Growing up in the backwoods of Southeast Oklahoma, JD McPherson was 100 miles from anywhere, but music still managed to worm its way into his life.
Without any live performances to speak of outside his church, McPherson said he experienced the wider world through recordings.
"A lot of that was finding things and digging around and finding related things," he said. "Many times, I'll find out that I liked the heroes of my heroes more than my heroes."
McPherson's appetite for music as a teen was voracious, and his earliest influences reflect a wide range of genres, from early rock and punk bands to blues and hip-hop artists. James Brown and Little Richard had a particularly strong impact on him, he said.
Through an older brother, McPherson discovered the guitar and began learning to play at age 15.
Growing up where he did, when someone found a passion, he or she stuck to it.
"[Music] became my all-consuming endeavor through high school," he said. "My grades and everything else suffered because of it.
"You don't have a lot to do out there ... so when you find something you love, you tend to focus on that above all other things."
Although he continued to play music through his adult years, McPherson's performing was sidelined by his work as a teacher. After recently being let go from that position, however, he said he felt the time was ripe to pursue it more fully.
Music has once more expanded his horizons. Earlier this week, McPherson was touring the Northeast for the first time after returning from an 18-day stint in Central Europe earlier this summer. Tonight, he'll make his Chattanooga debut as this week's Nightfall headliner.
McPherson's music embraces the vintage rolling rock sound of artists such as Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry combined with diverse beats and loops reminiscent of soul music and early '90s hip-hop.
Audiences are starved for music that's real and unadorned by slick studio production, McPherson said, citing recent successes by artists such as The Black Keys and Adele.
As a result, he said, music like his that embraces vintage stylings sounds fresh.
"I think people think it sounds new because, for 10 years, they've been hearing massively compressed, congealed blobs of pop factory music being turned out," he said. "I think people like to hear a human touch in music."
IF YOU GO
What: Nightfall concert series featuring JD McPherson.
When: 8 tonight. Uncle Lightnin' opens at 7 p.m.
Where: Miller Plaza, corner of M.L. King Boulevard, Cherry and Market streets.
Venue website: www.nightfallchattanooga.com.
Related links at current.timesfreepress.com.
JD McPherson (lead vocals/guitar)
Jimmy Sutton (bass/guitar)
Alex Hall (drums/piano/organ)
Formed in 1996, Uncle Lightnin' is a local Americana band whose sound spans multiple genres, from Cajun and rock to country and blues. For more information, visit their MySpace profile at www.myspace.com/unclelightnin1.
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Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...