Arist: J.D. McPherson
Home Base: Tulsa, Oklahoma
At first glance, J.D. McPherson's debut album, 2012's Signs and Signifiers, seems like a pretty straightforward retro affair. Greasy swingers like "North Side Gal" and "Scratching Circles," practically smelling of pomade and cigarettes, harken back to a time when country music and rock 'n' roll weren't such far-removed relations. (Elvis, anyone?) But take a step back and you'll see his songs take on a decidedly modern edge. J.D. is an Oklahoma kid who grew up loving 1970s punk as much as 1950s rock 'n' roll, but he didn't plan on a full-bore career in music. He earned a master's degree in art and taught middle school art and technology classes before being downsized in 2011; by then, he'd already recorded and self-released Signs, so he took the layoff as an opportunity to give his musical side project a fair shot. And he hasn't looked back since. His new LP, due out this spring, was recorded in Valdosta, Georgia, with producer and sound engineer Mark Neill (The Black Keys, Old 97's), and on it J.D. once again aims to explore and celebrate the dustier corners of old-school rock 'n' roll. "Things happen—these huge explosions that send ripples across the world—in design and art and music, but we, as Americans, move on so quickly," he says. "There's still room to adopt sounds and ideas that have happened and play with those things. That's sort of my goal, [and] I think everybody's doing basically the same thing—taking the stuff that they like and making [more] stuff out of it."
Musical Hero: British singer/songwriter Nick Lowe
His New Fave: Sean Rowe, a folk singer from Troy, New York. "He's got this basso profundo—bass, bass, bass—voice."