Texas native Jerrod Medulla’s eclectic love of music began at an early age. His father would play everything from Glenn Miller to Alice Cooper, Jerry Jeff Walker to The Doors and ZZ Top while his grandfather’s love of classic Hank Williams and Bob Wills tunes or his grandmother’s voice all worked together to soundtrack Medulla’s early life with color, style, soul and grit.
With such a variety of musical influences informing his work, Medulla is an artist rooted in tradition with a sound and style defying simple categorization.
Cutting his teeth in the musically fertile dust of Lubbock, Texas, Medulla began his music career after being urged on stage by friends at an open mic night. In those earliest days of artistic discovery, Medulla stuck to what he knew firsthand, but as is the case with great artists, his music has evolved with the times and as what his real life has looked like from one year to the next.
“When I first started gigging, I was partying hard, trying to cowboy, and living in honky-tonks at least 5 days out of the week.” he says about his beginnings. “It seems like all of my songs at that time were a direct reflection of a crazy lifestyle I loved. But environments change. The older you get, the more losses you have, the more life you start experiencing, the more love you see. When you grow a family, you start seeing life in a whole new light. It wasn’t until I had kids that I realized I really have no clue about anything.”
After plugging away in Lubbock and eventually landing in Dallas, Medulla found himself sharing the same stage with many of the iconic artists he’d grown up listening to, including Jerry Jeff Walker, Merle Haggard, Leon Russel, Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam and Robert Earl Keen. Along with making his name known on the stage, Medulla began to grow in the studio as well. His 2004 debut LP, From Heartaches to Hangovers, and the 2009 follow-up, This Time Ago, produced by revered songwriter/producer Walt Wilkins, were filled with his own unique methods and imagination, but it was Medulla’s next album that truly gave him a chance to do what he does best—something different.
“It can be a scary thing to be unique, to stand out,” Medulla admits. “So when you work up the courage to do something different, especially in public, you can’t just do it once. “The real question is can you stay unique, can you stay truthful with yourself and completely believe that regardless what happens, it’s all worthwhile.”
Much of the material from Medulla’s earliest days featured inventive uses of fiddle, mandolin and steel guitar, but Medulla’s 2012 album Speak Easy introduced a new sonic phase to his catalog that was both unpredictable yet sleek and accessible. One of the singles from that record, “Stay the Night,” reached the Top 10 on the Texas Regional Radio Chart, as has several of his other singles, including a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” Speak Easy also featured “How Bad,” a sultry duet with award-winning Americana artist Lindi Ortega.
In 2013, Medulla’s music caught the legendary ear of one of music’s all-time great managers and producers, Bill Ham. Responsible for helping Hall of Fame artists ZZ Top and Clint Black find their signature sounds and global audiences, Ham believed in Medulla’s “innovative sound” enough to work together on not only recording some new songs, but to become a mentor more than a mere industry acquaintance. Ham encouraged Medulla to not only set high professional expectations for himself, but worked with him to exceed those lofty goals. In 2015, before Ham’s sad, sudden passing in 2016, the so-called “Fourth member of ZZ Top,” helped produce an industry showcase performance for Medulla, where influencers from across the country had the chance to hear what Ham had been excitedly telling them all about for a couple of years.
Some of the songs Medulla wrote under Ham’s watchful eye ended up on his 2017 album Suits Me. That record featured another appearance from a country legend via the single “Unbroken Horses,” a song penned by legendary songwriter Dean Dillon (“Tennessee Whiskey”). Smoky and atmospheric, the song provided Medulla with his first Number One radio hit. Unlike most of the time when a singer cuts a song from a well-known writer without crossing paths, Medulla and Dillon kept in touch in order for Medulla to gain Dillon’s stamp of approval when the song was recorded.
Just as was the case with Speak Easy, Suits Me is produced by respected music industry veterans Chuck Allen Floyd and Matt Nolen, and offers surprising instrumental combinations and arrangements, with the sorts of provocative lyrics not found in formulaic song craft. With his sights set on something daring for the video for “Wolf Howl” Medulla enlisted the help of television art director Bryan “Wally” Walior (Queen of the South). Walior enlisted the aid of an accomplished wardrobe stylist whose worked with pop adventurer Lady Gaga in order to achieve a theatrical, highly stylized set of visuals unlike anything pretty much anything else released that year, especially in Texas.
With an exciting, evolving style that has been called “Texas roots in a pinstripe suit,” Jerrod Medulla’s multi-layered, textural music is steeped in tradition, and offered with a modern edge only he can provide in his signature way.
“I’m trying to be the best me and honest me that I can,” he explains. “I’m a product of everything I’ve lived through. I try to be the truest version of myself that I can be.”