With a new band, Jody Lee Petty is set to take off

by Ryan Snyder

Some people possess a kind of talent that can’t be accurately described with a single category. You might simply call it charisma, the “it factor” or something else. Whatever it is, Jody Lee Petty seems to have it in spades.

Thanks in large part to that inexplicable quality, his road into country music stardom has been anything but bumpy. Though he describes himself as just a laid-back Southern guy from Greensboro, that road has been one that should invoke at least a small sense of envy in most. Athletic? Sure. As point guard at Lenoir- Rhyne University, he set the conference’s single-season record for free-throw percentage (.912) and the team’s singleseason assist record (170) in 1990-91. Oh yeah, he was also named the Southern Athletic Conference’s Most Valuable Player that same year. Good looking? You bet. A talent scout noticed him in a Miami mall, which led Petty to spend years working as a model and actor all over Europe and Los Angeles. It was during his time as an actor in LA that finally led Petty into the music business. “I met a guy from Virginia in a restaurant who wanted to start a Southern rock project, but I didn’t have any singing experience,” Petty said. “I knew that I could carry a tune, but I didn’t know how I’d do on stage.” Petty had only sang the occasional karaoke song at that time and to this day has never taken a single voice lesson. He nonetheless started writing songs and decided to let his natural talent shine through. He looked to artists such as Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard for his influences, hooked up with a highly-accomplished backing band in northern Virginia and set out to record his first album. His first handful of live shows saw him opening for mainstream acts like Sugarland, Toby Keith, Montgomery

Gentry and Rascal Flatts, but he still found something to be missing. Though pleased with his self-titled debut, the more traditional, roots-country sound wasn’t exactly what he was looking for to represent his music or personality. Other factors, such as the bands inability to tour, led Petty to seek out a new musical direction with local North Carolina players in tow. “I love the band I’m with now,” Petty noted. “These guys are all great musicians and we all want the same thing, so they’re perfect for me. The new band members all come from different genres, contributing to Petty’s eclectic country sound. Drummer Jason Blaustein plays predominantly indie and roots, while bassist Marshall Jones comes from a contemporary Christian background. Petty describes lead guitarist Dustin York as a “phenom” who has been known to play behind his head on occasion. Rhythm guitarist Mike Pope rounds out the band as the only other member with real country music roots. The Oct. 17 date at Plum Krazy’s was his only show with the new band, but the results were beyond his expectations. “It was great, got a really good response,” Petty said. “It’s a much younger sound that you could probably even dance to at a hip-hop club.” It’s tough to capture the band’s new sound in just a few words, but Petty describes it as “Southern-fried, big, dumb, fun country rock and roll.” While most bands might be experimenting with their music at this early of a stage, Petty insists that they have found the sound that they want. “People are either going to like it or they won’t, but I really think they will,” Petty said.

Though currently unsigned to any label, Petty has received interest from several suitors in Nashville. Much of that interest has come from his first album, however. He still intends to play his previous material, but is still in the process of reworking the updated sound With concerns about compromising his music through premature label interference, Petty wants to get more entrenched with the new band before making any deals. That includes laying down rough tracks at Blaustein’s home, photo shoots and getting footage from his Nov. 8 performance at Greene Street Club to include in his media package. Once that happens, he intends to make a huge push toward getting signed. Though having the backing of a label would be an ideal situation for the band, Petty realizes that success ultimately falls on their accord. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have behind you,” Petty stated. “It’s up to you when you get out there how much the fans like you.” But with his own ambition and the “it factor” behind him, you get the feeling that it won’t be long before it all happens. “We’re not content being a local band and have big fish to fry,” Petty said. “We’re trying to take this thing to the top.”