By John Benson
The roar of the crowd is something Southington native Jackson Delaney thought he’d never hear again after his pro baseball career was derailed by a career-ending shoulder injury.
However, fate had other plans for this 1999 Chalker High School graduate, who initially struggled with depression after leaving behind the pitching rubber for good.
“Oh man, that was probably the hardest thing I had to do in my life,” said Delaney, calling from somewhere in Alabama. “Just considering that’s all I had done for my entire life, that was brutal. I was mad and sad and went through some depression. Finally, I just got to a point where I was like either I’m going to stay miserable or I’m going to pick it up and get on with it.”
Getting on with it meant finding his life calling. Little did Delaney know at the time, his dad’s insistence that as a 16-year-old boy he pick up the guitar and learn a few chords would prove priceless.
It was during Delaney’s post-baseball search for inspiration that he returned to the six-string. Soon, he discovered a familiar feeling.
“The first time I got on stage in front of a crowd, they were really into it and enjoying themselves,” Delaney said. “It was like a lightning bolt went down my spine. I thought, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’ because I got the same feeling as pitching. I had hairs standing up on my arm. It was just a real cool thing.”
That moment took place in 2004 at a Cleveland bar. It would be another four years before Delaney went on vacation to Nashville, walked into a honky-tonk for a beer and basically never left. After receiving a job offer, he relocated to the Music City where he still has a weekly gig at The Second Fiddle.
Delaney’s dream of playing country music experienced a real boost this past year with the release of his debut EP, which includes cuts from some of Nashville’s most respected songwriters (Dave Gibson, Gary Hannan, Eddie Montgomery, Phil O’Donnell and Chris Wallin).
“Because Eddie Montgomery actually wrote a few songs on the record, some of them have a Montgomery Gentry feel,” Delaney said. “There’s a lot of story songs, so I guess you’d say my music is kind of like Waylon Jennings or Kris Kristofferson lyrically, with real good melodies backing them.”
Among Delaney’s favorites are the guitar-heavy lead single “Shotgun Wedding” and ballad “Long Black Cadillac.” He said the latter track is a tearjerker that is in the Jamey Johnson vein.
Delaney, who hopes a future tour brings him back through Northeast Ohio, said his music career is rising. Using professional baseball as a gauge to his success, what level does Delaney think he’s at?
“That’s a good question,” Delaney said. “This business is so much different from sports, and it’s frustrating at times because you don’t know where you are, but I think I’m on a good path right now. I guess you could say I’m in the minor leagues because you don’t hear me on country radio on big stations, but I think I’m an up-and-comer. Good things are going to happen, and they’re starting to happen. So I’d say Triple A.”