Jake Worthington On His Texas Upbringing, Debut Album, Collaborating With Country Music Superstars, & More
Worthington’s 13-track album arrives on April 7.
Jake Worthington; Photo by Jim Wright
Texas native Jake Worthington is giving his whole heart to country music.
The Big Loud recording artist has a signature southern drawl, a can’t-miss baritone voice and a traditional country soul that has led him through countless dance halls and honky tonks. He recently announced that on April 7, he will drop his full-length, self-titled debut album, equipped with fiddle, steel and even more boot-stomping beats.
Fans will get the next taste of the new project through his two-song drop – “State You Left Me In” and “Next New Thing.” These songs pay homage to Worthington’s devoted storytelling skills and his ability to display true vulnerability.
The singer/songwriter caught up with Country Now during this year’s 2023 Country Radio Seminar (CRS) to discuss his next set of music, while also sharing a glimpse into his musical journey thus far.
How did your Texas upbringing contribute to your love of country music?
You know, the last seven, eight years, I’ve been in and out of the beer joints and the dance halls with the best of them. There’s been a lot of life, a lot of what I like to consider growth, a lot of time, and one day, I’m gonna have to figure out how to thank everybody. There’s a lot of people that had they not been in my life when they were in those moments, I don’t think I would be here. So many great artists that I’ve gotten to work with out there in Texas, that have thrown me dates, given me work. For a long time, I’ve been under the radar in a sense, and rightfully so. It’s an exciting time, you know, there’s a lot of people who never gave up on me even whenever I tried to and so that’s part of it.
When did you first start writing your own music?
I started picking guitar when I was 12, 13, I’d say is when I learned. I might have penned like two or three songs there during that time. But to answer your question better, I would say that by the time I turned 23, that’s when I would say I was able to start hanging my hat on things and being okay with it. What I love about songwriting is it’s a constant, you learn something every day from it. A lot of up and downs on that stuff, but that’s what it’s there for. So I’d say 23. I’m 27 now, so I’ve had some amazing teachers and co-writers along the way that have only allowed me to figure out how to say what I want to.
What can fans expect from your debut album that’s dropping in April?
I mean, there’s not one on there I ain’t proud of…I’m excited. We went in there with a band and Joey Moi, I’m so fortunate. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve gotten to be around, really, truly. And the pickers on the session, you know, I had two Time Jumpers in there. I mean, me as a fan of country music, it was something I won’t forget…The Time Jumpers is one of the greatest bands ever, and we have it right here in Nashville every Monday. That was cool. We had Paul Franklin and Larry Franklin on the session, that’s The Time Jumpers there. Larry Franklin played fiddle and Paul played steel, Brent Mason played guitar, Bryan Sutton played acoustic guitar, Jimmie Lee Sloas played bass and Jerry Roe played drums, which that little rhythm section there is insane. Gordon Mote played keys and Wes Hightower sang harmonies on it. The greatest in the world to ever record. I feel so fortunate for them to bring my songs to life.
ERNEST is featured on the track titled, “Pop Goes The Whiskey” off your upcoming project. How did you guys come to work together on this song?
“It just kind of happened, you know? We work at the same label, but even in that facet, it wasn’t a planned or even a forced type thing. It was really genuine. I think that country music’s lucky to have a songwriter like ERNEST in it. I love the song and he sang the hair off of it and I’m proud that he’s on it and I’m proud to have gotten to be on his record. You know, they had that Flower Shops record, which is massive, and they doubled down on it and I got to be included on that. I’m grateful for that.
What made you decide to record this song?
Well, to be honest, I sang the first verse in chorus and he sang the second, and it’s pretty spot-on about our experiences. Again, we’re lucky to have him as a songwriter because, you know, he’s honest and I admire that. That’s just plain and simple. The song’s called “Pop Goes the Whiskey” and I can’t wait for y’all to hear it. I’m excited. I think a six, eight waltz. And Country, I’m very country.
You also have a guest spot on Ronnie Dunn’s 2022 album 100 Proof Neon on the song, “Honky Tonk Town.” How does it feel to have Dunn’s support?
I’m gonna steal a line from Roger Springer, “because of country music, I get to walk amongst giants,” plain and simple. It’s obviously a very reassuring feeling to have one of your heroes, you know, give you a vote of confidence. I can’t believe that I get to call him my friend.
It’s because of country music though. That’s it. You know, it ain’t money and all the other stuff, it’s country music. That guy is, in my opinion, one of the best to ever do it. To sing a song with conviction and to sing country music, it’s something that, in my opinion, should be from your heart or soul, whether it be something lyrically serious or easygoing. But I think that he understands that I understand that and it’s only because of guys like him. So that’s reassuring to me to know that that can still happen.
Who are some of your other musical influences?
My grandpa wrote songs in the ‘70s and the ‘80s and stuff of that nature, and I think that he’s a big reason why I have an itch for a song. I knew who he considered to be the greats, and that was singers like Ray Price and George Jones and Merle Haggard, and the list goes on and on. I heard their voices early on and as a kid and of course, [George] Strait and Alan Jackson and Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Byrd, and all of them. They have been a jukebox for me to lean on, you know, and it’s slam-packed full of gold.
I feel like in a lot of ways, country music has just been a part of my upbringing, so if my actions, or my music, if it’s reminiscent or makes somebody familiarize with somebody like that of such stature, you know, I can’t necessarily accept it because there’s only one of them, but to me, it means that we’re doing our job and it’s an incredible feeling.
What goals have you set for yourself this year?
I think, that really nothing changes. Ultimately, this is just the first year we’ve got the vehicle assembled, and there’s oil in the motor and we’ve got gas in the tank. I reckon we plan to run it. When I say no different than before, you know, the difference is we got music and something to stand on and we’re gonna go hit the dance halls and all the beer joints we can, and new places too, I imagine. And write songs when I can, which is all I ever had, you know? So it’s just now, there’s a chance I can be successful at it, maybe. It ain’t a hobby, that’s for sure. You know, I just, I have respect for everybody in this business.
Fans can keep up with Jake Worthington on Instagram.
Jake Worthington Tracklist:
- State You Left Me In (Jake Worthington, Timothy Baker, Roger Springer)
- Single At The Same Time (Jake Worthington, Robert Arthur, Kim Penz, Jacob Boyd Weinschenk)
- Without You (Jake Worthington, Jody Booth, Roger Springer)
- Pop Goes The Whiskey (feat. ERNEST) (Rocky Block, Seth Ennis, Kyle Fishman, Ernest Keith Smith)
- Ain’t Got You To Hold (Jake Worthington, Joe Denim, Roger Springer)
- She Ain’t You (Jake Worthington, Jake Doucet, Roger Springer)
- Next New Thing (Jake Worthington, Steve Leslie, Roger Springer)
- Honky Tonk Crowd (Jake Worthington, Clint Daniels, Jeff Hyde, Roger Springer)
- I Ain’t Goin Anywhere (Jake Worthington, Wyatt McCubbin, Roger Springer)
- Night Time Is My Time (Jake Worthington, Monty Holmes, Roger Springer)
- Only One Way To Find Out (Jake Worthington, Jessi Alexander, Dave Cohen, David Lee Murphy)
- Heaven Can’t Be Found (Jake Worthington, Will Jones, Kim Penz, Roger Springer)
- Closing Time (Jake Worthington, Nick Walsh)
Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.