Teenage phenom Greylan James bringing his country music to Cheyenne’s
By Steve Wildsmith (email@example.com)
To those in the crowd on Saturday night at Cheyenne’s Restaurant — Greylan James prefers Sprite.
No doubt, those appreciative of his soulful voice, strong country originals and crackerjack guitar playing will be inspired to buy him a drink. They’ll dismiss his youthful appearance to good genes and seek to buy him a beer. And when he politely informs them of his actual age — 15 — they’ll ask if they can buy him a Coke.
“I usually take Sprite over Coke,” James told The Daily Times this week, adding that since he’s been playing bar shows, unsuspecting patrons are always offering to purchase him something to quench his thirst.
“Especially lately, since I’ve hit puberty,” said the Halls High School freshman.
It’s hard to believe the young country prodigy, who came within a hair’s breadth of winning the local finals of the Texaco Country Showdown (losing out to Blount County songbird and friend Laurel Wright), has only been serious about playing music for a living for the past five years. He was 7, he said, when his grandparents took him to perform at a local Optimist Club.
“I was standing up there with that microphone in my hand, and it just felt so powerful when I sang,” James said. “I looked out, and as soon as I opened my mouth, I could see people smiling and dancing and singing. Seeing them smile — that’s when I knew it. After that night, I decided music is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, whether it takes forever or a short while.”
Born Greylan James Egan, his talent was evident as young as 3, according to his father, Jeff Egan. By that point, he’d already memorized the words to George Strait’s “Write This Down,” and when he sang it, his parents heard something peculiar.
“Between the verses, he would make all these weird noises, and I asked his mother, ‘What in the world is he doing?’” Egan remembered. “Obviously, he was playing the music in his head and imitating the drums and the background instruments. He’s loved music since he was old enough to talk and walk.”
Shortly after that Optimist Club appearance, James was given a guitar; he took lessons until he was 11 and has been mostly self-taught ever since.
“I thought he’d be a rhythm guitar player, a three-chord guy who wrote songs, but he just picked up on it immediately,” Egan said. “He kept on improving and improving, and now he just smokes the guitar.”
He’s also done well as a songwriter, having performed for songwriter nights at both the Listening Room Cafe and the Blue Bird Cafe, two distinguished outlets for original music in Nashville. He’s frequently on tap for charity events, including April’s benefit concert at Greenback High School to help out victims of the spring tornado that ravaged the town.
It’s all part of getting his name out there, earning respect for his ability to play, sing and write a song. Often, he said, folks are enamored by his youth, but once they seem him play, they’re impressed on the basis of his talent alone. And that’s as it should be, James said.
“When you’re a younger musician, people don’t expect much out of you, but you’ve still got to be good,” he said. “People say all the time, ‘He’s good for his age.’ But that’s not really what I want. I want people to say, ‘He’s good and he’s young.’ I want to be respected both as a musician and a person.”