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Jayess songwriter wins top indie EP album

A Jayess singer-songwriter recently won EP of the Year at the Sixth Annual Josie Music Awards.

Cole Powell, a 31-year-old Lawrence County native, won for his 2019 release “Redux II” — the second half of his “Redux” digital album. He was also nominated for Best Musical Collaboration for his song “Company” on “Redux,” featuring vocalist Brittany D, Powell’s wife and mom to their two children.

Billed as “the largest independent (music) industry award show,” the JMAs were celebrated with an in-person event in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in early September.

The JMA is the latest “win” for Powell in the past decade. His 2011 debut album “Thanks for the Broken Heart” was well-received, described by indie review company Music Emissions as a hybrid of “rock, pop, blues and country, with a twist of jazz.” His sophomore follow-up “Unfiltered” in 2014 hit No. 92 on the iTunes U.S. Singer/Songwriter chart. His third album was released as two digital EPS, “Redux” and “Redux II,” the latter charting in the top 50 of the iTunes U.S. Singer/Songwriter chart.

Powell is a songwriter at heart. He said the most difficult song he has worked on was a Christmas single he began writing in 2008 and didn’t finish until the day before recording tracks in 2014. He has since released a couple of different versions of it, he said, “and will probably do it again sometime. I’m still not happy with that one.”

The easiest writing came for him when Southern Rocker J. F. “Jim” Oakes, of Monticello, asked him to pen an original song for Oakes’ indie film project, “The Band Forgettable,” in 2018.

“That night I wrote the entire first verse and chorus,” Powell said. The next day he wrote the rest and sent it to Oakes, who thought it was a perfect fit for the film. Powell tweaked it a bit and the song was complete within a week.

“It’s probably the easiest writing experience I’ve had,” Powell said.

It has not been an easy road so far for the man who set his sights on writing for other singers to perform. A guitarist and keyboard player, Powell had no interest in performing vocals on his own material until another vocalist, then-friend Brittany D, urged him to do so.

“These are your songs, you need to sing them,” Powell said she told him.

So he did. The two eventually began dating and got married, and celebrated their 10th anniversary this year. He began performing and touring around Southwest Mississippi, then opportunities kept opening up for him across the state. He had plans to move into a larger area of venues beginning in 2017, but some serious health issues struck him in 2016.

“I essentially retired from performing live,” Powell said, after only five years of doing so, “and I went home to get better.”

Get better he did, and not just physically. The time back in Jayess with his family and in his home studio gave him the opportunity to take a good look at his life.

“Whenever I was in the music industry, performing, pursuing it hot and heavy, pursuing my dreams, I never really stopped to think, ‘Is this really what I want to do with my life?’” he said. “I’ve ended up being a stay-at-home dad. It’s been of the most difficult and most rewarding things.”

As he stood on the stage in Pigeon Forge with his award, Powell thanked his wife and other Lawrence and Lincoln County musicians, including Oakes, Tyler Bridge, Sam Mooney and Kyle Graves. He said the moment was “incredible,” and before he won he did not believe he had a chance against the other 10 nominees.

He closed by giving thanks to God, but it was more than just a typical way to end an acceptance speech.

“Make sure before you’re pursuing the dream that it’s what you need to be pursuing or you’ll never be happy. I’m a born-again Christian,” Powell told The Daily Leader. “I always tell people, ‘In order to find out what you should be doing, you need to seek advice from a Higher Power.’ My Christian faith is a really important part of my life and of my pursuit of music.

“I’ve been blessed in that pursuit. God used that time to bring a lot of great friends into my life. I’ve just been blessed and I’m continually blessed.”

Powell’s music, his personal blog and more about the artist are all available at colepowell.net.

“It’s so funny — I’ve had more success after I stopped pursuing it, and that’s confirmation from God that I’m doing what I need to do,” Powell said. “And I’m having more fun. It’s fun again.”