UTC alum JP Wil­liams scores his first No. 1 song

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - INSIDE - Con­tact Shawn Ryan at mshawn­[email protected]

JP Wil­liams put away his gui­tar, fig­ur­ing his dream wasn’t go­ing to come true.

Af­ter more than 13 years pur­su­ing a song­writ­ing ca­reer in Nashville, the Univer­sity of Ten­nessee at Chat­tanooga grad de­cided it was time to get a “real” full-time job.

“I thought, ‘I tried my best; I gave it my all,’” he re­calls. “I put my gui­tar in the closet. And then this song hap­pened.”

“This song” is “Best Shot,” a heart­felt bal­lad that has been No. 1 on the Bill­board Coun­try Air­play chart for the past two weeks.

Recorded by singer Jim­mie Allen, it marks the first time a black coun­try singer has scored a No. 1 hit with his de­but sin­gle. And, while Wil­liams has had his songs recorded by other artists, this is his first hit, too.

“When you’ve been in this town this long, you know th­ese kinds of things don’t have to hap­pen,” says Wil­liams, who earned a de­gree in mu­sic from UTC in 2001.

“I’m tremen­dously grate­ful. That’s all I can say.”

Allen, who grew up in Delaware, echoes those sen­ti­ments.

“You think of all those sleep­less night, the days I didn’t eat and miss­ing birth­days and wed­dings. You think about the re­la­tion­ships that didn’t work out,” he said in the Delaware News Jour­nal. “But the dream I was chas­ing was def­i­nitely worth it.”

Wil­liams, who is legally blind, grew up in Chat­tanooga and at­tended Oolte­wah High School. He still has fam­ily liv­ing in the area. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from UTC, he spent five years in At­lanta teach­ing mu­sic and per­form­ing. But once a month, he headed north.

“I would get on a Grey­hound bus and come to Nashville to see who I could write with,” he says. De­cid­ing to fish or cut bait, he pulled up stakes and moved to Mu­sic City in 2006. “I had no con­tacts and only had a few friends. I found a room­mate on Craigslist,” he says.

Writ­ing, per­form­ing and mak­ing con­tacts even­tu­ally landed him a writ­ing con­tract with Ma­jor Bob Mu­sic in 2011, work­ing with artists and other song­writ­ers. And the lessons he learned at UTC are still in­valu­able to his work to­day.

“I play by ear pri­mar­ily, but I have an un­der­stand­ing of what I’m do­ing,” he says. “By tak­ing all those years of mu­sic the­ory, it’s cool to have an un­der­stand­ing.”

For “Best Shot,” the in­tent was for the lyrics to be “sim­ple at their core,” he says.

“You’re not per­fect, but you’re go­ing to go out there ev­ery day and give it your best. Life has ups and downs, but you’re go­ing to go out there and fight.”

Mar­ried for 12 years to wife Irene, he says “Best Shot” also cel­e­brates the fact that “we have the per­son in our lives that we can come home to. When you have some­one by your side through the ups and downs, it’s a beau­ti­ful thing.”

Shawn Ryan

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