JD Shelburne Interview
by Big Al Weekley for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
J.D. Shelburne is that rare artist for whom the dream, the life, and the music have all come together.
“I’ve been blessed enough to hit that sweet spot,” says the lanky Kentucky native, whose music channels his small-town roots amid his journey from regional star to the national stage. “And the best part is, I have the truest and most loyal fans in the world, and they’ve been with me every step of the way.”
J.D.’s journey has taken him from Taylorsville, Kentucky, to the iTunes Country Top Ten, landed him on CMT and the Circle Network, found him opening for ZZ Top, Miranda Lambert, and Marty Stuart, put him on the cover of Kentucky’s Official Visitor’s Guide, and made national news for the sheer size and exuberance of a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands at one of his hometown concerts.
Now, with his latest album, Neon Hallelujah, J.D. takes another major leap forward, one that locks down his position as one of modern country’s most exciting and accomplished singers.
The follow-up to his breakthrough Straight From Kentucky album, Neon Hallelujah finds J.D. at the top of his game as a singer and writer, with 14 new songs destined to join the ranks of fan favorites as they offer further peeks inside his heart and soul.
“Just when I think it’s impossible to outdo my last project,” he says, “I realize that I and my studio team and co-writers have done just that. I’m so proud of these new songs.”
They include “Change Your Mind,” a rocker about sticking it out through the rough times, “Devil In Me,” about dealing with one’s wild side, “Panama City Six-Pack,” about saving the magic of the beach long after the vacation, and “All Night Kiss,” celebrating love with lines like “Who needs to sleep when you’re already dreamin’”?
Nowhere does it all come together more thoroughly than on the title track, the album’s first single.
“‘Neon Hallelujah’ is my life in music,” says J.D. of a song that walks listeners through the small town that shaped him and the heart for faith, family, and simple pleasures that still defines him. “Every line, every image, is like a photo of a special moment in my memory bank—the rusty truck, the corner store, everything here is really how I grew up. I knew fans would relate to it.”
J.D.’s voice, honed through more than a decade of relentless touring, has never been stronger or more nuanced, and his writing has matured along with it.
One of the album’s finest moments finds J.D. joined by Hall of Fame legends The Oak Ridge Boys for a version of “Amazing Grace” destined to thrill new and old fans alike.
“My collaboration with The Oak Ridge Boys elevates this new collection of songs even more,” he says. “I still can’t believe I got to record with icons.”
The album is yet another crowning achievement in a life that began on a Taylorsville tobacco farm with his principal father and schoolteacher mother, as he learned “a strong work ethic, a love for family, and having a passion for what you do.”
At 19, when he returned from college for his grandmother’s funeral, he found a guitar in her closet and took it back to school. He began playing every day between classes, and when he came home for the summer, he practiced in a local church.
“That’s where it all started for me,” he says, “and it just all came naturally.” Friends urged him to play clubs, and it wasn’t long before he had a loyal following and sellout dates on his hands. He began playing in Louisville and then moved to Nashville after graduation.
Along the way, he has been featured in Country Weekly Magazine, debuted as the #1 trending artist on CMT.com, and performed at over a hundred fairs and festivals spanning the eastern U.S. He has been part of the CMA Music Festival, the NCAA Women’s Final Four, and the Quaker State 400 NASCAR Race, and has performed at SunTrust Park, Guaranteed Rate Field, Great American Ballpark, Freedom Hall, and Rupp Arena, to name just a few, sharing the stage with over fifty national acts. He was featured as the Texas Roadhouse Artist of the Month nationwide in May 2020 in 580 restaurants, a feat shared with the likes of Kenny Chesney, George Strait, and Rodney Atkins. He has made numerous appearances at the Kentucky Derby and his outfits have been featured on display in the museum at historic Churchill Downs. He performed the Kentucky state song at the capital by request of the state’s Senate and House of Representatives, and he was part of Hometown Rising in Louisville, headlined by Tim McGraw, playing for a crowd of tens of thousands. He has been featured in Kentucky Monthly and Kentucky Alumni magazines and was named Most Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Kentucky’s College of Communication and Information in 2016.
In addition, J.D. has raised thousands of dollars for charities including St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Blessings In a Backpack, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure to name a few.
A dedicated family man, J.D. loves giving his fans a taste of his home life with wife Amy and son Jax. That too is part of the sweet spot as his social media connects him to that growing fan base.
“I couldn’t ask for a better life,” he says, “and I try with every song I put out to share the blessings and offer encouragement along with the fun. I wouldn’t trade it.