From Lakeland to Nashville: JC Andersen

Florida native, JC Andersen lived the first few years of his life in Norway where his dad is from.  His family made the move to  Lakeland in the late 80s when he was five, where he lived until moving to Nashville in 2004. Growing up, his goal was to be a doctor.  In fact, he had earned a full ride scholarship to college after graduating Bartow High School in 2003.  The thing was, he had already been playing music on the side, for fun, and it was getting pretty serious.  I met up with JC on a September day after he finished his set at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville to talk.  

JC’s been living in Tennessee for fifteen years, and remembers the day he told his parents he didn’t want to go to college.  “I started getting to open for shows like Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Trace Atkins and a bunch of big artists in Florida. I was playing music on the side, for fun and one day I thought, I can’t go to college now,” he smiled.  He told his parents he wasn’t going to school and he wanted to move to Nashville.  “I worked that summer at Crispers to save up money for an apartment.”

After moving to Nashville, he got a production deal within six months, which is unheard of. JC had a fellow Norwegian friend who plays guitar, give JC’s music to a producer friend named Ted Hewitt.  “Ted liked what I was doing, asked me to come meet with him and he produced a few songs,” he said. At the same time, he was working at a restaurant in Hermitage, TN, a block from his house.  “I was a horrible server, I was awful.  I was too clumsy and couldn’t memorize stuff well,” he laughed.  He needed to make money and he also happened to meet his future wife, Kristi there.  So it wasn’t all bad.  

When he wasn’t at the restaurant, he was keeping the dream alive.  “My producer tells me the next step now, is putting a band together and getting some guys you can go out on the road and start touring with.  I lucked into doing shows with really big artists before, but I needed road experience.”  At age 19, he came back to Florida and teamed up with his mom, Mary Anne to start auditioning for band mates.  Bill Boyce was the first person he heard play.  JC told him, “You’re in, I don’t need to look any further!”  When Bill asked where the rest of the band was?  “I laughed and said, you’re it so far!”  The drummer was Jimmy Smith, one of his best friends in Lakeland.  “One of the best drummers I’ve ever known,” JC said.  “He was out in Hollywood at the time.  I called him and he said he’d been waiting for this call for a long time.”

Everything was falling into place.  They got a great group of guys together and started playing gigs in Lakeland.  At that point, JC was ready to move back to Tennessee and he was bringing his band.  They got a house in the country where they all hunkered down and started making and recording more music.  

That’s when his mom told him about a new show coming out called The Next GAC Star.  (on the Great American Country Channel.) After a little convincing from her, he sent in his music video.  “I had just finished a music video before I came back up here for the first song I’ve ever wrote.   A week later I got a phone call from GAC and was told I was the Judges Choice for this week’s show.”  After being on the live finale show, they won 2nd runner up.  That brought opportunities with record labels which were great, however the country’s recession didn’t help.  “They all told me the same thing.  We love ya but we can’t do anything right now.  If we sign you, we’re going to have to shelf you.  I felt like the iron was still hot so I didn’t want that,” he explained.  He wanted something now, but it just wasn’t happening.

Needing to make a living and you know, pay bills and everything.  He had to figure out his next move.  That’s where the Wildhorse Saloon comes in.  They were having a contest, and long story short, after 800 submissions from hopeful musicians, they narrowed it down to 36 to compete live.  JC not only made it to the finale, but he eventually went on to win.  That meant he won a year contract with them.  After that, it was more recording and more touring.  

At that point, he had been married to Kristi for two years.  They began talking about kids.  “I felt like, I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know where my life is going.  I’m working hard but we’re at this plateau of not knowing what’s next.  I don’t have a manager and I don’t know how the business works in that aspect.”  He did whatever it took to make things work and to have a family.  “We had our first baby, little Sophia, and I did whatever I had to do to get by at that point.  I played shows, I worked in warehouses and then I got a job working in the auto industry.  It was supposed to be temporary,  something to get by.”   However, they wanted him full time, so he took it.  

“I went in at entry-level working at an auto auction place, then got a full time job but was trying to hustle the whole time, too,” he said.  They gave him a promotion after promotion,  “I worked my tail off. I was working and working at this job, moving up fast.  “One day I came to this realization, what am I doing?  I’ve been in this business for four years now, was still playing shows, still taking promotions at work but had even less time to play music.  That’s when Clay Ryan, the owner of the dealership and still one of his best friends, told him to quit music because he was wasting all of his time at work.   “Clay told me, why don’t you leave here and go out there and do what you came here to do.  I called my wife and asked her what she thought about me quitting the corporate job and going back at music full time and giving it everything I’ve got while I still can.”  Kristi supported him.  “ I told her it’s going to be hard.  Money will be tight.   I basically had to start over and I had to go bigger and better this time around.  I worked hard, toured hard, booked more shows, played every hole in the wall in front of 5 people.”  Wherever they could get there foot in the door, and started making a new fan base.  

He said sometimes it was fun, but mostly they were burned out, it was becoming difficult.  They started booking less shows focusing on more quality shows.   

One night playing a show at Puckett’s in downtown Nashville,  Len Besinger saw them play.  “He’s from Glacier Entertainment Artist Management.”   The company had been sitting dormant since the recession.  JC explained that Besinger played his music for a friend at CMT, and was inspired to get back into the industry.  They’ve been working together since. They’ve been playing bigger stages, making more money,  and playing songs that he wrote.  “It’s amazing to have other people like what you’re doing so much that they help you with the next step.”

“This is the best year we’ve ever had, we’re on pace to have over 200 shows.  I’m not starving to death like I was before,” he laughed.  They will be coming out with a new single this fall.  “Now with a bigger appreciation of what I’m doing and the gift that I was so lucky for God to give me, it is my responsibility to do it,” he said.  “As long as I try hard enough, I will find a way.  If I don’t give up, I will find a way.”

I asked if he had any advice for budding musicians trying to make it big.  “The music business is very deep and dark and heartbreaking.  You go out every day and wear your heart on your sleeve.  You don’t know where it’s going to go.  I’ve had so many big things happen to me, with the show, record companies, I’ve gotten so far, so many times and at the last second everything just doesn’t work out.  Over and over again.  I’m doing everything I can to be the best and be better than the other guy, but nothing happens.  You get bitter, jaded and angry.  This is not for the faint of heart,” he said thoughtfully.  “I don’t do this for me anymore.  I love it and I can’t see myself doing anything else but I don’t do it to be a star.  I know what I’m best at. So it’s my responsibility to do that and put my kids through college and to support my family, you know?”

After sitting for a bit, he added, “Get out and perform in front of people, not your family and not your friends.   Perform for people you don’t know and then see if you want to take it further. “ 

As for his family, “They’re my motivation to keep trying.  I don’t want to let them down.”


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