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How could an artist who is so solidly country find himself in Country Weekly’s “On the Edge” feature? “The genre has changed so much that, in a way, being a traditional artist is on the edge,” Texas singer Jon Wolfe says. “My signing a record deal wouldn’t have happened for me five years ago. But now we can have an artist that is super-pop over here and we can have a traditional artist over here. It’s pretty indicative of what most people have on their iPods now because they’ll go from George Strait to [Psy’s] ‘Gangnam Style.’”
Quite true. But Jon also adds that the format in general is diversifying, allowing for pop-flavored country stars like Taylor Swift, rap-influenced acts like Florida Georgia Line, country rockers like Jason Aldean and traditionalists like Brad Paisley and himself to peacefully—and successfully—coexist under the country umbrella.
“I’ve always worn my cowboy hats and it’s always been country songs. So when I look back, that’s the thing I’m pleased with. I haven’t really changed, I’ve just developed.”
Still, there is the risk that Jon’s music can get lost in a geographical stereotype. A Texas resident, he doesn’t quite fit into the “Red Dirt” format adopted by rocking acts like Jason Boland, Stoney LaRue and The Departed. Nor does he fit in with more mainstream radio-friendly acts like Wade Bowen, Randy Rogers and JB and the Moonshine Band. Instead, you have to roll back the clock a few years, or even a few decades, to find Jon Wolfe’s kind of country music.
Which is not to say his songs are dated. Jon writes with some of Nashville’s most contemporary hitmakers, insuring that not only is he lyrically relevant but that his sound isn’t lost in the ’80s. “I’m kind of a blend of the two scenes. Texas fits me because I play [renowned venues] Gruene Hall and Midnight Rodeo, these dance halls, but I’m sort of reared on Music Row,” Jon says.
That combination of Texas and Tennessee results in one of the most pleasing country vocalists, as well as one of the warmest personalities, to come out of Houston. Equally comfortable performing for 400 fans in Amarillo as he is playing for George Strait’s New Year’s Eve party, Jon’s level of confidence likely comes from knowing exactly who he is.
“I wrote almost the whole record and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Jon says of recording his first album, Almost Gone, 10 years ago. “But the cool thing is I knew who I was. I’ve always worn my cowboy hats and it’s always been country songs. So when I look back, that’s the thing I’m pleased with. I haven’t really changed, I’ve just developed.”