Country music fans, rejoice. And fans of music in general, particularly that which is made by Ocean City natives. Josh Turner is coming to the Ocean City Convention Center on March 23, and opening up for him is none other than local-Ocean City-singer-turned-rising-Nashville-star Jimmy Charles.
For those unfamiliar with Charles and his work, here’s what you need to know: He was on American Idol during the show’s 2010 season. He was a top 50 contestant on Nashville Star. Four of his songs–“Whatever It Takes,” “Broke for Christmas,” “Superman” and “Bout Summertime”–have been spun nationally on country radio. He’s the spokesman for Zero Cancer and works to raise awareness about prostate cancer. And because of that charity involvement, he was recently named the Outstanding Young Tennessean of the Year by the Tennessee Jaycee Volunteer Corps.
On the award, Charles said, “I may have dreamt of big stages back in my hometown, but never did I think a guy who grew up in Ocean City, Maryland would win Tennessean of the Year.”
But it’s clear that guys and girls who grew up in Ocean City, Maryland are capable of a lot of things — Charles is a testament to that, as evidenced by his extensive volunteer work and the success he’s seen in the world of country music. Not only will Charles come back to his hometown to open for Josh Turner and Mo Pitney on the 23rd, but he’ll also be making his way up to Delaware the next day for Shore Craft Beer’s Beer at Bethany Beach Festival.
We talked to Charles about his music, his plans for the future and the Ocean City influence that shines through much of his music.
First, the basics: Where exactly on the Eastern Shore are you from? And when did you move to Nashville?
I was born in Wilmington, Delaware’s Christiana Hospital, but I grew up in Berlin, Ocean Pines and Ocean City. I’m a Stephen Decatur grad and I graduated from Towson University playing linebacker for the Tigers. Moved to Nashville in 2009. It was a difficult leap to make, leaving my friends and family in Ocean City. After three months in Nashville I felt homesick, but I fought through and now it means the world when I get to come back, especially to take a stage like this.
When did you realize you wanted to be a country singer?
My dad taught me to play the guitar when I was young. He was singing a lot of old country songs like George Jones, Randy Travis, Merle Haggard, John Prine… That’s where I gained my country roots and fell in love with [the] pureness and truth of the genre. I then began writing my own songs at age 15.
How — if at all — did growing up in Ocean City influence your music?
Ocean City to me means beach, ocean, salt air, crabs, summertime, boating, fishing and crabbing. These are all the things I love and miss. I actually wrote a song called Ocean City.
In my writing, you will find a love for the beach that draws me to play there and sing about it. My last song “Bout Summertime” is all about the anticipation of the end of winter and the fun and feeling summer brings. We all know how tough winters can be in OC. As a kid especially, and even now, I can’t wait for summer. That video was filmed in the Virgin Islands where I headlined a festival for 5,000 people and until the hurricanes played frequently.
My newest song and tagline for my new merch line is “Tequila Kinda Day.” Although it talks about going to Mexico… my pen was led by many Tequila Kinda Days right here in OC, MD.
Did you ever play at the local bars and clubs in OC before moving to Nashville?
Yes, I played at a country-themed bar called Cowboyz, Smitty McGees and several venues in Baltimore.
When you were growing up here, did you ever imagine you’d come back to play such a huge show at the Convention Center?
Absolutely. When I left for Nashville I decided I would do whatever it takes to be successful in the music business. There is no in-between — that’s called a hobby. That mentality ultimately led to my first nationally broadcast song on country radio named exactly that — “Whatever It Takes.”
I dreamed every day of big stages and nothing could mean more than taking on one in my hometown. My next dream will be to sell out my own concert at the Convention Center and walk out on stage and say, “Hey OC, we did it!” I’ve dreamt of that, and March 23 as I open for one of my idols growing up, it will be a big step in that direction.
What can fans expect from you this spring/summer, in terms of new music, touring, etc.?
Last year was a huge success! I played over 165 shows in 32 cities and four countries. I was able to help Zero Cancer raise millions to fight prostate cancer as their National Spokesman. Just when I thought the year couldn’t get any better, I was named “Outstanding Young Tennessean of 2017.”
This year I’ve been doing a lot of writing and I have never been more excited about the music I have coming. It starts with “Tequila Kinda Day” in time for spring and warm weather. Then there’s powerful songs like “God and a Woman” and “She’s Where I Belong.” Not sure when the full album will be released but the single will go out in the spring. I will keep everyone else up to date on Facebook and Twitter. [I’m] so excited and hope everyone will love the new stuff.
What are some of your favorite things to do when you come back to visit OC?
See my friends and family, first off. I love when I perform at home, especially with my five-piece band from Nashville that rocks, and I have an amazing fiddle player that always captivates the Ocean City crowd. I always get a crabcake or 10, or Jumbos and Natty Bohs. Gotta get out on a boat, maybe head to Assateague and do some fishing.
The full band will be back again July 4 through 8 with a full week of shows from the Castaways campground in Assateague to MR Ducks, Dry Dock up to Hammerheads Dockside in the Indian River Inlet. I’ll probably stop by Bull on the Beach for some ice-cold beers and darts. Seacrets when it’s not too crazy is another favorite.
Tickets to Charles’ upcoming show with Josh Turner and Mo Pitney can be purchased here.