Shortly after finishing in the Top 14 on Season 16 of American Idol, 18-year-old Garrett Jacobs packed his suitcase and made the 639-mile road trip from Bossier City, Louisiana to Nashville, Tennessee in hopes of making his music dreams come true. He moved into a high rise located in the nightclub hub of Midtown, where he could look down onto the honkytonks and feel their energy of life just beneath him.
And then he would turn around and get back to work.
"I knew I couldn't get in those bars," Jacobs says with a laugh in a recent interview with PEOPLE. "But now I can."
Indeed, the kid we watched judge Luke Bryan call 'beautiful' and a 'badass' in his American Idol days has now grown up to be a 21-year-old man finding quite the fulfilling life as a songwriter and aspiring artist in Nashville. But for his new single "Into the Bar," he harkens back to those days of his youth when, heck, the guy couldn't get into the bars.
"I had a writing session with Jordan Walker last January, and it was a Friday, and afterward, he and one of my other friends were talking about going to grab a drink, and I was like, 'Umm, I can't get into the bar," remembers Jacobs of the premise of the song that premieres exclusively today on PEOPLE. "Walker immediately asked me, 'Could you write that song?' We scheduled a write on Monday with Jacob Davis and "Into the Bar" was born."
Touching on the sweet yet cruel reality of youth, the song effortlessly goes down a few different lyrical lanes simultaneously, with the first one being the sting of heartbreak.
"There is a girl that doesn't know this song is about her," Jacobs says coyly, going on to admit that his current relationship status is, at the moment, single. "But it is about her. I'm definitely pulling from something real."
Then there is the parallel to the current state of the world, whereas many, no matter how old, have kept their bar time at a minimum due to the ongoing pandemic.
"I remember being a teenager and not being able to get into the bars, but at least we could go out and hang out with people and get something to eat," Jacobs remembers. "I mean, it's a time of your life that is supposed to be all about going out and having fun, and this whole pandemic has certainly put a damper on that. This whole socially distance thing is just so crazy. I guess it's just the time we live in right now."
Indeed, this feeling that a whole generation is losing out on one of the most memorable times of their lives is something not far from Jacobs' mind.
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"I think we have all had to grow up faster, no matter how old you are," Jacobs admits. "With everyone stuck inside, you have a lot of time to just look at yourself in the mirror. It makes you really focus and really zone in on yourself and who you want to turn out to be."
And pandemic or no pandemic, Jacobs has been doing just that as of late, as he continues to evolve from that lanky kid fans first met when he appeared on American Idol back in 2018.
"I was on American Idol during my spring semester of my senior year of high school, and it was eye opening for sure," says Jacobs, who has now shared the stage with artists such as Riley Green and Jon Langston. "Music has always been my dream. I've been singing since I could talk but making it as an artist always felt impossible. Even a couple months after Idol, I went into an all-out panic about it all. But then God started opening some doors and things started falling into place. It's takes a lot of grind and hard work and never stopping when other people do, but it's all worth it."
It's something that Bryan taught him a long time ago.
"I ended up running into [Luke] about a year ago at a DICK's Sporting Goods store," laughs Jacobs of his impromptu meeting with Bryan. "His son needed new football cleats and they were late for practice. He was saying that I should come out and fish on his land — I'm still waiting for that call because I would love to catch some big ole bass."
But until then, he will continue writing and singing … and growing up.
"I wake up every single morning thinking about what I am going to write today," he says. "I still can't believe I get to put my heart on paper and do it for a living."
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