For some of the truly talented, music is a powerful magnet, an elemental force of nature that cannot be denied. Or as country singer- songwriter Jacob Lyda puts it, “Music chose me. I didn’t choose it.” He has created an album of truth, poetry and drama. Jacob Lyda sings country music like a modern master of the genre, and his songs command your attention in the same way that country classics do. These instant classics have two things in common. First, Jacob wrote all of them. Second, they are sung by his world-class voice. Jacob Lyda’s richly textured honky-tonk vocal style stems directly from his background. This is an artist who was born to sing country music. Merle Haggard, George Jones, Randy Travis, Keith Whitley and other hardcore country stylists formed the soundtrack of his youth. Jacob was raised in Jackson County in the northeast corner of Alabama. Glenn, his father, was a pipe fitter for the TVA.
Annette, his mother, was a bank teller. “We had a little country-music station, WVSV.” Jacob reports. “I remember Mama and Daddy would go sing Sunday mornings on the radio. I’d be in the next room, just sitting there and hearing them sing. “I never did start out going, ‘Yeah, I want to play music.’ Nothing like that. I just did it. Daddy had an old guitar. When I was around 13, he showed me a G chord. I got in my bedroom, and I was determined I was going to learn how to play guitar. I taught myself.” A year later, Jacob’s father bought him a 1966 J-45 Gibson. Jacob has written every one of his songs on it. By age 16, he was good enough to be the lead guitarist in a country band. “I wasn’t singing. I was just playing. But one day Mama said, ‘I’ll buy you a hamburger if you sing a song.’ I sang ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes.’ First song I ever sang in my life out in public. And the people clapped when I got done. I thought, ‘Hmmm. I like this.’ The next thing you know, you couldn’t stop me from singing.
Then I started writing songs about that same time. I just thought that’s what you were supposed to do, write your own songs.” He formed his own band. The group rehearsed diligently and then spent $60 on studio time to make a recording. The studio’s owner was so impressed with Jacob that he hired Nashville session musicians to back him on a “real” studio album. A Georgia promoter heard that effort and financed a collection called My Dreams Just Came True. Jacob was just 18 years old at the time. But he had the drive and gumption to take the record with him on his first trip to Nashville. “I was hoping somebody would discover me. I made a couple more trips. I remember going to the record companies. I couldn’t even get past their secretaries. But I’d leave music with them.” By 1995, he was going to college and working at an iron foundry. He was feeling discouraged about his music when the promoter called to inform Jacob that his album was on the European country charts and getting airplay in 13 nations. Over the next few years, Jacob Lyda recorded three more albums for the European country market, and in 1996 he traveled abroad to perform in France, Sweden, England and other countries. He quit college and acquired a manager who introduced him to such Nashville songwriting luminaries as Whitey Shafer and the late A.L. “Doodle” Owens, who became Jacob’s mentor. Despite his progress, Jacob decided to take a non-music job and went to work in a carpet mill in Alabama. “I thought now the right thing to do was to show some responsibility. So I worked at that for eight years. But the whole time, I was so unhappy in that carpet mill. I was looking for a way out. So I ended up running off to Nashville.” Jacob’s original dream had refused to die. It compelled him to reconnect with his music. On his first day in Nashville – Feb. 15, 2006 – he sang at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge downtown.
The owner told him he could have a singing job at The Nashville Palace the very next day. He auditioned at the Palace for about 45 minutes. “The manager walked up on stage and said, ‘Son, where the hell have you been?’ I said, ‘Well, actually, I’ve been down in the carpet mill in Alabama.’ He just shook his head. From there on, that guy took care of me.” The club had a “Lunch with the Legends” series of shows, so Jacob got to know and play with Stonewall Jackson, Billy Walker, Jeannie Seely, Jack Greene and other classic Grand Ole Opry stars. For the next couple of years, Jacob also played two evening shows a week at the Palace as well as one show a week at Tootsie’s. He spent his days crafting song after song. “I was doing everything I could, but it still didn’t seem like I was getting anywhere. I felt like I was trapped. One thing that kept me going was being backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. Whenever I was ready to pack it up and leave, I’d stand back there, and, man, that would charge my batteries up. It was like my healing. I’d think, ‘Man, I’m going to play on this stage one day.’ I still love the Opry. It means more to me than anything.” Despite his bleak moments, Jacob had several strong supporters on Music Row. ASCAP’s Pat Rolfe was one. Songwriter David Chamberlain was another. Pat directed Jacob to Kim Jones, who signed him to his long desired song-publishing contract in 2008. David took the singer-songwriter to Texas, where Jacob was signed to Davis Music Group. Hit producer Brent Maher (The Judds, Shelby Lynne, Michael Johnson, Kathy Mattea, Kenny Rogers, etc.) heard Jacob’s extraordinary songs and voice and agreed to co-produce his album. “So that’s how all this came about,” says Jacob Lyda. “It hasn’t been easy, by no means. It didn’t happen overnight. But now I have a record that I’m proud of, and we’re going to take it to the people and see how they like it.’” Jacob Lyda had to make this music. Because it is a force that’s bigger than anything else in his life. Listen and believe.