A few months ago, we heard a new single from emerging artist Joshua Hedley titled “Mr. Jukebox.” We then found ourselves humming the catchy tune and faintly singing, “Feed me nickels. Feed me dimes. I’ll play your favorite song just one more time. I’m right here in the corner any time you’re feeling blue....” Needless to say, we were hooked on his familiar 1960’s country music vibe and his mesmerizing lyrics. While we were captivated by his “flawless brevato” as NPR music accurately describes his voice, we knew we had to uncover more.
Like any curious fan, we started perusing his social media and zeroed in on the album artwork for Hedley’s newly released LP Mr. Jukebox. The artwork was simple: Mr. Hedley sporting a gorgeous rhinestone suit and slightly kiltered hat sitting in front of a green backdrop. At that moment, we knew we needed to talk to this young man and get his take on how fashion plays an integral role on music. Not only is his music captivating, but his throwback style pays homage to the Nashville sound that came before him.
When it comes to creating a visual style as a musician, Hedley explains, “I think it is really important, especially in country music. When people come to a live show, you want to give them something more than what is on the record and that incorporates the visual aspect of it…. If you want to get up on stage in a tee shirt and just play songs that is fine. But for me and country music, image has always been as important as the music you are playing. Rhinestone suits and cowboy hats, boots and all of that creates another level of entertainment on top of the song.”
The album “Mr. Jukebox” may be Hedley’s first go as the frontman, but he is not a newbie when it comes to music. Hedley was first interested in the fiddle at the age of three, and finally got his hands on one at the age of eight when his parents realized this was not one of many young kids’ whimsical desires. At 19, Hedley moved from his home state of Florida to Nashville, where he snuck into, and eventually began to frequent Nashville’s famous music hall Robert’s Western World. Over the next decade, Hedley’s reputation grew as an amazing sideman, and he played alongside artists such as Jonny Fritz, Justin Townes Earle, and many more. Now, Hedley is the frontman, beginning the tour for his newly released LP and is in charge of visually representing his own music.
“I am never going to wear jeans on The Grand Ole Opry stage. I try to pay tribute to the people that came before me, and I will wear my sparkly suits.” Ever since Hedley was young, he liked the aesthetic of country music. “I have always admired that look. I have always been a big fan of the starched ties and the suits, and the pristine beaver hats, rhinestones, fringe, and all of that.” His musical fashion icons include Ray Price, Jimmy Martin, Bob Wells, and Dwight Yoakam. “I am really into not only the way Ray Price dressed, but his band as well. He always had his band decked out to the nines.” Though Hedley always loved the classic look, he was certain to respect the musicians he played alongside. “I have known for a long time that I wanted a rhinestone suit, but I cannot wear a rhinestone suit playing fiddle for someone else. I am a sideman. I am supposed to be the background guy. I do not want to be more sparkly than the others. As soon I stepped out front, I put the sparkles on.”
When Hedley began his search for a designer, he decided to collaborate with Jerry Lee Atwood of Union Western Clothing out of Indianapolis. “I could have gone with Manuel, but I wanted to go with a lesser known artist and lesser known designer. He has been doing stuff for a lot of different people in the Indy scene." Hedley was searching for an artist that nails the old-style, creating pictures rather than designs, and that is what he found. “He [Manuel] is the OG of the rhinestone suits. But he is moving in a new direction, and I am more interested in the traditional.”
“No, I am not going to wear a rhinestone suit to the grocery store. I wear that on stage.” Aside from the sparkly suits, it is rare to see Hedley in anything but jeans, boots and a tee shirt. “Unless I am on tour, then it is sweatpants and sneakers all day long.” Hedley is a big proponent of Wrangler Jeans and Stetson hats. “I guess I keep it traditional. I do not mean to, but Wrangler jeans look good [laughs]. So, it is hard to stray. And it is going to be hard to find me in a cowboy hat that is not a Stetson. It has to be a real special hat if it is not a Stetson.”
Hedley is an incredibly talented musician with a soft spot for anything country music. This fella not only wears sparkly suits because he loves them, but because he also respects country music and the people that paved the road he journeys today.