West Virginia-born singer-songwriter Gethen Jenkins was raised on the fine honkytonk and outlaw sounds that define pure country. Gethen’s debut album, Western Gold, out Early 2019 (5 Music Inc. via Sony/RED MUSIC), is a tribute to his country influences while incorporating the modern Nashville sound that sets him apart from his contemporaries.
Landing four-time Grammy-Award winning producer, engineer and mixer Vance Powell was a major coup for Gethen in making this record. Powell has worked with major recording artists Chris Stapleton, Jack White and Willie Nelson. “Amazing guy to work with,” Gethen says. “Very intense, very into what he's doing. Doesn't have any time for bullshit… He’s a freaking genius.”
Gethen’s humble beginnings lend a sense of perspective, as he now finds himself in legendary company. “To be surrounded by top-tier musicians that have played with the best artists in the world, and now it's my turn to sing my songs… it’s stressful,” Gethen admits, “especially being a hillbilly from West Virginia.” Powell brought some of the best session players in Nashville to record with Gethen at Sputnik Sound, including James Mitchell on electric guitar, Kristin Rogers on vocals, harmonica player Mickey Raphael and several others. Mitchell helped shape the tone of title track “Western Gold,” as Gethen recalls: “I played it once and he goes, ‘Gethen, you want this to be a sad song?’ ‘And I said no, and so we do this and this, and it completely
changes the overall feel of the song where the intro and outro are completely different than what I had before.”
Explaining the backstory of the album’s title track, Gethen says, “It’s partly inspired by David Allan Coe and about a drive from L.A. to Kansas City. It’s this song about being on the road and being away from loved ones… and it's a strong song. We’re also based out of California. I’ve
been in California for 20 years.”
Expanding his sound into new musical territory, Gethen even co-wrote a couple tracks with guitarist Dennis Hill (Kid Rock, Sammy Hagar, Lit) of punk rock band Face to Face. While “Waiting” featured a guitar riff similar to the country-rock sounds of Chris Stapleton, “Maintenance Man” is a bluesy song. “Nothing country about it,” smiles Gethen. “It has an old Tony Joe White sound.”
Working with a punk-rock artist brought Gethen back to his early favorites: Quiet Riot, Danzig, and much of the hard rock he’d listen in his room as a young boy. However, his dad always had country on the radio and “we'd be up in Alaska chopping wood, listening to Merle Haggard or Hank Williams Jr.,” Gethen says. “Country music was always my home.” He cites Haggard, White, Billy Joe Shaver, Charlie Daniels, Waylon Jennings and even Pearl Jam as some of his influences.
Through his West Virginia roots, Gethen quickly connected with Kentucky-born songwriter Aaron Raitiere (Anderson East, Ashley Monroe, The Steel Woods). “He’s a wild Kentucky boy!” says Gethen. “Me and Aaron have that West Virginia-Kentucky connection. I had an idea for the song ‘Basket Case’ because of the Marine Corps, and then relating to a basket case motorcycle.
[Aaron and I] started, I had the riff and about 45 minutes later it came out - just seamless.” Working with Tammy Rogers of Grammy-Award winning bluegrass group The Steeldrivers was also a natural fit. “I was a little nervous because she's a very accomplished musician,” says Gethen. “I wanted to do a good job and was amazed at how quickly and how well we got together. By the time we got done playing the song [‘Justified’], we recorded it on our phone. And that recording of that song is just flawless.”
Back in Los Angeles, Gethen got to work with original Lone Justice member Marvin Etzioni. Besides the ballad “While I’m Away” with Gethen, Marvin has co-wrote/produced for Judy Collins, Lisa Loeb, Stephen Stills and many others. “Marvin was very inspirational to me and we had a connection. [He’s] intuitive, humble, and very knowledgeable,” Gethen says.However, when asked what his favorite track on the album is, Gethen singles out “Restless Ways,” which he co-wrote with newcomer George Shingleton. “It's funky, fun, upbeat, and groovy.” He also enjoyed “Strength of a Woman”, one of his favorite songs he’s ever written – and the participation of Willie Nelson’s harmonica player Mickey Raphael was a dream come true! “That’s the one people are going to remember when I’m gone,” Gethen shares. “That's why I play the music. Something will be here after I’m dead and gone.” Gethen’s mark will undoubtedly be felt when “Bottle In My Hand” comes out August 17.
About Gethen Jenkins is a former U.S. Marine who served eight years in Iraq and Afghanistan. An award-winning singer-songwriter born in Huntington, West Virginia, raised in a rural Indian Village in Alaska, Gethen was brought up on American music, from the purest of bluegrass to whiskey-soaked honkytonk. Gethen has played over 1,000 live shows, sharing the stage with prominent country acts such as The Marshall Tucker Band, Billy Joe Shaver, Wanda Jackson,
David Allan Coe, Asleep at the Wheel, Shooter Jennings, Dale Watson, Whitey Morgan and many more. Recently being honored with the Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year awards at 2017's California Country Awards, he was named a top 10 Country/Americana artist in Los Angeles County by LA Weekly and 2018’s Best Outlaw Country Artist, had songs in rotation at Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country, and just wrapped up a trip to Nashville, working on new music with Vance Powell. Look out for new music dropping this fall and a full-length album release spring 2019!