CJ Solar's Southern rock style of country music is sure to get the attention of any traditionalists sitting in the Grand Ole Opry audience this weekend. In so many ways, the performance is a long time coming.

The Baton Rouge, La., native calls this Saturday's (Sept. 7) Opry debut a bucket list moment, one he didn't anticipate happening so quickly. Look for two songs from him, an unreleased track called "Watered Down Whiskey" and his new single, "Coming My Way" — a loud country-rocker that he wrote with "Rednecker" singer Hardy several years ago. The electric foot-stomper name-checks heroes like the Marshall Tucker Band between hot guitar licks and pulsing drum cadences.

“It’s funny, I had a lot of people (tell me), ‘Man this whole Southern rock thing is like dead. Nobody wants to hear that kind of stuff,'” Solar tells Taste of Country, smiling.

A song he co-wrote for Morgan Wallen helped change that. Solar and Hardy co-wrote "Up Down," a slightly softer, rock-inspired country song that grips Southern lingo like a cold beer.

“I wear this hat. I grew up playing Southern rock music. I love country music, and that’s my thing," he says. "So I feel like I’m playing country music that’s inspired by Southern rock."

Thank Solar's dad for schooling him on classic rock growing up. He went through a British phase and a hair metal phase, too, but it's those swampy lyrics that stuck with him.

“Me and my little brothers put together a band and we would just play Creedence Clearwater Revival and Lynyrd Skynyrd," he recalls, "and as I got into middle school I came up and we saw a show at the Grand Ole Opry.”

Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley played that night, and he was hooked. A slow focus on songwriting helped him learn that he didn't need to wait for others to write about what he was feeling. When he moved to Nashville, he wanted to be both an artist and songwriter but — like Hardy — success as a songwriter came first. Jerrod Niemann's "Blue Bandana" was his first record song and first single, which helped him get into better rooms and eventually get to write with artists like (Michael) Hardy.

"Coming My Way" announces that he intends to stay true to his roots. The track is louder than other songs of his found on Spotify, something Solar admits came from the success of "Up Down." The more compact production is great for radio and streaming and great for live shows, which is what he's focused on for the remainder of 2019. On Saturday he'll finally get a chance to learn if it's great for the Grand Ole Opry, as well.

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