A big hat and an American accent opened doors for Waco-born singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson when performing in the United Kingdom and his lyrics and performing talent made those curious audiences return again and again.
Those listeners got first shot at his newly released album, “Ready The Horses,” in September while his American fans will have to wait for another month or so. Dickenson’s hometown fans, however, will get a sneak preview of some of those songs when he and his wife Claire perform Saturday night at Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits.
The 31-year-old Dickenson, based again in Nashville after nearly six years in Brooklyn, New York, is looking forward to returning — his parents Dale and Teresa Dickenson and older brother Drew Dickenson still live here — even though pursuing his music has made Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles, New York and Nashville again home after his graduation from Midway High School.
The music bug bit hard when he started playing guitar at 18 and continued through his years at McLennan Community College, then the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing and performing in Austin-area clubs and coffeehouses, then moved to Nashville in 2010.
He was in Nashville when he got an unexpected break in his career by winning a songwriting competition for writers in Nashville and its sister city Belfast, Ireland.
“Without trying to sound genuinely humble, I don’t think that many entered the contest,” he admitted.
His prize was a performance slot in a Belfast music festival where he impressed both listeners and music writers. He also became friends with a volunteer named Claire who, two and a half years ago, married him.
Dickenson’s exposure to the Irish and English music markets got a second major opportunity when he played with English musician David Ford at a Philadelphia concert and talked him into opening a spring tour in the United Kingdom.
Audiences responded well and contacts made during that tour blossomed into a following for the American musician, who returns at least twice a year as his UK fan base grows.
“It’s been pretty organic,” he said. Part of his overseas appeal, he admits, is the exoticism of seeing an American performing in a big hat, even though Dickenson considers himself far more in the Americana camp than mainstream American country with his rootsy mix of folk, blues, rock and rhythm-and-blues wedded to stories.
“The other side of it is that they’re very open to different kinds of music. What’s heard on the radio is not the end-all and be-all of music,” he said. “Over there, I’m actually considered a country artist. The lines are far more blurred over there as far as genres are concerned.”
Growing his American audiences presents a more familiar challenge: far larger geographic areas to cover and the power of radio airplay to shape exposure and interest. Though Dickenson and his wife loved their time in New York, housing costs forced them back to Nashville.
“For a little more than half of what we were paying in rent, we can have a small house rather than a tiny shoebox apartment,” he explained.
Two years ago, Dickenson recorded what became “Ready The Horses,” the follow-up to 2012’s “The Lonesome Traveler,” in a studio in southwest England after finishing tours with Don McLean and The Waterboys.
A year of label disinterest followed and the singer-songwriter contemplated releasing it himself when a big label, Universal Music Group’s Decca Records, bit and signed Dickenson last March. His album got a UK release in September with its American debut in early 2018.
Dickenson’s delighted, but admitted it sometimes feels a little odd to call songs he wrote some two years ago as new ones: Those horses, after all, have been ready for awhile.