Mic Check: Andrew Jannakos becoming a TikTok star with breakout country hit

Flowery Branch native Andrew Jannakos turned his exposure on "The Voice" into a hit country song, "Gone Too Soon." Courtesy of Matthew Berinato

Credit: Matthew Berinato

Credit: Matthew Berinato

Flowery Branch native Andrew Jannakos turned his exposure on "The Voice" into a hit country song, "Gone Too Soon." Courtesy of Matthew Berinato

Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our feature, Mic Check.

Andrew Jannakos would be the first to tell you about the influence of TikTok on his career.

The burgeoning country star landed at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs recently with his breakout hit, “Gone Too Soon.” But it was the power of the social media platform that catapulted the song into the mainstream with tens of millions of views of its video and more than 764,000 TikTok followers tracking his moves.

A native of Flowery Branch, Jannakos, his wife Kate and her young son, Brenson, moved to nearby Hoschton about a year ago. But his accelerating career in country music has prompted a move to Nashville, where he’s spent time every week writing on Music Row with established songwriters and retreating to an Airbnb.

The baby-faced 27-year-old (“It’s the Greek,” he joked), started playing guitar at 16 — the instrument a gift from his grandfather who had played in a bluegrass band — and in 2019, Jannakos garnered exposure from his time on Adam Levine’s team on “The Voice.”

Recently signed to Sony Music Nashville, Jannakos chatted during his waning days in Georgia about the potency of social media and his new music plans for the year.

Q: How did being on “The Voice” aid your career?

A: I think it gave me the confidence to pursue music. When I did my blind audition (on “The Voice”), it was the first time I performed on a stage, and it was totally new for me, and for me to pursue it the way I did, I was going out on a limb. When I came back to Georgia I said, I’m not going back to a 9-to-5 job. Let’s take this momentum. It definitely gave me exposure, but TikTok is what changed everything. I was writing some music with some guys in Georgia and posted a clip, and people responded to it. I wasn’t expecting it because “Gone Too Soon” was the first original song I put on TikTok. My wife talked me into it, of course, and I’m so grateful that we did.

Q: You mentioned that you wrote the song in January 2020, right before the pandemic hit. How did that disrupt your rollout plans?

A: It was like everyone else. I was an indie artist, and I had set up 28 shows in Texas, Georgia, St. Louis and other cities to get in some small bars. And they were canceled, and I was stuck in the same place every musician was here. And then here comes TikTok. My wife said, while we’re figuring out what to do while we can’t play shows, let’s really get on social media. And then it happened with TikTok, and Instagram, Spotify, Apple Music — it just blew up. Then we (officially) released the single, and I signed a record deal and am moving to Nashville. It’s so crazy to think this is happening in the time we are in.

Q: What’s the wildest thing that’s happened since getting traction in Nashville?

A: I got on a Zoom call with Brad Paisley (recently), and I didn’t know it was happening. He’s my idol — his music got me through so much in my life. And it’s so crazy to think I have this amazing fan base I’ve been able to gain and these people listening to my music, and I still haven’t been able to play live, which is killing me. But we have to keep everyone safe.

Q: You’ve got the record deal with Sony Nashville, so what does that mean for a full-length album?

A: I’ve definitely got some new music coming. Not sure if we’ll go straight to a new album, but it’s not up to me now. I’d like to do a single, another single and an EP. I’ve got some cool songs I’m excited about. I can’t wait to finally get it out to everybody, and hopefully, they connect to it like “Gone Too Soon.” But while fans waited for (that song), they blew up my EP that I released several months prior.

Andrew Jannakos is moving from his Georgia hometown to make music in Nashville. Courtesy of Matthew Berinato

Credit: Matthew Berinato

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Credit: Matthew Berinato

Q: You got married last year, and Kate seems to be a big part of your music life.

A: It goes so much deeper; she’s a huge part of my team. She comes with a lot of the TikTok ideas. She’s my number one supporter and has pushed me from the very beginning, even when I did want to give up.

Q: Who are some of your music inspirations?

A: There’s so many who make such good music, but Luke Combs and Luke Bryan, for sure. I’ve been listening to Luke Bryan for years, and Luke Combs comes out of (the South) and starts making these absolute hits. Sam Hunt, too — I love his music and Kane Brown. I love a lot of the older stuff, too, like Keith Whitley and Keith Urban and Randy Houser. Music touches me in so many different ways. Sometimes I listen to hip-hop and R&B, and then I go, how can I take that beat and make it country and make it kinda cool? Kane and Sam are two guys who are doing that in a cool way. Music changes the same way that little towns change. That’s what I love so much about music, honestly.