Nashville singer/songwriter Josh Jenkins has been in the music business for 20 years, starting in a pop/rock band when he was 15. He’s made a living as an artist, and as a songwriter who’s written songs for other artists. However, in the past six months he’s reached a whole new level of success. He co-wrote two of the biggest, most distinctive country hits in the past year: “Fancy Like” for Walker Hayes and “Buy Dirt” for Jordan Davis featuring Luke Bryan.
“Fancy Like” has hovered near the top of the country and pop charts since it was released last August (2021). With its unique, humorous lyrics & hook, the single reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 chart. The song has also been a phenomenon on TikTok, spurring the creation of many new dance videos by fans of the song.
“Buy Dirt” has had a major impact in a different way. Also a #1 hit on the country charts for several weeks, this single is a sincere, deeply felt ballad about the importance of family life, relationships and having a home. The theme of “Buy Dirt” is a unique and original concept that connects with many listeners.
In this new interview, Jenkins tells how he co-wrote “Fancy Like” (with Walker Hayes, Shane Stevens & Cameron Bartolini) and “Buy Dirt” (with Jordan Davis, Matt Jenkins & Jacob Davis). He also tells how he got started in the music business, and how he eventuallly moved to Nashville and focused on a career as a pro songwriter.
Jenkins grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, where he and his brother, Matt, got into music at a young age. When he was just 15, Jenkins joined a pop-rock band called Green River Ordinance, and they released several albums and toured steadily.
When he was in his early 20s, Jenkins was encouraged by his brother to move to Nashville and join the songwriting community. Jenkins loved it, and he started to get cuts with Randy Houser, Jordan Davis, Dustin Lynch and other artists. Then in 2016, he signed a music publishing deal with SMACKsongs, a prominent company led by hit songwriters Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne.
Here’s the video of Walker Hayes’ hit, “Fancy Like,” which was
co-written by Josh Jenkins.
In recent years, Jenkins developed a close collaboration and friendship with both Hayes and Davis. He had previously written songs with them, prior to writing “Fancy Like” and “Buy Dirt.”
In addition his songwriting career, Jenkins remains a member of the band Green River Ordinance (although they’re not as active at this time), and he has released songs as a solo artist.
Here is our new Q&A interview with Josh Jenkins:
DK: I read that you’re from Fort Worth, Texas. How did you get started with music, and writing songs?
Josh Jenkins: My dad was a songwriter, and my brother (Matt Jenkins) is a songwriter. Actually, my brother is on the song “Buy Dirt” with me. He and I grew up writing songs songs as kids. My dad introduced us to music, and we would play this game…he would give us a yellow legal pad, and we would each go into separate rooms when we were 10 or 11, and we’d write songs. So that was my introduction to music. My dad grew up listening to everything from James Taylor to Gene Watson to Merle Haggard. We grew up playing Oprys in Texas, and we had a family band. It was my brother, my mom and dad. Then my brother went really hard country, and I joined a pop-rock band called Green River Ordinance when I was 15. We’re still a band, although we don’t tour as much anymore. But for 16 years, we were writing and touring and traveling in a 15-passenger van and playing music.
I did that for a long time, and my brother had already moved to Nashville. He was like, “Man, you would love it here. The songwriting community is such a great community of creators.” So I got pulled into moving here, and I’ve loved it ever since.
DK: When did you start focusing on writing songs for other artists?
Jenkins: When I would go to Nashville, I was around all these people that were inspirational, as far as what they were writing and creating here. Then my wife and I moved to Nashville and I got plugged into the craft of songwriting. Here, there’s this spirit of this lunchpail songwriter mentality. You show up everyday— you get your guitar and you write something. So I got to dip in and lean into this community and learn from so many people here.
Here’s the video of Jordan Davis’s hit “Buy Dirt” feat. Luke Bryan,
which was co-written by Josh Jenkins.
DK: Before your recent success with “Fancy Like” and “Buy Dirt,” did you have other cuts or hits?
Jenkins: I did get cuts with Randy Houser, Jordan Davis and other artists, but nothing to the scale of “Fancy Like” or “Buy Dirt.” I had a bunch of little songs making their way. But “Fancy Like” and “Buy Dirt” are the first two that have really done what they’ve done, for me.
DK: With “Fancy Like,” how was this song written?
Jenkins: I’ve known Walker (Hayes) for about six years. We’ve written a bunch of songs together…he’s a dear friend. So on that day, Walker had finished most of the project that “Fancy Like” was going to be on, and it was like the 11th hour here of, “Well, if something good comes, we’ll put it on there.” Honestly that day, I was feeling kind of burned out. But I love Walker so much…I saw it on my calendar and thought…when I’m with Walker, we’re going to have a great time. We’re gonna talk about life. He’s got a heart bigger than anyone I know. The beauty of being a songwriter is you sit in a room with your buddies and talk about things, and you stumble into songs. Those are the best days…you feel like you’re hangin’ out. So that day, it was Walker and I and Shane Stevens. Shane showed up to Smack on the wrong day. He wasn’t supposed to even be in the room for the write, but I’m so thankful that he was. He’s such a wonderful human that brings such a great spirit to the room. And then Canbo (Cameron Bartolini) was from L.A., and this was his first write ever in Nashville. I was like, “Bro, they don’t all go like this” (laughs).
So we showed up that day and we spend the first hour on it, talking about God and life and heartache and redemption and things. To be honest, it was really beautiful. We ended up praying before we wrote, and I was like…I don’t even know if we’re gonna write a song today, but I don’t care ‘cause it was so powerful to be in the room. And everybody sharing things that they’re going through in life, and where we’ve been and all that stuff. And then Walker was like, “Man, I want something fun—let’s do something fun and up.”
Walker said, “People look at me, and they think I’m like really famous because they see me on the internet. We just go to [the normal places] if you see us.” So we were goofing around and we were on the guitar, riffing, and “Fancy Like” kind of fell out. In an hour-and-a-half, the song was written. Walker says things like no one can say them, and he says things that no one else can sing. Not many artists are gonna sing, “Applebee’s on a date night, Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake.” It was like, “Wow, we’re really going there.” So we finished the day and we were all hyped. But none of us had any idea [the song would become big]. We thought, “Who knows.”
Here’s a video of Josh Jenkins performing the hit, “Buy Dirt.”
We left that day, and then the team here at Smack got really hyped, and within a couple weeks the song was done. That project happened so fast. When it came out and [blowing up on] TikTok, it was unbelievably quick how the song blew up.
DK: I also like your hit, “Buy Dirt.” It has such a unique lyric about what’s real and important in life and family. Can you talk about co-writing “Buy Dirt”?
Jenkins: It’s been such a sweet time, because both of these songs are with people who are some of my best friends. “Buy Dirt” is with my brother, who’s my best friend. And we’ve spent so much time with Jordan and Jacob (Davis). These relationships have developed over time. The most powerful songs that I’ve been a part of have been rooted in relationships.
With that song, we were on a retreat with just Jacob, myself, Jordan and my brother. And one morning, we were outside drinking coffee. Once again, it started from us just being in the space of drinking coffee, talking about life and what’s God done in our lives. And who we want to be as husbands and dads. Then the title “Buy Dirt” got brought up. My bro had the title…Buy Dirt. And I thought…Man, there’s something so special about that. And once again, it’s like the heavens shined down on me. I think as a songwriter, you can’t really take credit for things. I feel like when the magic of inspiration comes through, you’re there to capture it. It was one of those things where I picked up a guitar and I started playing the verse and humming some melodies, and then within an hour-and-a-half, the song was done and it felt like a gift from God that we’re just there to be a part of. Like you said, it means something really deep to us because it was something about who we want to be. It’s like a North Star for each of us, like, “Hey, we’re all in our mid-30s. We know this to be true…that we can get caught up in all this stuff in life, but these things of life matter. Like who I am to my friends…it’s not about money. Money and success don’t equate to happiness. So we put this in a song, to honestly sing back to ourselves as kind of a North Star. That this is what matters to us.
DK: How did Jordan Davis bring in Luke Bryan on the song? Luke added a lot to the song.
Jenkins: Oh yeah. Luke heard the song and was excited about it. Jordan and Luke talked about it, and Luke said, “Man, this is what I’m about anyway. I’m looking at my kids, I’m on the farm, and this is what I want them to be.” So it was special how supportive Luke was from the get-go, and he did such a wonderful job. I thought it brought a lot to the song.
DK: Now that you’ve had these hits, I’m sure you’re getting into a some great new writing sessions. Do you have some upcoming cuts that you can talk about?
Jenkins: I’ve got cuts with Tenille Townes and Adam Doleac, and more songs with Jordan Davis coming out. I’ve also got a cut with Alana Springsteen, who’s amazing.
DK: I read that you’re also a solo artist who’s released songs and an EP. Can you talk about your solo music?
Jenkins: Yeah, I’m in that place of wanting to do more of that. I feel that as a writer, you have all of these songs and only a few of them get cut. So I’ve always wanted to let these songs see the light of day, so I started a little artist project. It’s just an avenue to get music out.
I’ve spent many years as the lead man of Green River Ordinance and being up front, but I also love being behind the scenes as a songwriter. I just want to sit in a place of the heart of things, like write music, put it out, or help others find their voice. That’s kind of where I’m living.