By KATHRYN ACREE
Troy Jones sits in the kitchen of his Lay Lake home and shares the story of his journey to becoming a chart-topping country songwriter. He gives an easy smile. “I guess it just took me 20 years to be an overnight success,” he said.
Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Billy Currington, Randy Travis, Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, Ashton Shepherd— these hit-making names sound like the roll call at a country music award show. And they are all artists that have recorded songs written or co-written by Jones.
“My dream was to one day hear a song I’d written on the radio,” Jones said. “Sometimes I can’t even believe all that’s happened. I’ve truly been blessed.”
Originally from Port St. Joe, Fla., Jones met and married his wife, Patsy, and moved to the Sylacauga area in 1977. He worked shifts at the local paper mill, and they started a family.
In the mid-80s on a trip back to Florida, Jones heard up-and-coming performer Randy Travis and got hooked on Travis’ style and emotion of his music. “That really inspired me to start writing songs, to take writing seriously,” Jones said.
Continuing to work at the mill, Jones started writing songs in his spare time, visiting country music nightspots in Montgomery to meet other artists who encouraged him to make a trip to Nashville to test the songwriting waters. He traveled to Nashville’s Bluebird Café, a songwriting mecca where performers and writers mix and mingle, and joined the Nashville Songwriters Association International.
Before long, he accepted a job writing for Polygram Publishing and then Carnival Music while continuing to live and work in Sylacauga, but achieving big success eluded him.
Jones’ admits he got to the point that he was ready to call it quits, but in 2005, he caught the attention of powerhouse country performer Kenny Chesney. Chesney was recording The Road and the Radio and wanted Jones’ song “Like Me” on the album. Although not released as a single, “Like Me” gave Jones the chance to work with a major performer.
Chesney’s 2007 album, Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates, picked up another Jones’ song, “Shiftwork,” that would climb the charts and reach the number two spot.
“It was amazing,” Jones said. “I would be driving, and there was my song on the radio after all those years.”
South Georgia native Billy Currington soon picked up Jones’ and fellow songwriter Bobby Braddock’s “People Are Crazy,” and in early 2009 the song shot to number one on the country charts and ultimately received Grammy nominations in 2010 for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song. The song also received a Song of the Year nomination at the 2010 Academy of Country Music Awards.
So did Jones “go Hollywood” to bask in the spotlight of a Grammy nomination? “No, Patsy and I stayed home and watched it on TV,” he said. “I didn’t really want to go to Los Angeles and get in the middle of all that.”
Billy Currington called on Jones again for his next album, Enjoy Yourself. “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer” went on to become a number one hit in September 2010. “It’s not something you ever get used to or take for granted,” Jones said of his success.
In recent months, Jones has spent time with singer Ashton Shepherd, a recording artist Jones calls “the real deal.” Shepherd hails from Leroy, Ala., and Jones is among a group of songwriters who collaborated on her new album, Where Country Grows, released in July.
Jones continues to write from his Lay Lake home and is most honored to have a song recently picked up by one of his biggest inspirations, Randy Travis. Travis released Anniversary Celebration in June looking back at his 25 years in country music. The first song on the album is an upbeat foot-stomper from Jones, “Everything and All,” recorded as a duet with Brad Paisley. The album’s last song is also a version of “Everything and All” recorded by Travis alone.
“It’s been an up and down ride all these years,” Jones said. “Persistence, the dedication of my family and believing good things would eventually happen got me through.”