Waylon James

Waylon James

 Austin, Texas, USA

Waylon James finds the junction of country and rock. "It’s somewhere between old hotels and broken highways and the dirt underneath your fingernails. And that line between Saturday night and Sunday morning where you can both lose yourself and find yourself.”


How does a farm boy from rural Washington State wind up in Austin, Texas singing his songs as Waylon James? Credit everyone from Willie Nelson to Bruce Springsteen to Pat Green as well as this singer-songwriter’s “gypsy feet and wandering heart,” plus a drive to create music that’s just plain honest.

Currently making his name on the Austin scene, James was born Bryan Overnell into a farming family where classic and outlaw country music were spinning on the record player throughout his youth. Nearly named Willie Nelson Overnell at birth, he may not have been quite fated to play music. But as soon as he got his first guitar at age 14 and started writing songs a few weeks later, the artist known as Waylon James began to follow the path that music led him along.

During his teen years he absorbed the inspiration of American heartland rockers like Springsteen and John Mellencamp as well as the modern classic country of Dwight Yoakam. By 16 he was getting up on stage to perform his original songs at local clubs in between sets by the band led by a friend’s father.

While in college at Central Washington University and then Washington State University, James started his own band that gigged around the region performing his songs and “throwing in your ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ to keep the crowds going,” he says with a chuckle. Then on the tv he saw an artist who opened his horizons to a whole new musical vista: Texas singer-songwriter Pat Green. That led him to other Lone Star musical talents like Robert Earl Keen, Guy Clark and Billy Joe Shaver and more.

Twenty four hours later on spring break in his senior year of college James traveled to Texas to catch Pat Green play the Star of Texas Rodeo in Austin. Though he didn’t have a ticket to the sold out show, James managed to sneak in and see and hear the kind of music he now knew he wanted to play. And the city convinced him that it was the place where he would do that.

So after graduation he packed everything to his pick-up truck and headed to Austin. James spent his first years in Austin absorbing all the music to be heard and working as a bartender. But unable to make the right musical connections, he headed back to Washington State to write more songs and start and run a couple of companies.

Along the way he adopted the name Waylon James. After all, Waylon Jennings was one of the first singer-songwriters he heard and loved. “And James is my grandfather’s middle name,” he explains.

And it fit the music he was writing and playing. “It’s country rock,” he says. “It’s somewhere between old hotels and broken highways and the dirt underneath your fingernails. And that line between Saturday night and Sunday morning where you can both lose yourself and find yourself.”

When he headed back to Austin in the fall of 2009, James was ready to get his music out. And this time he found the talented and sympathetic players to bring it to full fruition. While readying his new album, Hard Rain, due out in mid October, he’s steadily been winning the hearts of listeners and fellow musicians alike, sharing stages with some of the local greats.

James finds the junction between country and rock to be the ideal place for his songwriting talents. “There’s an honesty in an acoustic guitar that you can’t find in a half stack electric guitar amp,” he notes. “A lot of my songs are truth based, and about where I come from, where I've been and people I've met along the way.”

As he has learned, “You run out of the small town with a guitar in your hand to get away from the farm. Once you get bathed in neon, all you want to do is write about that town.

“I don’t think I was born to play music. It just happened,” he concludes. “The best and worst day of my life was when I got my first guitar.” And now that he is writing and singing the music he hears in his heart, Waylon James is determined to make the most of it.


Exit 99

Written By: B. Ovenell

There ain’t much to do on a Saturday Night around here
You can drive down to the lake and drink a couple of your daddy’s beers
But we always say it’s gonna be different this time
Then we wind up driving down the same damn lines
Out here at Exit 99

Drive out to the watertower to paint your name
Then you tell your buddies bout your new ex flame
Then we sing our hymns on Sunday morning
And we tip our hats when we pass Old Glory
Tell everybody that we’re barely getting by
Out here at Exit 99

It’s midnight you pack your car, leaving this town for good
Cause them city lights they never treat a boy like they should
So, you put your ass out on highway 10
Say you’re never going back down to Austin again
Tell everybody that your gonna get it right
Up high on Exit 99


1999 - Austin Bound (as Bryan Ovenell)
2002 - Midnight Romeo (as Bryan Ovenell)
2010 - Waylon James
2010 - Hard Rain (post production)

Set List

Loose Gravel
Country Road
American Town
Daisy Rae
Roll On
3rd Street Blues
Last Thing On My Mind
Exit 99
Hard Rain
Get Me to Morning Light
Storm Song
Simple Suits Me Fine
Halfway to Heaven
Northwest Countryboy Blues
Chinatown Road
Skin to Skin
Midnight Romeo
Shotgun Girl
Muse and the Bottle
Goin' Down Swingin'
Friday Night in Texas
Nothin' But Sevens
You and I
Nevada State Line

Estimated Time w/o Covers: 2 hours 5 Minutes