Teen’s country music dreams come true
Justin McCormick has been playing and singing with his grandpa since he could talk, but this year his country music dreams have started coming true.
The promising 17-year-old from South Bend, Indiana, will open for one of his idols, Rodney Atkins, July 19 in Hillsboro, Missouri, just two years after meeting him back stage.
A tour, which includes a Saturday stop in Marion during Chingawassa Days, will coincide with the release of his first album, which will be available at the concert.
“It’s always what I wanted to do,” McCormick said during a phone interview from a Nashville recording studio where he was at work. “A couple of months ago I saw Garth Brooks perform at Notre Dame stadium. It was the first concert ever held at the football stadium. And even from my seat, I could just feel the energy that people were giving him. It really solidified the dream for me. So now, I want to go back there and sell out.”
His career has been driven by a spark, ignited by his grandfather, steel-guitar player John Harley, who taught him how to play and later included him in sessions with his band.
“We would go through this whole Brad Paisley album. That would be our set list,” he said in a Facebook post. “We’d be down there, and I’d be in a cowboy hat and little boots like his. I wanted to be just like him.”
Since then, McCormick has regularly won talent competitions including Michiana Rising Star, which earned him a front-line pass to American Idol auditions.
Posts of McCormick’s performances on YouTube and Instagram drew more than 70,000 followers on social media and the interest of Bernard Porter, CEO of PCG Universal in Nashville, a company that has managed Jason Aldean, Jerry Lee, Lewis, Joe Diffie, Little Richard and Alabama. McComick signed with PCG as an emerging artist in November.
“People in this industry, they don’t know how to describe it, but they just know it when they see it,”
Porter said in a Facebook post about McCormick. “Justin has it. He has an aura that shines once the spotlight is on him.”
Nashville producer Bill McDermott agreed to shepherd McCormick’s first album, “Justin Performance.”
McCormick, who lists Dierks Bentley, Frankie Ballard, Jordan Davis, Mitchell Tenpenny, among his influences, wrote two of the tracks himself.
He finished others with help of Nashville songwriter Jimmy Yeary, whose co-writing credits include ’s “ ?” and ’s “ .”
While he was honored and humbled by the opportunity to work with heavy-hitting talent, McCormick said the highlight of making album was having his grandfather play one of his songs.
“My grandpa was the one that got me into music,” he said. “So I was able to have him record his steel-guitar part. That was really cool,” he said.
The Chingawassa Days concert will be a first for McCormick, who has yet to perform in Kansas despite having relatives in Blaine, a small town near Manhattan – where his grandfather grew up.
“I am gonna have a lot of family at this show, so I am super excited,” he said.