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Struggle Jennings | Nashville | Faith & Hard Work

Artist | Songwriter

I grew up in a single parent home; my mother and father split when I was 4, and my father was later killed when I was 10. My mom was 16 when she had me, so we kind of grew up together learning life as we went. She was the daughter of country music star Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, and was also an aspiring singer herself. She didn’t want any handouts from my grandparents, and wanted to prove she could do it on her own. When I was 11, shortly after my father was killed, we moved into low income apartments on the other side of town. Growing up I would spend the weekends at my dad’s side of the family on the west side of Nashville, and sometimes at my grandfather Waylon’s house playing with my Uncle Shooter, who is only a year older than me. I guess you could say that I kind of ‘straddled the tracks.’ I saw what was possible with the mansion, the Cadillac and Jaguar in the driveway, but going home to a neighborhood of poverty where the only ones with Cadillacs were drug dealers. I quickly gravitated toward a life of crime in and out of juvenile detention until my dad’s brother got custody of me at 16. I dropped out of high school to go to work because I missed too many days of high school selling drugs for them to pass me. I started having kids at 19, and throughout my 20’s I spent most of my time dealing drugs and in and out of jail.

By the time I was 30 I had landed a long term prison sentence, leaving behind a wife and 5 kids. I immediately decided that it wasn’t the legacy I wanted to leave my kids, so while I was in prison I completely turned my life around. I got in the best shape of my life, physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I came out with a mission and purpose to inspire others that regardless of what they’ve been through, they can overcome and turn it around. By the time I got home from prison my kids were in foster care and my wife was in the streets strung out on heroin. She later passed from an overdose as I fought to regain custody and rebuild a life of stability for my children. I had been making music before I went to prison and released an album while incarcerated. I came home to nothing except for a dream and the determination to prove to myself and to my children that our story was just beginning. 6 years later I have custody of all my kids, remarried with two incredible stepchildren whose father passed from an overdose. Since coming home from prison I’ve built a career and life to be proud of. I bought my children the biggest house they’ve ever stepped foot in, started a record label, got a gold record and a couple #1 Billboards, and I spend every day of my life trying to shine light on those in the dark.

What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?

When I was raised, I was taught a set of irrational beliefs. A lot of my family came from poverty and had their own perspective, morals and sets of codes, so most of my life I lived by those codes. Things such as feed your family by any means, and it’s okay to do wrong if your intentions were right. Some of those beliefs that I was taught led me to continue the cycle of family members before me and continue in a life of crime. Having to overcome that and strip myself down completely, and re-learn what life was really about, was a hurdle I had to jump. Letting go of the things that kept me in trouble while holding on to the things that keep me safe wasn’t an easy obstacle, but if I sat in that prison cell watching my children and my life outside the walls completely crumble, I realized the only thing I had control of was who I returned to society being, and what I would do to fix it.

Advice to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?

All it really takes to be successful is faith and hard work. If you believe in yourself, there’s absolutely nothing you can’t achieve. It might not happen as fast as you want it to, but the things that really last never come fast. Every time a door shuts in your face just know that it wasn’t your path. Keep kicking down the next door until you find your way.

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