Luke Bryan wasn’t the first artist to see something in newcomer Jon Langston.
The very first big shot to see Langston’s potential was Rhett Akins. About a month after Langston moved to Nashville in 2014, he got a direct message from Akins on Twitter. “He hit me up on Twitter. It was a direct message that just said, ’Holler at me. Rhett’ and it had his cell phone number,” Langston told me about that first contact with a seriously successful songwriter. “I was so shocked. I had to check and make sure it was really him, but when I looked, sure enough it was the blue check verified account.”
What likely piqued Akins’ interest was the first song Langston had on YouTube in 2013, “Forever Girl.”
After Langston’s tour with Luke Bryan wrapped last week, we had a chance to catch up on everything that’s happened since he hollered at Akins.
CMT.com: Now that you’ve released you new EP Now You Know, how do you think you’ve changed as a songwriter in the past six years?
Langston: I think it’s just a matter of always having an idea of what I wanted to say, but now I’ve found ways to say it better.
What were your first attempts at songwriting like?
If I look back at songs from just five years ago, I’m like, “That doesn’t make any sense.” Now I’ve got more to say, and I now I know how to say things more clearly to get my point across.
Is there ever a point where you worry that you’ll run out of song ideas?
Not so much that. But some days I think I’ll never get better. I’ll feel like, “I’ll never write a hook like that ever again.” And then two weeks later I’ll write something even better. Music is always changing, and you think you’ll never grow. But you just do.
Luke Bryan seems to agree with you on that. When he started his 32 Bridge Entertainment record label at Universal Music Group, you were the first guy he signed. What does that even feel like?
It’s really hard to even put it into words when you realize that someone is there for you, and then you realize the caliber of Luke. Of all the things he could be doing, he is giving me a shot. That is surreal. And it’s more than that. He’s always there for me. Man, if I’m down and not having a good day on the road or whatever and I call him, he always picks up on the first ring. Luke is such a great person to have in your corner, and I will never take that for granted. Because there are so many amazing songwriters and artists in Nashville that he could’ve done this for.
And it’s more than just being on his roster. You’ve been on his massive tour, and even on his Farm Tour for a few years now. What’s was different about this year’s Farm Tour compared to your first?
Everything. The whole experience of being on stage. Because this year, I had the nerves kind of out of the way and so I was much more comfortable on stage. And that let me get closer to the crowd, instead of worrying about messing up and worrying about how many people would show up.
Oh, people will show up. There’s no need to worry about that ever again. You must’ve seen up close what a massive sold-out crowd looks like on Bryan’s Sunset Repeat Tour. What lessons did you learn from Bryan this year?
Watching him control 25,000 people for two hours was unreal. He has them all in palm of hand, and they all just home in on him. I just sit there taking notes on everything he does: the way he interacts with crowd in between songs, how there is no dead time, how there is never a dull moment, how his energy is always up, and all the little things. That’s what I was trying to take in every single night.
Langston will be taking his learnings out on his own tour — The Bird Dog Tour — and his next stop is on Nov. 15 in North Carolina. And here’s what his tour looks like when you’re Beyond the Barricade.