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Farming is an integral part of life for many communities across the United States, and recording artist James Wesley knows about it firsthand.
"We drove tractors through the middle of town," recalls James about growing up in tiny Mound Valley, Kan. "Where I lived, there was a farm on the side of us and we had cows looking at us through the kitchen window. That was just where I grew up."
James is paying a little tribute to his farm-community upbringing with his new single, "Thank a Farmer," which is currently climbing the charts. Penned by Dustin Lynch, Josh Thompson and Steve Bogard, the tune points out the many aspects of our daily lives like coffee, shirts and fuel that wouldn't be possible without the hard work of farmers. Things that sometimes, as James points out, we take for granted.
"We do forget that because we've just become a country of having everything there that fast," he says, relaxing in the barn at Hatcher Family Dairy  in College Grove, Tenn., following a shoot with Better TV. "We've gotta remember where that stuff comes from. That's the life and the blood."
Broken Bow Records president Benny Brown introduced James to the song, which reminded him of a particularly powerful advertisement. "I was like, 'Wow,'" he recalls. "Coming off the Super Bowl and the Paul Harvey Ram Trucks [ad], it was awesome to be able to find a song like this after something like that."
And sure enough, audiences everywhere are reacting to "Thank a Farmer." James—who is also affiliated with Farm Boy brand clothing —has earned standing ovations from Washington to Pennsylvania. Recently, he played the Grand Ole Opry and was stopped afterward by a fan. "He said, 'Hey, I want to thank you for singing that song. I've been a farmer all my life,'" he says. "It hit home with me so fast and so hard. When you've got somebody that's farmed all his life and came around to the back side of the stage just to thank me for that song, it got me. It brought tears to my eyes to think that, you know, it's amazing what a song does and how people react."
"Thank a Farmer" will appear on James' upcoming album, slated for release later in 2013. Fans can also expect to get his previous hits "Real" and "Didn't I" on the collection. "We've got a couple really great songs," says James. "We've got the tracks done. It's just finding the time to get in there and put the vocals down on them. I will say that one of the songs, Lee Brice wrote, and it's just a killer tune."
Before the album comes out, James will spend some time on the road this summer playing shows and thanking the farmers in new cities every night. Check out a lyric video for "Thank a Farmer" below.