Joshua Hedley poses in downtown Nashville
Joshua Black Wilkins

Rooted in Country: Joshua Hedley on the '90s Country Sound That Inspired New Album 'Neon Blue'


Joshua Hedley is known for turning back the clock for country fans. The honky-tonk hero has long been a staple of Nashville's traditional country scene, a singing scholar of country music whose knowledge of country gold and deep cuts alike has earned him the nickname "Mr. Jukebox," which also served as the title of Hedley's 2018 debut album.

This time around, Hedley floors that DeLorean to the '90s on new album Neon Blue (out April 22). But make no mistake -- this is no novelty throwback. Hedley's love of '90s country, from barroom weepers like Daryle Singletary's "The Note" to Patty Loveless' kiss-off "Blame It On Your Heart," runs deep and goes back to growing up in Florida as a child of the '90s who was raised on country radio. Simply put, Hedley is here to give '90s country the respect it deserves.

"I was born in southwest Florida in 1985 and although I found traditional artists like Merle Haggard and George Jones not long after that, I also spent my formative years listening to country radio," Hedley tells Wide Open Country "Now maybe I'm just nostalgic for the soundtrack of my youth, but I truly feel like the '90s was a special time for country music. Looking back, it feels like a defining moment in the genre's history. Coming off the heels of the neo-traditionalist movement of the mid to late '80s, artists like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain may have sounded poppy and over-produced by comparison. But when compared to today's era of radio country, the top 40 hits of the 90s were as 'country' as anything that came before it. I mean, 'Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under' is a 4/4 shuffle. It doesn't get any more country than a 4/4 shuffle. But not long after Brooks & Dunn had people scootin' their boots on the dance floor, country music would take a hard turn towards pop, from which it has yet to veer away. And for this reason, it's my opinion that the early to mid 1990s was the last truly great era of country music."

Hedley says it wasn't just one song or artist that shaped the sound of Neon Blue. Rather, it was the entire era -- the beer-soaked ballads, the rowdy barn-burners, the lonesome story songs...all sparked a passion in Hedley that remains today.


"I don't think I can pinpoint any one song in particular that's inspired me more than anything else. However, I can tell you that the spark that lit the fire that would become Neon Blue was a Joe Diffie song called 'Is It Cold In Here.' But it wasn't just that song," Hedley says. "It was also Daryle Singletary's 'The Note,' and Brooks & Dunn's 'Little Miss Honky Tonk,' and Suzy Bogguss's version of 'Someday Soon.' It was the era that inspired me -- the sound, the production, and the way that music makes me feel -- that was my inspiration. "

Below Hedley shares a playlist of some of the songs he was listening to when he wrote Neon Blue. 

 Joshua Hedley's '90s Favorites

"Someday Soon," Suzy Bogguss
"Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under," Shania Twain
"Little Miss Honky Tonk," Brooks & Dunn
"The Note," Daryle Singletary
"Is It Cold In Here," Joe Diffie
"Ol' Country," Mark Chesnutt 
 "Somewhere Tonight," Highway 101
"I'd Love You All Over Again," Alan Jackson
"Blame It On Your Heart," Patty Loveless
 "Down At The Twist And Shout," Mary Chapin Carpenter



READ MORE: Let's Go Girls: 40 Women Who Shaped '90s Country

Related Videos