected, and those dates were extended through fall 2019 as part of Combs’ 60-arena “Beer Never Broke My Heart Tour.”
“That was Luke Combs being a fan and doing a favor, like Brantley Gilbert did for Luke,” Durant says. “It moved things along really fast.”
“We just need to get people in front of him,” Forbert says, mentioning “Some Girls,” the single that lit the fuse. “This song we’ve been listening to for three or four years, we just have to get people to hear it. It was climbing up the charts and we said it just needs to get high enough where people hear it, not just spun at midnight.
“And sure enough once we got to that point ‘Some Girls’ took off. The thing about Jameson is he is raw, honest and him being him you can hear that in his voice, see it in his songrwriting and feel it when he’s onstage.”
After nearly two years of touring – both headlining clubs and in front of arena audiences with Combs – the song was being heard.
Rodgers kicked off 2020 with a headlining tour, and another single in the pipeline – a collaboration with Combs called “Cold Beer Calling My Name” – just before the word COVID entered the vocabulary.
It was a frustrating time to slam on the touring brakes, Rodgers and his team acknowledge. But for Rodgers, there’s a silver lining: he gets to do more writing.
“I’ve written more songs in the last four months than the last two years so it’s been good that way,” he says. “But I’m just trying to stay sane like everyone else. It’s tough because people don’t realize how long it
takes to get the ball going as a new artist. So It was kind of a sucker punch to the gut. It’s not devastating, but it does slow the momentum.”
Rodgers was in Nashville when the word came down that shows were off for the foreseeable future. “We were getting ready to go to Springfield, Mo., and Des Moines to play a couple of shows and we had to pull the plug,” Rodgers says. “It sucked. We moved to the fall and then to spring. What I wouldn’t give to have a 6 a.m. flight to play some random place tomorrow.”
Rodgers kept engaged with his fans, through an Instagram livestream where he works out new material with his fans, his music is getting played on radio at times other than midnight, and he recently appeared on NBC’s “Today” show.
It’s frustrating for Forbert as well, but the agent is philosophical. ““We are kind of planning for the end of this thing without knowing when the end is going to be. We’re just moving things six months at a time in an effort to have him back on the road as close to that moment as possible, he says.
But on the strength of the record, Forbert acknowledges that where Rodgers might have been playing 500-cap rooms in spring, he can now move shows to 1,000-cap buildings.
“He could have two or three hits by the time we’re able to tour again,” he explains. “Will he be in the same position then as when this thing started? No way. We could very well end up skipping a few steps. It’s interesting that the virus has put us in the position of having to forecast the next 12-18 months. But with Jameson, time is on our side.”