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Saturday night’s performance at the Shelby County Fair will be a homecoming of sorts for rising country musician JD Shelburne.
He grew up in small town Taylorsville, raising tobacco on his father’s farm and playing various sports. And during that time he said he never really came in contact with music.
That came only after he began attending the University of Kentucky – and after the death of his grandmother Clara – and Shelburne would discover his passion for music; country music in particular. He first performed for a live audience in his hometown Baptist church. He said the confidence he received from home inspired him to continue performing throughout college.
When he graduated from UK in 2007, he had a choice – pursue his dream of being a country star, or to give up. Shelburne went all in and moved to Nashville in February of 2008.
“When I first moved to Nashville, man it was a whole new town. I didn’t know a soul down here,” Shelburne said by phone this week. “It was hard to adjust. I wasn’t too far from home, but I left all my friends, all my family and came down here to pursue a dream. Once I got down here, I got to playing a lot. I went back home and played, so that helped, but when you go from a town where you know everybody to one where you don’t know a soul, you just got to kind of roll with it.
“Soon enough I started to meet people and met some band members that were in the same spot I was at. They left their hometowns, too, so we started forming friendships in the band and kind of helped us grow as a family.”
Since then, Shelburne has forged quite a name for himself. He has opened for more than 40 national country acts and played in more than 1,000 clubs and has two singles, July 2012’s “Farmboy” and more recently “Grandma and Garth,” a song influenced by his grandmother.
Shelburne also regularly performs at fairs, both big and small. He has played at the Kentucky State Fair for the past five years and recently played at the Tennessee State Fair.
“I like the smaller, a lot of the county fairs,” Shelburne said. “You get a lot closer to the fans, a lot more fans, most of the county fairs aren’t as high price tickets. I’ve done a lot of fairs, and the state fairs are great, but the county fairs, everybody in your hometown will come to it.
“We do a lot of country music, and it seems like country music is popular right now, from kids to such a wide age group. We’ve just done really good at fairs.
“The county fairs are a little more rowdy, to be honest with you. I don’t know why that is. I guess cause you are in a small town and that’s really the only week of the year everybody goes out and does something, it seems like, is the fair, the carnival rides, the truck and tractor pulls. The music just kind of rounds it out.”
Ray Tucker, president of the Shelby County A&M Association which runs the fair, said for only the fair’s second concert series that Shelburne is a big step up from last year’s music of mostly small, local bluegrass bands.
“We’re very fortunate to have JD come and perform for us,” Tucker said. “I know he’s gotten a much bigger name in the past few months, and we are very pleased to have him come.…We’ve never had anyone of JD’s popularity at the fair.”
Saturday will be Shelburne’s first time performing with a full band in Shelbyville and his first time at the Shelby County Fair. Shelburne said he has a large following in the area and is looking forward to the turnout. He said he gains followers from Shelby County, both parents and kids, everyday on Twitter, and he said he looks forward to meeting all of them.
“A lot of people that don’t get to see me that often are going to come, because a lot of places I play kids can’t get in or it’s too late, so you know this is a real good opportunity for fans near my hometown to come out,” he said. “I don’t get to play in Taylorsville much. I did a CD release party there last year, and it went over huge.
“You know, Shelbyville is home. I played ball in Shelbyville when I was playing sports, so Shelbyville is kind of Taylorsville, too. It’s kind of a homecoming to me, and I’m really excited to be back.”