In this weekly series, we spotlight the performers and other participants who will combine for the Emerge Impact + Music Conference on the Las Vegas Strip November 16-18. Tickets are available now at emergelv.com.
Jonathan Terrell doesn’t cry often. In fact, he keeps track of the times he has cried in his entire life. “I told my girl that I could count, on one hand, the times I’ve cried in the last two decades. Today, I reached my pinky.”
The Austin-based singer-songwriter was mourning the loss of Tom Petty—his favorite songwriter, and, undoubtedly, his “biggest musical influence,” introduced to him by his parents. As musicians, they played in the house band for what became the Children of God—a European cult that reached the height of its popularity in the late ’70s. After fleeing to East Texas, the family continued to write and perform music.
“My first guitar was a beautiful cherry red [Gibson] ES-335,” Terrell says. “I did work for my dad for an entire summer, and, on top of that, gave him $300 for it. In retrospect, that wasn’t so great of a deal.”
These wacky anecdotes are the fuel for Terrell’s life. Maybe that’s why he excels at telling stories with his music. His eponymous project explores the middle ground between country and rock ’n’ roll—a sound best showcased on his latest EP, Color Me Lucky. Songs like “Faye” and “Thinking About You” are cheery, upbeat numbers about heartbreak and longing. Terrell always leaves room for ballads, such as “It’s Not Me (But It Could Be)” and the EP’s title track, on which he extracts bits of classic Americana through gruff vocals and twangy lap steel guitar.
Terrell recently wrapped up recording a Mazzy Star cover with members of Spiritualized, and he’s about to begin work on a full-length slated for a 2018 release. “I’m sitting on nearly 30 tracks,” Terrell says. “The record is gonna be a good mix of the new straightforward stuff and the old singer-songwriter stuff. I can’t get rid of that.”