Podcast Transcript

Speaker 1:

Takin’ a walk.

Whey Jennings:

What I’m trying to do is as I’m trying to create an entertaining solution to things, I want people to feel my music. There’s more power in music than making you go out and party. I mean, there’s power in music. It can save the world, and I believe that.

Speaker 1:

This is the Takin’ a Walk podcast hosted by Buzz Knight. The podcast where we span musical genres and dig deep with all types of musicians. Today’s special guest comes from a historic country music family, Whey Jennings. Whey talks about his struggles, his redemption, and his latest music. Next on taking a walk with Buzz Knight.

Buzz Knight:

Wade Jennings. It’s so nice to meet you on a virtual edition of the Taking a Walk podcast. Thanks for being on.

Whey Jennings:

Oh, you bet, brother. It’s good to be here, man.

Buzz Knight:

Do you like taking walks to clear your head when you’re in the middle of a recording process and trying to create?

Whey Jennings:

Every once in a while, yeah. I’ve been walking a lot with my family lately. The creative process is like a mind game. It’s like trying to figure out what to do and where to go with it. What’s the best course of action? I usually just call in a lot of people to consult with me on it because if I just rely on my own understanding, then you just … You got to have a consensus.

Buzz Knight:

But you’re an independent thinker.

Whey Jennings:

Oh yeah. I’m very much an independent thinker, but I’ve independently thought myself into a corner a few times too.

Buzz Knight:

That’s funny. Well, let’s go back and talk about this great-grandfather of yours first, Waylon Jennings and the impact that he had on your life.

Whey Jennings:

Oh, he had a pretty profound impact on my life. I mean, how could he not? I mean, he’s Waylon Jennings. It’s been a blessing being his grandson. A lot of people think it would make it a lot easier for an artist who already has a foot in the door. But the thing about it is it actually makes it a little harder for us because not only you got to get to the door, then you got to break out of a shadow and a shadow that big is hard to break out of. Not to not say that I’d ever want to completely break out of it because I’m really proud of my grandfather, but if I could pull off what Hank Jr. pulled off, he’s Hank Williams’ son, but he is also Hank Williams Jr. I want to accomplish something like that eventually in my career.

Buzz Knight:

How do you think you get to that point?

Whey Jennings:

You just work real hard. You put out good music and eventually people will start seeing you for you rather than for who you’re related to. And I think we’re going to accomplish that with this next album. I really poured my whole heart and soul into this next album. I mean, every other project I ever put out has had traces of my grandfather in it. I’m having a really hard time finding too many traces of him in this project. I mean, we got the same attitude, of course, but I feel more me in this new project and I feel like everybody else is going to feel more me to it too.

Buzz Knight:

I love that. Tell me about the influence that your grandmother has had on you as well.

Whey Jennings:

My grandmother is like a patron saint. I mean, when it came to the influence of Jesus Christ in my life, she opened a lot of them doors. She’s always been a very godly woman, and I spent a lot of time in my life, I’ve always read the Bible and I’ve always been into spiritual quests, but I always looked at it wrong. I went at it trying to pick it apart, but she would always turn me around and show me how you don’t need to pick it apart because it’s slowly working in my life. So I give most of that direction to her because she’s, even since we were young, we would watch Gospel Bill and stuff on the bus while we ate pineapple and stuff like that. But my grandmother had a profound effect on me, and I don’t even think she knows that, honestly.

Buzz Knight:

And for those that may not know, she’s the great Jesse Coulter and has certainly an amazing legacy on her own as well.

Whey Jennings:

Oh yeah. She’s got wonderful music. She’s got a new album out too, by the way. You ought to look her up

Buzz Knight:

And she’s still creating.

Whey Jennings:

Yes, she is. She got an album she just released called “The Edge of Tomorrow,” I believe. No, “The Edge of Forever,” sorry. It’s called “The Edge of Forever.” And I just love my grandmother. She’s really a good human being, and she’s a great musician, a great artist, great performer. I still watch her old videos of her and my grandfather performing together.

Buzz Knight:

And tell me about your Uncle Shooter and the impact that he had on you.

Whey Jennings:

Shooter, he’s just a great human being. He went out on a mission to be his own person, and he accomplished that sevenfold, man. He really did. He went out there and started his own band, and he did the music the way everybody wanted him to at first, and then he did the way he wanted to do it. And then he found his niche in recording the songs that he believed in, like Zevon and stuff like that. And he started a band up in L.A. I think it was called the Werewolves of L.A. I believe what it’s called. And he’s been producing Grammy-winning albums for the last decade. He’s just so talented in so many areas. It’s unreal. It’s really unreal.

You could dig into Shooter’s life on the internet and just get lost in a rabbit hole because he has got his fingers in so many different directions. He loves music. He loves so many different things. He loves showbiz, like the old Chuck E. Cheese. He loves so many different things, and he’s got this amazing mind, and I just look up to him in a lot of ways, man, I really do.

Buzz Knight:

So you started as a drummer, is that correct?

Whey Jennings:

No, a lot of people have been getting that mistaken. I started, the first thing I wanted to do as a young child was be a drummer, because when I first went out and I walked into a show my grandfather was going to do, the stage was empty and the lights were just beaming down on the drum kit. And I was like, I want to do that. I want to do that. So they got me a drum kit. And the extent of my drum career was I jumped inside the bass drum and rolled down the stairs and it shattered into a million pieces. So I was not a drummer first. I wanted to be, but then it seemed more fun to ride it downstairs. But I’ve always been a vocalist, honestly. I just love vocals.

Buzz Knight:

Do you remember when you got your first guitar?

Whey Jennings:

Yes, I do. My grandfather gave it to me. It was an acoustic guitar, and it ended up getting broken as well, because when I was a young kid, you know what I mean? But it was an acoustic guitar and I played it for a little while. And then after that one, that one broke accidentally. I didn’t ride it down the stairs or nothing, but it got broken accidentally. And then my grandfather bought me this electric guitar that had the amp built into it, and I’ve still got that guitar. It’s upstairs in my closet right now. But there’s pictures of me on stage with him and that guitar. And I think it’s because whenever I went on stage with my grandfather when I was young, I had so much fun. And then when I turned about 13, I froze like a deer in headlights up there, and I froze so bad that I pushed music out of my mind.

I was like, okay, I’m never doing this again. And I went and joined the workforce. And it wasn’t until my momma got sick that I decided to get back into music. And by then I was already 30 years old and I hadn’t pursued any kind of music at all other than vocals. I worked on a cotton farm for 10 years, and when you’re on a tractor, you sing to yourself a lot. I had my vocals down. I know tons of songs vocally, but here recently, me and my wife have been taking guitar lessons. And we’ve been sort of picking at it a little bit here and there. And my guitar player is kind of pushing me towards learning more and more. And hopefully within the next year I’ll be playing guitar on stage. But for right now, I’m a vocalist.

Buzz Knight:

And your mom did push you back into the business when she had gotten sick, is that correct?

Whey Jennings:

Yeah, yeah. She asked me to please try and pursue something in music. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t even know she wanted that for me. She asked me to please pursue something in music, and I promised her I would. So I threw myself at the wall to see if I’d stick. I barely hung on when I threw myself at the wall and I started doing everything wrong. I didn’t do anything right for years. Eventually I got a niche, figured out what I was doing wrong, and I went and got a little help and got back out here and started doing a lot of things right. I’m still doing a few things wrong here and there as far as business decisions, which you live and you learn, and I feel like I’m in a better place now than I’ve ever been.

Buzz Knight:

So we produce, as you know, this other podcast called Music Saved Me, which you’re going to be very generous with your time and be on that one. But let’s touch on that moment where you realized you had really hit bottom and you needed to make a change. What was that moment like?

Whey Jennings:

Well, I had met the woman who was now my wife in my entire life. I met her and I met her in the strangest place. My drummer at the time, it was his stepdaughter, and me and her hit it off really well. And we started, we met in the same kind of mess that we were both in the same kind of mess. And I made a bunch of wrong decisions as far as relationships in my life. I pushed women away for a lot of years, and I pushed them away blatantly, really determined to do that. And it was different with her, but I made a bad mistake. And when I made it, I felt it. I hadn’t felt it before. Before I made that mistake, and it was just like, okay, well, let’s keep moving. I made that mistake this time, and I felt it, and I felt like I lost her. I really lost something this time.

So I went to … My manager had been begging me for years to go to rehab. I was addicted to drugs and alcohol for about 27 years, and finally agreed to go to rehab, and I’m glad I did because I learned more about drug addiction and alcohol addiction than I’d ever known before, even being in the midst of it. And I learned that the drugs I was addicted to were, it was a mental addiction. It wasn’t a physical addiction. So in a way, I feel like I got off easy because really all I had to do was make the decision to quit. There was no withdrawals, there was nothing like that. I mean, I drank a lot, but I wasn’t addicted to alcohol. I drank to cover up my drug addictions. So I quit that and I got sober, and the woman I love seeing me making all these strides to do better and somehow found it in her heart to also go to rehab.

And I ran into her while I was at rehab, and she ended up leaving before the time was over because it was different for females in that rehab than it was for men. And all the women up there, it was a different thing. But when she left, I thought she was going back to drugs. But when I got out, I found out she was in an outpatient rehab and she had still stayed sober. And when I went in, I went in to get off the drugs. I didn’t go in to get off anything else, just the drugs. I was still going to smoke weed, and I was still going to drink, and I was still going to have fun. I was going to party. It was part of the music business, I thought, and this is what I’m going to do. And when I got out, I said, “Okay, well, let’s go have a beer.”

And she was like, well, that’s an awful idea. And I was like, why? And I was never addicted to alcohol. She’s like, well, the thing about it is, you get good and drunk, you’re going to tell yourself to go back to the drugs. And I was like, you know, you got a pretty good point there. So I didn’t go to drink at all, but I did start smoking weed and God reached down and took that weed away from me in a way that, the only way it was possible, because my wife had gotten pregnant and things happened to where CPS got into our lives over the weed.

So we cleared all that out of the house, and then after that, I quit smoking cigarettes. And I’m just telling you, I worked in my life in a way to clean out every vice I had. I don’t have any vices anymore. I don’t smoke. I don’t bake. I don’t smoke weed, I don’t drink, don’t do drugs. And I haven’t for years and years. And that’s how I know the glory of God is that when you’re ready and when you make the decisions to start heading in the right direction, he’s going to reach down there and make sure you’re really headed in that direction. And he saved my life. And I’ve given all the glory to God from that day forward because I wouldn’t be the man I was today if it wasn’t for all them instances happening in my life. That’s how I got to where I’m at today.

Buzz Knight:

Thank you for sharing that.

Whey Jennings:

Oh, you’re very welcome.

Buzz Knight:

I really appreciate it. So how do you feel about the way, certainly the Nashville music community, categorizes music styles inside of country music? What’s your opinion of that?

Whey Jennings:

Well, I think my opinion of that is that back in the day, we had very few genres and there were very few styles of music that fit into them genres. And what we have done today is we’ve accumulated new genres but not created new genres. So we just kind of put them where they go. We’re still putting all this new music, this new amazing music into the same fusion of genres. Because I think if you separate the genres up, it would send everything in so many directions that you wouldn’t be able to catch any of the music. So I’m thinking that’s probably how it happened. Because I tell you what, I enjoy most of the music that’s out today. It ain’t my cup of tea because I play different kinds of music, because that’s what I could do. All I can do is what I can do. And just like any other artist, all they can do is what they can do.

And if they’ve only got these genres to put what they do in or what I do in, then we’re going to get stuck in genres that we don’t all the times fit in. But thing about it is, I feel like I’m more rock and roll than I am country because I got a lot of rock and country songs. But I’m in an outlaw country genre because just I really don’t believe that that too much matters too much. I think a lot of people miss a lot of good music because they spend too much time saying, well, that’s not rock and roll, or That’s not country, or that’s not rap, or that’s not R&B, or that’s not gospel. But the thing about it is, no matter what genre you want to put it in, it is music. And it is music and somebody out there enjoys it or it wouldn’t be there.

So whether it be Nashville or Texas or California or New York or whatever it is, I think what people need to do is when they listen to music, if they think it’s in the wrong genre, then classify it in a different genre in your own mind and just enjoy it, is the way I feel about it.

Buzz Knight:

So tell me how joyful for you it is to play in front of people.

Whey Jennings:

It’s the most amazing thing in the world to me. Other than my family and spending time with my family is the most amazing thing in the world, but getting up on that stage and performing for people and seeing people enjoy what I do, it makes what I do possible. Because if I got up there and I was just background music and nobody enjoyed what I did, I’d probably go find another thing to do. But see everybody just ripping and roaring over the music we’re playing, and not even just my grandfather’s music, my own music as well. Because I’ve been on a little journey for this last five years. When I first got out of rehab, I wanted to save the world, and you can’t really do that right off the bat because you’re not healthy yet. But I put out a lot of music I thought would touch people like me.

And then the next project I put out, I got a little more trying to add a little bit of the party into still trying to help people. And on this one, I’m doing the same thing in a broader scope because I’ve been putting out EPs for the past three years. This year I’m putting out an LP. I’m putting on a full album, and it’s got something for everybody on it. And right now my mind is a pretzel trying to figure out which ones to make singles, which ones to make videos, which ones to even make the title track. I’ve got a pretty good idea which one’s going to be the title track because it encases the whole project. It’s really the only song that can encase the whole project because there’s something for everybody in it.

I mean, I’ve got really power ballads. I’ve got really hard rockers, I’ve got that’s just like love songs and country songs. I’ve got a couple songs that touch on a gospel. I’ve got … It’s just something I’m so proud of that I wish I had a million dollars to do everything I want to do with it. If it was up to me, I’d be making 11 videos and promoting them, because they’re all that good to me. I’ve never been so proud of a project in my life.

And for this to be my first full-length album, it really touches my soul. It does. But like I said, I’m biased because my project, but I was super proud of my last project, and now I’m looking back at that last project and then looking at this one, and I’m like, that last one was great, but I don’t even know what to call this one. This one is going to be really good. So I really hope everybody’s looking forward to this new project because I just wanted to hit some ears. Because I promise you, every ear it hits, it’s going to show it to another set of ears because I feel that strongly about this project.

Buzz Knight:

That’s awesome. Congratulations on it. Who are the musicians of today that influence you? I wouldn’t say influence, that you like.

Whey Jennings:

Well, I like most of them, honestly. I mean, there ain’t nothing. There’s not an artist out there I don’t like something by, I don’t think, right now. I like what Jelly Roll is doing. A lot of people don’t call it country, and I don’t know what you would classify, but it’s really good. It touches people’s souls. I’ve seen it do it live. And he’s my cousin’s best friend, so I’m kind of biased on that too because I want to see my cousin succeed because he is a really good artist too, Struggle Jennings, and he’s does great things too. And they’re not only great musicians, they really are good for their communities. They try to help people. And that to me is more important to me being a great musician. It’s helping people that need your help is what you need to be doing with your platform.

But my strongest influences are going to be like Jamey Johnson, Chris Janson, Chris Stapleton, because they’re a lot more like me. They’re the kind of performers like me. Those are the ones that I have influenced. Of course, all the older influences like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings of course, and Jesse Coulter and Shooter Jennings is probably the most complex musician I can think of to date. And he’s got so much talent in so many different areas, and a lot of people don’t even understand it because a lot of people don’t know that him and Brandi Carlile are the best team when it comes to producing music. They’re like, they get together and they work. It just works that way. But I’ve got so many influences in music now just because I know so many different people. Ray Scott, he’s a really good guy. Darryl Worley, great guy.

Trace Adkins, great guy. Trace Adkins got one of the deepest voices I’ve ever heard and what he can do with his voice. I’ve been trying to mimic it, and I just can’t do it. He’s really good. And of course, Toby Keith, his passing really got to me. And what’s crazy is that I don’t think just me, I think it blindsided the world, because I’ve seen where other people passed away in music, your news feed will have this and that and the other. But for the last three days, my entire news feed has been all Toby Keith. So he is a very loved man, and I can see why, and I think I’m kind of surprised at myself that I let that go unnoticed for so long until he passed away. It’s kind of crazy.

Buzz Knight:

Isn’t that remarkable how we do that? We all do that from time-to-time. We don’t realize something or someone is special, and then they pass, and then, right?

Whey Jennings:

Yeah. And then you realize just how special they were. Yeah, I know. It is wild. But I’ve never seen it to that extent. That shook the whole world. It shook the whole world, and that’s really wild, man.

Buzz Knight:

So Wayne, in closing, what are you still trying to learn that would be a goal of yours to try to learn along the way, whether it be life or music?

Whey Jennings:

Well, what I’d like to learn along the way is how to last. I’ve been doing this for 12 years. I’ve been getting noticed for the last three or four years, but a lot of artists, they get noticed and then they just fade away. I want to learn how to last. Not only last, I want to learn how to work the internet a little better to get to where people actually hear my music. Because right now I’m putting out music and I’m throwing it out into a sea of music and just hopes that people hear it. What I’d like to do is figure out how to put it on a giant ship, and you float it over in front of everybody, and they have no choice but to see it. Because I believe what we’re doing is powerful, and I believe it’s going to change lives. I want to be an entertainer, but I also want to be somebody who makes you think about not only who you are, but who everyone around you is and how to make this world a better place.

Because right now, we got a big open wound that needs healing, and I believe the only cure for that is going to be through music. And if it gets lost in the midst of all the other music, then it’s void. I mean, I’d like to figure out how to get my most powerful songs that I believe in the most, into ears to make people think about what I believe the problems are, what I believe to solve the solutions are. And not only what I believe, but what a lot of people that I talk to around me believe as well. The solution to any of this is never going to be through hate. It’s all got to come from a point of understanding. If we could all figure out how to understand each other and stop screaming at each other, this world will turn into a better place.

Because right now, both sides of every huge problem in this world, has a point. But the problem is neither side can understand the point of the other side in any problem we have. So what I’m trying to do is, is I’m trying to create an entertaining solution to things. Things that people feel. That’s what I want. I want people to feel my music. And not even just my music. I want people to feel the important music that’s being created by all the artists. There’s more power in music than making you go out and party. There’s power in music. It can save the world, and I believe that. I just watched a documentary the other day. It was like The Biggest Night in Pop, and to see that one song, the difference it made in the world at that time, right there, should be proof enough that the world can be saved by music, and that’s just what I want to be. I want to be a small part of that. That’s what I want to do.

Buzz Knight:

Your grandfather actually was a part of that, and then he slipped out after a while, right?

Whey Jennings:

Yeah, I’m pretty sure he regretted that after a while. He probably didn’t know the severity of the impact, because of the impact that song was going to have on the world, but I’m pretty sure that we all at the end of our journey, are going to look back and have regrets. And they laughed it off in that thing. But I’m sure, I’m almost certain, that the heart that I know my grandfather had and how much he loved the world we live in, when he looked back, that was one of his requests, that he didn’t stick around for that because that song ended up being a very, very powerful instrument and saved a lot of lives. Yep.

Buzz Knight:

Well, Whey, thanks for being on Takin’ a Walk and sharing your journey, and congrats on all the work and the tour and appreciate what you do, man.

Whey Jennings:

Oh, you’re very welcome, man. I thank you so much.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Takin’ a Walk podcast. Share this and other episodes with your friends and follow us so you never miss an episode. Takin’ a Walk is available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.

 

About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.