JD Shelburne: Life & Music During a Pandemic

For over a decade, JD Shelburne has been creating a name for himself, playing shows. He moved to Nashville in 2008 to further his dreams and hasn’t looked back. Like many musicians, Covid-19 has put a damper on things and made it harder to survive. “My main source of income and my life revolves around touring, playing shows, meeting fans, building my fanbase. Going into 2020 I was expecting a pretty monster year”, JD tells us.

Back in the spring, Shelburne was gearing up for a big tour. He was on the cover of the Kentucky Tourism Guide, getting requests from fairs all over the state. In May, Texas Roadhouse featured him as their artist of the month. Shelburne’s first single “Straight From Kentucky” was added in rotation to jukeboxes in their restaurants.

Then Covid-19 hit. Next thing you know, he has lost over 40 shows. “As an artist, I am frustrated by what is happening with Covid-19. And how it is being handled by the press. It seems like being in the entertainment world that I am the last man they care about.” Shelburne feels. Some shows have gotten rescheduled, but many shows have not.

Nashville has had it rough. First came the March tornadoes, then Covid-19, and the protesting. Shelburne remembers it like it was yesterday. Luckily his house didn’t receive any substantial damage but did lose power being only a mile away from an area where the storms wreaked havoc.

While many people were lucky enough to receive help from the government these past months, Shelburne feels like a lot of musicians were exempt. People he knew back home in Kentucky have lost their restaurants. A lot of small businesses in Nashville are closing down, including restaurants and music venues. “It’s sad to see it go down. The government is not helping the musicians. There are a lot of musicians out of work, who didn’t save, and are living gig to gig basis.” Shelburne thought for sure by now we’d see the end of the virus, but it seems like it’s just beginning.

Lower Broadway has been the cause of much concern, and no wonder. The photos and videos of crowds of people lined up at the bars without masks, not social distancing. “When it turns into a party crowd, people start drinking and having a good time. I think the mask is the last thing people are going to think about.”
So what does JD do amid the pandemic? “I try to stay positive through it all, hoping that when it does come back, it will be a monster year.”

People are craving new music. JD just dropped a brand new single (Church Pew Bar Stool), which hit #1 on CMT’s 12 Pack Countdown. The song is his first number one, and Shelburne is ecstatic. The music video (shot last month) has hit over 70,000 streams and rising. “It’s created some great momentum for my new record. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Despite the drawbacks, he has found ways to break through and reach fans. This artist has sold more merchandise online this year than ever. He has also taken to performing virtually, thankful to fans who have graciously been tipping. His motto: “Do what you can to get by. Wait until the sun comes back up. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.” And we can’t agree more.

One of the coolest things to come out of these past few months has been the virtual shows. “It’s been neat to see some of my favorite artists do Facebook lives from their homes. You learn from the bigger artists.”
Aside from the music, the Shelburne family has been busy preparing for fall. Congratulations are in order, as he and his wife are expecting a baby boy. “We are so thrilled. We’ve been praying for a little one. On the positive side of things, a lot of my fans have gotten to know my wife on socials. We’ve been getting all kinds of gifts, onesies, and gift cards. It’s been awesome.”

Shelburne has taken this time off to devote to other things. “I’ve rested. I play so much my in-ear monitors wear out my eardrums. This last few months off has been a relief on my hearing and refocusing.” He’s watched more movies, a lot of Netflix, and worked on the yard. Things he usually wouldn’t have had the time to do.

“It’s kind of weird. I lost shows, bought a new house, and got a son on the way. It sounds like a country song, doesn’t it?” Yes, it does, and we wouldn’t be surprised if we hear it somewhere down the road.
Nothing can stop the music completely. Not even a pandemic. J.D. Shelburne has played a handful of shows the past few months include private events, an overheard gig every Sunday downtown (Ole Red), and a show for the Louisville Metro Police. “Getting paid to play music again. It’s a good feeling.”

Last week he traveled to Gatlinburg to play a few shows. “I was a little iffy doing it during the middle of the week, but we did well. Had a lot of loyal fans that came down.”

Remaining positive, Shelburne has plenty in store for the remainder of 2020. He has 30 shows booked right now until Christmas. Next month, the move to the new house, followed by a baby end of September.
He’s worked hard to get where he is at right now and is thankful to all the fans who continue to support him. “I’ve lost a lot of big gigs this year. It’ s been depressing to lose those gigs, but it’s just money. It’s just another gig. I know it will come back strong. In the meantime, I will keep building the promo side of things.”

Look for J.D. Shelburne’s new album “Straight From Kentucky” out soon.