Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell surprised their Melbourne audience when their young, incredible guitar player was introduced as Jedd Hughes from Adelaide.
“I was born in Port Augusta. I lived there until I was 15. I had a pretty country childhood,” Jedd tells Noise11.com.
Jedd has an incredible story but is very much under the radar for most Australians. “This is my first Australian tour,” he says. “I came out a few years ago for CMC Rocks The Hunter”.
Jedd Hughes moved to the USA after a brief stint with Tanya Kernaghan after leaving school early. “I left school halfway through Year 11 and got a job playing guitar and singing background vocals for Tanya”, he said. “I moved to Sydney and started touring with Tanya and within 6 or 8 months she was doing a pretty big tour and I got to see a lot of Australia and what you could do in Australia and by the time I did that I felt there must be more out there. I had always wanted to go to America so when the tour finished I applied to a school in Texas and ended up going there when I was 18. That became my jumping off point”.
The college was South Plains College in Texas. “I spent a year and a half at college then moved to Nashville where I heard about an audition to play with Patty Loveless. I was flat broke, I knew I needed to get a job,” he said. “I ended up with that gig. My first gig with her was at the Grand Old Opry. Then we were on the ‘Down From The Mountain’ tour, the music from ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’. Rodney was the host and Emmy was on the show. I became pretty fast friends with Rodney and got to know Emmy a bit”.
Jedd also attempted a solo career and released an album ‘Transcontinental’ in 2004 but it did not do well. “I put out a record on MCA. My solo career wasn’t panning out so Rodney took me under his wing and took me on the road. I played with Keith Urban for a little while. I was still writing songs but enjoying not being the front guy”.
It has now been 10 years since Jedd’s album. “I keep threatening to make another solo record because that’s what I started off doing when I moved to the States,” he says. “I like playing with other people and collaborating. I’ve been playing with Rodney for 8 or 9 years and then came on with Rodney and Emmy when they started working together again. I am constantly amazed that I am up there playing with people who inspired me as a kid when I lived here”.
Jedd first worked with Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell on the 2013 collaboration ‘Old Yellow Moon’. “I came in on the tale end of that and only played on a couple of tracks but the new record ‘The Traveling Kind’ was born out of the band that came together on the road,” he says. “That was fun being there from the start. After being on the road for a year and a half we had become a band. We went in with Joe Henry producing. It was really fun getting to make a record and seeing the life-cycle through”.
He says the songs on ‘The Traveling Kind’ were true Crowell and Harris collaborations. “Rodney was pushing from the get go to get her in the room and write as much as possible together, which is what ended up happening. Will Jennings and Rodney go a long way back. It all came together pretty quick”.
Emmylou Harris was a late starter as a songwriter. She spent the greater part of her career recording other people’s songs, many of them from Rodney. “For a long time she wasn’t a songwriter and I think Emmy has always had such a great ear for good songs. Maybe she wasn’t pushed enough,” Jedd said. “I do remember her saying before she wrote ‘Red Dirt Girl’ that Guy Clark had said to her ‘you really need to write your next record. Its time for you to do it. We all know you can’. I think that was encouraging coming from Guy Clark. The songs on that record made me want to write songs. The writing on that record is incredible. It’s amazing that she can have all of that career and then write a record like ‘Red Dirt Girl’”.
Jedd has also been working with Australian singer songwriter Morgan Evans. “I met Morgan through his manager Rob Potts. He had reached out to me about writing with Morgan and working with him in a production capacity three years ago. He sent me some songs and we became fast friends and had a great time writing some songs. I put a band together and we wrote an EP. A year later he came over and we made the album”.
He is also a good buddy of Ryan Bingham. “I’ve been working with Ryan Bingham. I’ve known him for 15 years. I first met him when he was riding in Rodeos. I was playing in bands on the weekends and he would open. We lost touch for a few years and then the movie ‘Crazy Heart’ with Jeff Bridges came out and I started to hear his name again. We reconnected and have become pretty good mates again. I played on his new record and just did a tour with him. We might do something later in the year when Emmy and Rodney dies down”.
“I worked on the new Dierks Bentley record and I have been working with a young girl called Sarah Jarosz who I really like. She has been touring with Milk Carton Kids. Check her out. She is amazing”.
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell remaining dates
June 27, Sydney, The Star Event Centre
June 28, Wollongong, Entertainment Centre
July 1, Gold Coast, Jupiters
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