Greylan James
Ethan Brown

Greylan James Has Written Hits for Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker + More. With 'Young Man,' He Sings His Own Story

"It’s probably the most personal I’m gonna get."

Emerging country artist Greylan James is carving out a niche for himself in the heart of Nashville. In a recent interview with Wide Open Country, the Knoxville, Tenn. native gave us insight into his songwriting craft, his collaborations with industry staples, the recent chart-toppers that have garnered him acclaim, and the anticipation surrounding his forthcoming album.

Greylan's journey in music is deeply rooted in his hometown of Knoxville. Growing up, he idolized country legends like Kenny Chesney and Chet Atkins, who also hailed from the region.

"If I would have grown up anywhere else, I don't know if I would have pursued this," he tells Wide Open Country. "Knoxville has raised a lot of country music stars, and something in the water really prepared me for growing up and pursuing music. It was a perfect storm for me."

In addition to his hometown, James credits his family, particularly his grandfather, with setting him on this path. With his debut single "Young Man,"  James reflects on his grandfather's influence and provides an intimate glimpse into his personal life.

"My grandfather, who bought me my first guitar, drum lessons, singing lessons... I wrote a song about the nickname he gave me, which was 'Young Man.' It's probably the most personal I'm gonna get, I'm really excited for people to hear [that one]," he says.

This hometown pride, combined with unwavering family and community support, transformed James' childhood dream of becoming a country music artist into a skill he started taking seriously early on.

"Before coming to Nashville, I'd only written songs by myself. Mostly about girlfriends and crushes, but it got me a publishing deal," he says. "When I got to Nashville, I was like, 'These guys and girls know what they're doing.' It took me a few years to really get a grasp on it, I was lost there for a minute."

James credits fellow singer-songwriters, Old Dominion, for the breakthrough he'd been waiting for.

"I've told them this story before, but I didn't know how to really write a great song that sounded like it could be on my radio, and I just wanted to figure out how they were doing it. I listened to an Old Dominion record while reading the lyrics. And I'll never forget that day because it was like a click, I saw the wordplay how they were telling a story. And since that day, I've just had the bug."

His songwriting talents didn't go unnoticed for long. James has collaborated with artists like Chris Young ("If That Ain't God"), Kenny Chesney ("Happy Does"), Chris Janson ("Real Friends") and more. His debut EP, I Hope She Hears These, made waves in the country music scene while his latest single, "Undermine," has been well received by fans.

"It's just incredibly exciting, I'm really proud for [them] to hear it," he says.

Signing with Big Machine Label Group marked a significant milestone in James' career. He reminisced about writing a letter to Scott Borchetta, the founder of Big Machine, when he was just a teenager.

"I'd heard that they had made country stars and I wrote them a letter saying 'Find me, get me out of my middle school.' And the letter finally caught up about 10 years later, it's a dream come true," he says.

Despite the rapid rise of his career, the young songwriter remains grounded, attributing his humility to the nature of the music industry, where success doesn't always mean being in the spotlight.

"I just feel that pressure to make everybody proud... without me having to tell them 'Hey, you should be proud of me.' To me, it's more about just writing songs," he says. "They get to hear my words in my art, in their car, [even through] songs with artists that I really believe in and connect to, it's spiritual to experience that."

James' journey from Knoxville to Nashville is a testament to his unwavering determination, talent and passion for storytelling. As he continues to make a name for himself in the country music scene, he hopes to resonate with fans with new releases on the horizon and a promising tour with Cole Swindell this fall.

"It's going to be super exciting. I'm really excited to get out there and play."

You can see the full list of tour dates here.

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