Finding his voice: Jones builds confidence in performing with career change

C.J. Jones wasn’t one to speak too much growing up.

“I’ve always been a really shy kid,” Jones said. “... Even all through elementary school, I went through speech therapy because I couldn’t talk and I was always too shy to talk.”

However, the 22-year-old Owensboro native, who’s influenced by the likes of Grammy Award-winning country artists John Prine and Zach Bryan and Grammy-nominated neotraditional country singer-songwriter Tyler Childers, found an interest in music in part of his father’s, Corey Jones, impact and eventually began picking it up himself, albeit behind closed doors.

“(It) was probably my eighth-grade or freshman year of high school. I started looking up YouTube videos and I started learning by myself,” he said. “My dad helped me out a little bit …. My dad’s always played music …. He’s always listened to all the good stuff and he’s persuaded me into it.”

Jones did not venture into performing publicly during his formative years and ended up working on his cousin’s farm, Triple T Farms, throughout his time at Daviess County High School and two years full-time post-graduation.

Eventually, Jones wanted to find a job where he could make time for another passion of his — hunting.

From there, Jones connected with Jesse Phillips, owner of Riverwalk Razor barbershop and the Vintage Stripes Barber Academy — both located on Saint Ann Street across from the Daviess County Courthouse — and decided to try his hand at a new profession in hair.

“I was the first student to sign up (at Vintage Stripes),” Jones said.

Following graduation from the academy, Jones became a barber with Riverwalk in December 2022.

“It was a big change from sitting in a tractor comin’ in here,” Jones said with a laugh while being interviewed at the shop in-person on Wednesday.

But besides learning new skills, Jones said the job has helped him personally in finding confidence and finally taking the chance to share his musical talents.

“Barbering’s actually made me come out of my shell a little bit because you have to talk to people in this career. It kind of just opened me up,” he said. “The first time I ever played on a stage was after I started cutting hair.

“Cutting hair — that part was pretty easy to learn,” Jones laughed. “It was the communicating with people that was the hard part.”

Jones decided to take the plunge and performed at a Thursday open mic night at Brasher’s Lil’ Nashville after the encouragement of some friends.

“All of my buddies were trying to make me go on stage, and of course I was too shy and was like, ‘No, no, no,’ ” he said. “And then they signed my name up on the paper, so I had to go up there ….”

While Jones felt he “screwed it all up” because of his nerves, he found a silver lining within the experience.

“It did give me a lot more confidence (to think), ‘You know? I could do this,” he said.

Jones said he’s continuing to find his niche in performing and working on his skills, taking up guitar lessons with fellow local musician Chris Abell, known as a member of the bluegrass and country outfit The Lowland Ramblers and the host of the open mic nights on Sundays at the Brew Bridge.

He’s played at Brasher’s a few times since his debut, recently performing alongside his father for the first time back on April 27, and has been keeping up his chops at local open mics and performances out-of-state like playing a set at the The Lipsticked Pig in Rushville, Illinois following a hunting trip.

He’s also penned about five-to-six original songs of his own and spends at least an hour a night before going to bed learning new material.

Though there’s still some apprehension before getting in front of a crowd, Jones takes it all in stride.

“I’m still nervous every time I go up there (on stage),” he said, “but if you mess up, you mess up — you just gotta keep playing. … What’s the worst that’s gonna happen? … You just gotta keep trying.”

And he keeps the music alive even during the workday, keeping a guitar at the shop to strum on during downtime. He’s even had the chance to jam with Chris Joslin, executive director of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, who is one of the company’s clients when he’s stopped in.

Jones is appreciative of his newfound profession giving him the courage to try new things in different aspects of his life.

“I’m very grateful for this career …,” Jones said.