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 UTC grad decided it was time to get a “real” fulltime 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 around town. 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 fulltime 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, including Allen and London. 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 his 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.”
While he plans to keep playing live occasionally, his focus now is on songwriting, especially with others.
“I love getting into a room with an artist where I can help them craft what they want to say. The creative process is so much fun. I’m so passionate and excited to write new ones.
“I’ve definitely started pulling the guitar back out.”