Up-and-coming independent country singer Tony Evans Jr. has amassed a healthy social media following by pulling people in with his crystalline baritone, movie star good looks and undeniable Country music covers.
Just recently, the Atlanta-born Black man, who now resides in Nashville, captivated his 500,000 TikTok followers with a cover of Luke Combs’ “One Number Away.” His version went viral, accumulating more than 3.3 million views on TikTok and even more on Instagram—prompting Luke Combs to remark, “Damn! Sounds great buddy!”
The singer-songwriter and self-taught guitar player commands powerful story songs and intricate guitar plucking, journalist and TV host Tamron Hall recognizes. Evans Jr. is set to appear on The Tamron Hall Show Thursday, March 16, and he recently appeared on Good Day Atlanta.
CASSIUS Life caught up with the star on the rise, and he didn’t disappoint.
Cassius: How you feeling today man?
Tony Evans Jr.: Man feeling good. Good. At the studio right now. Finishing up some things.
I can’t wait to ask you about what you got cooking up. I know. You got an album dropping…
Yeah, it’s March already. Yeah. My EP, Starless dropped March 10. So excited about that. And working on new music.
What’s the inspiration behind the title Starless?
So there’s a song on the EP called “Need Somebody.” And there’s a line that goes: when the night is starless in the darkest, darkest, and your fragile heart is about to break. And we were just trying to figure out the EP name and “Starless” came up. You know, I feel like it kind of fits the vibe.
One thing I’ve noticed is that you are a very adept songwriter. How did you cultivate your craft to the point where you could create memorable lines like this?
Writing really bad songs over and over. Writing when I was like, 10, or something, so yeah, just writing bad songs. And then the songs get less bad. And suddenly you find you’re writing stuff that you’re okay with.
I understand. You’re from Atlanta. Where did you grow up? And how would you describe your childhood?
So I was born in Decatur on the east side. And when I was a kid, I must have been eight or nine, I moved to the south side down. Here, we counted Clayton County area. So that’s where a lot of my formative years are spent. And yeah, man, it was. It was a cool childhood man. It’s not that far from the city. So I got kind of the best of both worlds. I got a quiet life in the sticks. But, you know, we’re always downtown, too.
To go from the city to like you said to the sticks. Was it a culture clash at all?
No because it was like, we still were on the east side. You know, we still hung out on the east side. So it’s like, nothing really changed when it came to that it was just more where I laid my head. And my house, growing up we had like woods and like a creek in the backyard. So I spent a lot of time back there. And you didn’t have a sound to the highway and it was just really, really quiet. So that was what was different. I enjoyed that.
Who were some early musical influences that established your taste in music in general?
I will say a lot of the biggest ones for me will be George Strait, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. With Teddy Pendergrass, it was his stage presence. It’s just every time he grabbed the mic, it was just a master class and performing. And me and Teddy were very different when it comes to our energies and vibes and everything I think on stage because I’m playing the guitar, and it’s more mellow, but at the same time, performance is performance. So I try to take what I can from the master himself when it comes to that. Then you look at a guy like Nat King Cole, who I feel like I relate a little bit more to with the way that he performed. He was just so chill, and it was all about the expression. So I pick and choose what I’m learning from who you are.
You learned how to play the guitar by yourself. What made you decide to pick up the acoustic guitar in particular?
It’s a funny story, actually. I never wanted to learn guitar. My dad tried to play the guitar at some point and immediately gave up. So there was a guitar that was always in the basement. When I was a kid, I was just playing around down there, and I found a guitar, picked it up, gave up immediately and then picked it up again. And I kept with it. And it’s kind of like the songwriting thing. I was really, really, really, really bad. Because guitar has kind of a learning curve that you have to get over with like most things, but after a while, I started sounding better. And I just practice and practice and practice. And now it’s been almost 15 years since I started playing.
What did your early childhood and life up until your teenage years look like? Was it athletics, music or a mix of two?
It was definitely sports, [I] played every sport. But it was also music. When I was around 10, things started picking up for me. Early on when I was in, I think I was in eighth grade. I actually was homeschooled because I was doing so much stuff with music that I just decided to. It didn’t make sense for me to be in public school at that time. So I was really dedicated to music very early on. It was [a] very different childhood, but I feel like it was very…I needed it.
Everyone has mentioned the Luke Combs cover that you did. When you started posting content to social media, did you have a goal in mind or was it just to express yourself?
I knew I wasn’t going to college. I knew music was it. When I graduated high school man, I was working three jobs. I worked at a carwash, I made smoothies at the gym and I worked at Walmart. So it was like, I got to do something to pull myself out of the position that I’m in. I realized that if I didn’t do anything, my career just would not happen. So I started posting some videos because it’s like I have to find the people that like my music. I have to show them me so that they can even make a decision on whether they like me or not. So that’s kind of how I started posting. And then it just grew. [I] just kind of do the same thing over and over again, and people liked it.
What would you tell first-time listeners they can get from hearing your music?
You’re not going to hear anything that’s going to turn you off. I think for non-country listeners, you think ‘Oh, country music. Oh, boots and mud and beer and Hee ha and all that type stuff.’ And that’s a part of country music in a way, but that’s not what country music is. Country music is about the song, and it’s about the emotion behind the song. And that’s what you can expect from the music.
What emotion were you trying to convey with your newest song, “Need Somebody”?
I’m glad you asked me like that, because that’s exactly the way that I think about it. It’s just emotion is just loneliness. When “Need Somebody” was being written, it was like, I visualize pictures when I write songs. So when “Need Somebody” [was written ] I think it was like walking down a road at night, thinking to myself, ‘you need somebody.’ So I try to go from there and just build on the emotion.
You said there’s more on the way. We’ve got Starless, but what else can we expect from you this year?
What I’m most excited about this year [is to] see me on stage. It’s going to be new music. You guys can go to my Instagram, Tony Evans Jr., and check out [my schedule]. And yeah, man, just more of everything.
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