Is there any better place to have a personal and professional breakthrough than at a pool hall in Billings, Montana? Jonah Prill thinks not.
“I was out with the guys last weekend and telling them about all that was happening with me and this country music thing,” a somewhat shocked sounding Prill tells American Songwriter. “And they basically told me that if I don’t take this opportunity and give it everything I got, they were going to personally kick my a**.’”
Prill lets out a hearty laugh, but his friends may be right. An Instagram and TikTok phenom with a social media following nearing one million, it wasn’t too long ago that the Montana native assumed he would grow up to become an x-ray technician. At least, that’s what he told his mom.
But then, country music came a-calling.
“This is all very intimidating to me, and I’m kind of nervous,” admits the singer/songwriter of the future he’s starting to see lay out furiously in front of him. “And I was telling my friends that. But they basically told me that I have to just go for it. In a way, they gave me permission to go for it. They convinced me that I should put off school and basically pass up the chance at a good, stable job…so I can go for it.”
And that’s exactly what Prill is going to do, kicking things off with the release of his second single, “You Remind Me,” a catchy up-tempo romp through the ghosts of heartbreak that he wrote alongside friends Ryan Hayes and Justin Olmstead.
“I just wanted to put out a song that would resonate with people and touch their hearts and emotions,” explains Prill, whose movie star looks and sense of humor paired with a hearty dose of talent makes him quite the triple threat in a year and an industry that basically anything goes. “It’s an upbeat and happy song, but still tells the story of heartbreak.”
And before one brushes this 23-year-old off as yet another country wanna be, one might be surprised of his country music pedigree.
“My grandfather, Dean Evans, was a country artist back in the fifties and sixties before he came to Montana to be a cowboy,” Prill remembers of the artist who had a minor hit with the song “Lottin Dottin.” “Only one recording made it on to digital streaming. The others were on vinyl records that we can’t seem to find at the moment. (Laughs.) But yeah, he helped develop my western side. I worked with him and the cattle growing up. There were all kinds of not so fun places I worked at on the ranch, usually with poop all over me.”
Well, alrighty then.
The self-proclaimed ‘geeky kid with the headphones’ who played the guitar and sang in the school choir back in high school, Prill says he grew up on bands such as U2 along with a variety of classic rock songs he would load onto his, then, cutting edge iPod. But once he started exploring the iTunes store, he found country music. And he never looked back.
Roughly four years ago, Prill started considering playing some shows around town. At the very same time, he began to cater to an ever-growing social media fanbase that seemed to be devouring his country upbringing and movie star looks. And once he added TikTok to his social portfolio, things began moving fast.
“This is a lot bigger than I could have already imagined, and I’m just getting to that door,” remarks Prill, whose musical influences now include everyone from Morgan Wallen to Jon Pardi to Cody Johnson. “I haven’t even opened that door yet.”
Granted, at this very moment, Prill is still in school to become an x-ray tech. He’s still taking classes in subjects such as anatomy and physiology while he is booking shows on his breaks between classes. And he’s still not sure what the heck he is doing or where he’s going.
“I love Montana,” he gushes. “I just love it. It’s a part of me. Moving to Nashville is not something I have to do, right?”
Of course not. Just keep doing you.
“That’s really how I got here, just by being myself and creating what I wanted,” he concludes. “I have all these visions and sounds that I want to get out of my head, and I get to do that on social media. And now, I am going to be able to do that with my music. I’m showing who I am and what I do and where I come from. And it seems to be working.”