From his time playing Wardog football for Coach Hill at Miami High School in 1994 to signing a contract with Warner Music Nashville in September, Jon Wolfe has made the journey to the big time in country music.
Wolfe, whose last name was Sharp, has taken on his step-father's last name since he grew up here in Miami in homes on Goodrich Boulevard and in the Eastgate area. Miami is his hometown, and Jon's Oklahoma up-bringing is something he's very proud of. “I have really fond memories. When I was a little bitty boy I would walk down to TG&Y with my grandmother. It's almost emotional for me to just talk about it,” he said.
Jon has been pursuing a music career full time for the last nine years. After graduation from MHS in 1994, and the Colorado State University in 2001 he went to work for BP Oil Company in Houston as a floor trader. “I was the only trader on the floor wearing boots,” he said with a laugh.
There he began singing at open mic nights, and local honky tonks. His music took off and he got a recording deal with a large independent recording label, Midas Records, that went out of business.
“Every artist kind of has their own path and career, as you know, there's not one that's the same. For me, I'd kind of gotten to the point in '09 where I felt like I was kind of hitting my head against a brick wall in Nashville. I couldn't get the doors to open and so, I decided, hey, I'm going to just come back and do the do-it-yourself version and hit it hard, and I had to get the right people together to do that,” Jon said.
He credits his manager Lex Lipsitz with giving him some good advice to head him in the right direction. “He told me to forget about major label record deals and Nashville and all that, go be an artist. Do your thing, man, put your music out, tour, bring some fans and just work day to day,” Jon said.
“To be completely honest with you, I didn't really envision a major label record deal for me. For me I never thought I could get a major label record deal, because it was for guys like Chris LeDoux, my hero and he was on Capitol Records,” he said.
Jon hopes this deal with Warner Music will offer a broader opportunity and more accessibility for his music to be heard.
According to Jon, Peter Strickland, with Warner helped to champion his signing with the label. “The people that are involved in my career at Warner are just absolutely incredible. They're awesome people. That's what to me is what companies are, they're people, not names, that's really what it comes down to,” he said.
When asked about Miami and the area being home to other country stars Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts, Keifer Thompson of Thompson Square, and Keith Anderson, all who have performed at the old Grand Lake Opry in Grove and their influence, he said, “I know, it's like what's in the water right? My step-father, Rick Sharp, was the base player for the band at Grand Lake Opry when Joe Don was there. I was younger and I remember being out in the audience watching. I had this early influence in country music there in Miami.”
Jon said LeDoux, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Stoney LaRue are some of his musical influences. He said he was also inspired by watching fellow Okie Garth Brooks' rise to stardom.
After our interview Jon was traveling to Nashville soon with Warner to see Tony Arata the songwriter of Garth Brooks' mega-hit 'The Dance' being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“It's inspiring,” Jon said,“'The Dance' is it, man.”
Jon is passionate about songwriting, and has written much of his own music and a song for artists Allison Krause and Joe Nichols, 'I Can't Take My Eyes Off You.'
He said his music career really found support and began mostly in Texas and he now lives near Austin. The Texas Music scene helped build his fan base. His songs 'Let A Country Boy Love You' and 'That Girl in Texas' and 'I Don't Dance' rose up the Texas Top 10 Chart.
“Warner wouldn't have looked at me if I hadn't been down here making a ruckus as they say and selling records. I write a lot about Texas, but I haven't found the right Oklahoma song yet. Oklahoma is my home, so is Texas. People say how can that happen. Do you root for the Longhorns or the Sooners?,” he said with a laugh.
Jon's voice is often compared to George Strait's something he likes. He said, “I'm totally cool with that.”
He said he realized at the age of 16 he could sing while singing with the guys. “But I didn't think singing was for guys. Then I fell more and more in love with Garth Brooks' records and country music.” He said he got away from country music in college. When he moved Houston in 2003 it gave him the opportunity to play the music he loves and he signed the first record deal in 2006.
“You know after the first label went down I said, you know this has been your dream and you owe it to yourself to try to rebuild it one more time,” Jon said.
He wants to do a concert at Buffalo Run Casino to bring his music to his hometown. Jon says he's still in touch with some of his friends here; Brock Owens, the Burkholders, Brian Beauchamp and J.R. Dismore. He said Security Bank in Miami was always great to him too.
“I miss Miami a lot,” Jon said. He said a friend once told him, “Great music comes from people not a place,” and he tries to keep that in mind.
Jon said he's busy writing for his new record and has been out touring. “What's inspiring to me is trying to stick to my style. You know country music to me has always been about core human emotions and every day situations that happen to people.”
“I've said if you want to change somebody's life, then believe in them. That's happened with me along the way from Coach Hill, to professors, to business owners ,to my current situation with songwriters and managers. So, it's not just me that's gotten here. I've had a lot of people that said keep going, you can't stop,” Jon said.
“I wouldn’t have been afforded this opportunity without the amazing support of my fans, my friends, my family, my management team, all the folks in radio that have played my songs, and all those Texas honky tonks! Thank you to Warner Music Nashville for believing in me and taking a chance on a country boy!,” he said,
The deluxe edition of his 15 song CD, with three new songs and three new videos and the hit, 'It All Happened in a Honky Tonk' is coming November and can be found online at jonwolfecountry.com and will be distributed nationally in Walmart and Best Buy by Warner. Jon can also be followed on Facebook.