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Kristin Barlowe Photo / Jon Langston

As the oldest of three boys growing up in Loganville, Georgia, Jon Langston loved football, earned a football scholarship to college and thought the sport had potential to be a career.

It took six concussions to knock some sense into him before he began to rethink that idea — especially when the sixth one left him blind for 15 minutes.

"I thought I'd just ruined my life," Langston recalls of those terrifying minutes during a phone interview. "I thought I was never going to see again."

Having always loved music, he picked up the guitar he hadn't touched since eighth grade and began teaching himself chord progressions.

"I had my first gig at a frat party in 2013. A few months before that, I'd recorded 'Forever Girl' in my buddy's basement. People started sharing and downloading it. Then I got the call from a buddy who had the frat party going on, and I would open for Chase Rice. I rounded up some buddies, we rehearsed all night long and played the show the next day. We were terrible, but we had a blast doing it."

That show helped him visualize what could be.

"There were 800 college kids there and they were screaming all the words to 'Forever Girl.' That's when I knew this was what I wanted to do the rest of my life."

"Forever Girl" launched an upward trajectory that led to opening for Luke Bryan on his 2017 and 2018 Farm Tours (where just three years previously he'd been a fan in the audience) and then Langston was invited to join Bryan on his Sunset Repeat Tour this year.

Now he's become the first artist signed to Bryan's new label 32 Bridge Entertainment. He released his latest single, "Now You Know" to radio in July, and fans can hear it and other music from his upcoming new album Thursday night at The Signal. He's headlining US101's Concert for a Cause to benefit CHI Memorial Foundation.

If you go

› What: Jon Langston Concert for a Cause

› Where: The Signal, 1810 Chestnut St.

› When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10

› Admission: $15-$30

› For more information: www.thesignaltn.com/

With a quick wit and slow drawl, Langston talked about music as therapy and what's in store.

Q: Obviously, to choose music after football ended, you must have had previous experience. What's the backstory?

I've always loved music. I've always been a fan of all kinds of music. I was a huge fan of the songwriting aspect, and I've always loved to write poems and lyrical stuff since first or second grade. When we had a project or something to do in school with writing poems, I was all about it. So I just turned to songwriting as my therapy because I couldn't play football anymore.

Q: How did you meet Luke Bryan?

We have the same manager, and we were at a Christmas party where we met, had a cigar and got to know each other. We hung out and became buds. A few months after that, he saw my CMA Fest set in Nashville and heard what we had going on. He said, "Why don't you open up for me on Farm Tour?"

He's always had an ear out for what I was doing, staying in touch and being a buddy. After one of the Farm Tour shows, he asked, "Hey man, what's going on with the record deals and Nashville? Who you gonna go with?'"

I said "Everyone's got their ear out, but nobody's offered yet." And Luke said he was going to pull the trigger and sign me. It was the craziest moment of my life and I'll never forget it. I was gonna be his first artist on that label!

Q: Touring with Luke, what have you learned from him?

He's just always told me to have fun. If it's not fun, you aren't doing it right. He's always telling me to write all the time, be myself and never change. Watching him every night in these huge stadiums, watching him entertain 30,000 to 50,000 every night is incredible to watch. I'm on the side stage taking a lot of notes.

Q: What do you look for in a good song?

I love a good storyline in a song and a catchy hook. And truthfulness and honesty.

Q: Tell me about "Now You Know." Fans at The Signal will be among the first to hear it. (Langston's new album comes out Oct. 25. The EP has six tracks that Langston wrote.)

The title single is already released. We have two new songs: "Sunday Morning Heart" and "Dial One Up." We also re-recorded "Cigarettes & Me." It's one of my favorite songs I've ever written.

For the show at The Signal, I'll have a full band. It's gonna be loud and rowdy. That's what our shows are: rocking and a fun, good-time show.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

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