Mar. 31—MIDLAND — Somewhere, J.R. McNutt knows his dad is smiling.
The Big Spring country singer-songwriter has been playing music for about eight years now and he's owed a lot to his late father (Jim McNutt) who passed away in 2016.
"When he passed, I looked back and remembered him telling me when I was working at Aaron's in Corpus Christi, he told his friends that I was a country singer but he had never heard me perform before," McNutt said. "He wanted me to make an album and send it to him."
So when McNutt looked back on that moment, in honor of his father, he went and entered a competition in Florida called Country Showdown.
After making it two rounds, he was able to fly out to Live Oak, Fla., he competed and while he didn't win, he did earn the respect of audience members and knew that performing was the right path for him.
He'll perform next week at the inaugural Tall City Car and Music Fest.
The fest will begin at 5 p.m. April 8 at Centennial Park in Midland.
Among the guest artists that will be performing include the band Little Texas, which is famous for its single "God Blessed Texas" as well as Tony Barker, Cassidy Sooter and Lumby Rivers.
The music fest aims to blend the classic past time of showing off cars with iconic music.
McNutt is excited about the opportunity to play at next week's festival.
"Just the thought of being able to perform a few of my originals on stage is pretty cool," McNutt said. "It's going to be a unique experience. Also, being able to perform in front of the band Little Texas is going to be fun. It's great to be able to have the opportunity to perform."
McNutt has lived in Big Spring off and on for most of his life. He grew up in the town before moving to Andrews where he graduated from high school in 2009.
He's always wanted to perform since he was a child. Over time, music became more apparent in his life.
However, it was when he was performing at Country Showdown when he realized that he was meant to do this.
"At that point, I was realizing that I could do this for a living and being able to share my heart and being able to relate to other people and possibly be other people's anthems, having those anthems that they can relate to," McNutt said. "My own personal experiences have been brought to life by song."
McNutt grew up listening to Randy Rogers, Shinedown and the Sun Devil Pirates as well as Chris Daughtry.
"I had a little bit of a variety," McNutt said. "Then, I fell into the country scene around 2016 like head-on. Growing up, it was more of the alternative rock."
For McNutt, he just fell in love with country music.
"After I decided to start doing this fulltime, I started seeing signs that said I was going in the right direction. For example, out in Florida, I played a song that I wrote for my dad called "Where Did You Go?"
After he finished performing that song, McNutt came across an elderly couple that happened to be from Big Spring and know his father.
"They used to live in Big Spring and they said he would be proud of me and I was like 'whoa!'" McNutt said. "That was the first big sign that there was something there. The competition before that, I did the same song "Where Did You Go?" and a woman who lost her nephew who drowned, she said that song did something to her. I knew there was something that's rare and unique that I had. Whenever you figure out your calling and you're able to do what you love, it continues to flourish. That's what led me into diving into the whole country scene. I'm more of Texas country, alternative rock. That's more of where my focus is."
Since then, he's been performing fulltime.
Some of his other hit songs include "Crossroads" which he wrote back in 2018 which is about a bar in Big Spring.
"It's also relating to having to go and drink things off your mind," McNutt said. "It's about being at a crossroads in your life and trying to figure out how to get through life. It's a good song and I get a lot of positive feedback from people about that song when I perform it. When I came back to West Texas, I've had constant requests to play that song which is cool."
Another hit single he's done is called "Secondhand."
"That's the first single that I've ever released with my first project called J.R. and the Texas Revival," McNutt said. "That song was about somebody giving up on someone and letting go. Then, that person they let go of goes with someone else and the first person is really jealous."
Another single he's done includes "You Look at Me."
"It's a really popular song," McNutt said. "It just talks about how learning how to love again and that love being what was needed."
McNutt talked about his writing process.
"Usually it shows up in one line or pops up in my head or in conversations," McNutt said. "Saying something like 'ok, that can go somewhere.' Other times, I pick up a guitar and can hear something. Sometimes, it'll just spur up out of nowhere. It's crazy because a lot of these songs came from different formats."
For example, one of his songs is called "Anymore" which he says is about one of his exes.
"I wrote it in 15 minutes," McNutt said while laughing. "I can definitely say that a lot of my songwriting is spurred from emotion. ... I break it down in structure on what's going to be a verse or a chorus. Stuff like that."
Turning his attention to next week's festival, McNutt says he can't wait.
"I'm excited," McNutt said. "This is right up there with when I played with Randy Rogers and Gary Allen. It's cool. It's going to be awesome. It's something to check off my bucket list."
For more information about McNutt, go to tinyurl.com/rj9te6p9.
If you go
— What: Tall City American Music Fest and Car Show.
— When: 5 p.m. April 8.
— Where: Centennial Park in Midland.
— Where to purchase tickets: tinyurl.com/mu9jrpsz