“I never thought I would become a full-time musician,” says Greenville, Kentucky, native Grayson Jenkins. “Slowly but surely, the music bug kept getting a hold of me and I went and pursued it full-time starting in 2017.”
Jenkins is a singer, songwriter, and musician who describes his genre as “country Americana.”
“It involves telling a story through the verses and then having a chorus that is relatable to anybody’s circumstances,” he says. “Musically, it’s changed over the years, but I like to use my Kentucky influences: fiddle, steel guitar, acoustic guitar. Kind of that country sound with a little bit of that Appalachian bluegrass in there as well.”
Jenkins comes by his folk and bluegrass sound honestly, having grown up on his family’s small farm in Muhlenberg County where they raised goats and Quarter Horses. He looks back fondly on a childhood spent exploring the woods and doing farm chores. He didn’t spend his days dreaming of musical superstardom; to the contrary, he says he imagined having a farm of his own one day, and maybe going to community college near home.
He credits fellow Kentucky singer/songwriter Sturgill Simpson with encouraging him to have a serious go at a full-time career in music.
“I met Sturgill Simpson in a bar and sat there and talked to him for a few hours,” Jenkins remembers. “He asked, ‘Do you have songs?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you have a band?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you have a van?’ ‘Yes.’ He just old me, hit the road. Get out there, play your music. Go do your own thing. So that was a fateful meeting that couldn’t’ have come at a more crucial time. You’re going through this transitional period wondering if it’s the right decision, and then you get to meet one of your heroes.
“The big thing for me was never wanting to look back and regret that I didn’t try and put everything I have into it.”
Jenkins’ Kentucky roots shine through in his music. He credits the rich musical heritage of his hometown and the culture of the region for contributing to his development as a songwriter.
“Growing up in [Muhlenberg County], there are so many stories and turns of phrase that have been used for hundreds of years that my family passed down or that you just hear people saying,” he says. “I think the way people talk and their storytelling has influenced my writing and my style of music.”
Songwriting began as a form of therapy for Jenkins, who says that he used it to process things that were going on in his life.
“If I were to evaluate my own songwriting from a bird’s eye view, I would say that it’s taking a tough situation and finding the grain of hope in that,” he says. “I hope that people, when they listen to my music, feel some type of emotion, whether that’s thinking back on a good memory, thinking about somebody that they love. I know it’s a good song if I tear up a little bit when I’m writing it or if I get chills when I think of a line.
“I distinctly remember the first time that a crowd was singing my own song back to me,” says Jenkins. “It was the first time I was ever like, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to connect with people in that way.’”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life season 27, episode 8, which originally aired on June 11, 2022. Click here to watch the full episode.