Josh Thompson an unlikely country music star

Josh Thompson was never supposed to end up a country music star. Rather, there was a time when it looked as if the Wisconsin native was destined for a career in concrete — that is, until the day he decided to jump off the truck and pick up a guitar.

“My whole family was in the concrete industry, from my father to my grandpa to my uncles and cousins — that’s just what we did,” recalls the long-haired, self-proclaimed bachelor who left to pursue his musical dreams in Nashville, Tenn., at the age of 27.

“But then I got a guitar for my 21st birthday and I started picking out songs by ear from the radio,” Thompson says. “After three or four years of stockpiling these songs, the passion really grew and I reached a point when I realized that if I was going to move to Nashville and see if I could establish a career in country music, it was going to be now or never.”

This life-changing decision propelled the Midwesterner to burst onto the country music scene in 2010 with his Top 10 debut album “Way Out Here,” spawning hits such as “Won’t Be Lonely Long,” “Way Out Here” and “Beer On The Table.” Playing more than 250 live shows last year, the RCA Nashville recording artist finds himself on the road again this spring, including a stop at Chicago’s Joe’s Bar on April 13.

“I have always felt that one of the most important things is getting out there in front of the fans face-to-face and gaining them the old fashioned way,” he says.

As he prepares to release his second album, “Change,” this summer, Thompson is busy touting his latest single “Comin’ Around,” which tells the story of just about anyone who gets older and realizes the road behind them is just as important as the road ahead of them.

“Your youth almost forces you to hate your parents’ music and where you grow up and the idea of going to church,” chuckles Thompson, who has also established himself as quite the songwriter, penning hits for country music heavy-hitters such as Jason Aldean and Brad Paisley.

“I think everyone goes through that and reaches a point when you realize those things are part of your life and are the reason why you are the way you are.”

Describing the recording of his second studio album as quite the “painstaking” process, Thompson says he is excited to get 12 new songs in the hands of his fans.

“This album has what I like to call ‘the drivability factor’,” he says. “It’s something you can pop in and drive and listen to the whole thing. It’s not something you are going to want to fast-forward or slow down.”

Describing Joe’s Bar as a “country music island in the middle of an ocean,” Thompson says he always loves coming to Chicago, especially when there is a chance to play some new music.

“The last track on the new record is a duet I recorded with Justin Moore called “Livin’ like Hank,” a rowdy barroom kind of song that is going to go over great live.”

Thompson will return to the area in late June when he plays Bridgeview’s Toyota Park as a featured performer on the 2012 Country Throwdown tour. “I have been a fan of Gary (Allan) since his first song came out,” he says. “That’s just another part of what I love about what I do. Gary is someone I have looked up to forever, and now I get to spend two months out there with him and watch his show every night and hang out afterwards? It’s surreal.”

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