In a matter of four weeks, Jon Stork went from having a song from his first full-length album top the Texas Regional Radio Report, to performing at Rodeo Houston to stopping in the Sealy Walmart parking lot announcing the rest of the rodeo, where he was supposed to appear again, was canceled due to COVID-19.
The Friday leading up to what was supposed to be another performance at the 12th annual Sealybration, Stork, a Beasley native and Brazos High School graduate, said in a phone interview he was looking forward to being back on the stage but the event’s cancellation was news he had been expecting.
“We were going to play with friends of ours who were going to kick things off earlier in the day and then we’re going to get to play in front of some great musicians, a great artist,” he said. “I was excited and so was everyone else in the band. Especially growing up down the road from there and actually going to Sealybration as a kid and as a teenager and then, even after moving away, coming back and still seeing it rolling, I was a little bummed out.”
Stork said he and his band have been making lemonade with the lemons that life has given them in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“These past few months have been a history book for sure. It doesn’t feel like we’re living much of it, it really kind of feels like we’re in a movie scene,” said Stork. “We’ve just been trying to keep things rolling, even though everything is stopped. There was a little two, three-week stint that everything was pretty much open and pumping, was a little slow at the beginning and then it just came to a halt.”
Stork said the rodeo was just the first of some of the coolest gigs they’d ever had lined up and this stretch of months was supposed to be riding on the wave of the release of the band’s first full-length album, Radio Cowboy, which dropped on Sept. 27, 2019.
“This was looking to be a summer of music that they were gonna talk about later on down the road. The first show that we had get canceled because of all of this was the rodeo,” Stork said. “The 2020 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with a new band, with new music; we were actually going to debut the songs that we just had released on Radio Cowboy Deluxe. We were gonna debut those at The Hideout at Houston Rodeo because it doesn’t get more rodeo that.”
Instead, the deluxe version of the album was released amid a pandemic on June 18 after Stork figured then was as good a time as any to provide fans with new songs.
“It was like, ‘Well, we’re gonna release new music,’ and then one of the guys in the band said, ‘So we’re going to release new music and not even be able to go out and play the music we just released?’” Stork recounted. “I said we’ll get out there eventually, but I think for right now, let everybody go and start listening. We’ll do what we’re going to do and nothing’s changed, we’re just out here trying to do what we need to do.”
Stork indeed did what he needed to do and got adjusted to performing virtual concerts over Facebook Live. He lived up to the radio cowboy name, taking over different local radio stations’ Facebook pages to provide people live musical entertainment from the comfort of their own home.
“It’s different, I will tell you that straight up,” Stork said. “I’ll be the first one to tell you that going from playing in front of people or opening up for other artists to playing in a room for just my wife and a phone, and I can’t even see the other side of the phone that we’re working off of, it’s a little weird.”
It’s gotten the job done, however, as Radio Cowboy sat at No. 3 on the Texas Country Music Association’s Top 10, No. 4 on the CDX TRACtion Texas Chart and No. 5 on the Texas Regional Radio Report for the week ending July 10.
As he says on the title track, and reiterated in the interview, this entire experience has been a dream come true for a small-town kid who grew up taking his guitar to class.
“It was amazing getting to grow up out there and I refer back to it weekly that it’s helped who I am now,” Stork said of the Austin County area. “Getting to go out and running into other people who are from the same area, it’s like finding a little treasure where you weren’t expecting it because it’s like running into a family member. It’s pretty cool but getting to go out and do this and represent is surreal.”
Despite getting a taste of both success and disappointment recently, Stork is walking away with one simple lesson from the pandemic.
“You control nothing,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good you’re doing; it doesn’t matter how good the people around you are doing; all of that came to a stop for the most part. Thanks to all those essential people going out and doing their thing and first responders, especially. And farmers didn’t even skip a beat, so I don’t know why people ain’t talking about them. You control absolutely nothing. And if you don’t believe me, go talk to a farmer.”