Joel Cross grew up in Cleburne, Texas singing gospel songs with his seven siblings. At the age of twelve, he fell in love with the guitar. He was self-taught, finding inspiration in gospel, soul, classical and r&b. In 2003, he began to study jazz at the University of Houston. There, he learned the traditions of improvisation and bebop. His influences were Grant Green, George Benson, Wes Montgomery, and Joe Pass. In 2006, he transferred to the University of North Texas in Denton where he finished his performance degree in Jazz Studies. Though his formal education was focused on guitar, Joel was always inspired by creating new music and telling stories that brought the listener in. His heartfelt approach showcased his ability to make each piece his own.
One afternoon, while playing a show in Dallas, Joel Cross decided to appease the crowd’s unconventional request for a song by Taylor Swift. A fan happened to catch his very soulful rendition of “Shake it Off” on video and uploaded it to YouTube. By the next morning, it had over half a million views and Joel’s face was on every major news source in Dallas. The viral video quickly catapulted his career as he captured the attention of fans across the globe, including Ellen DeGeneres, America’s Got Talent, Capitol Records, Time, and MTV. Four-time Grammy award-winning artist, India Arie, was also intrigued by Joel when she heard one of his original songs, “Candlelight,” and invited him to collaborate with her. In 2017 that album, Songversation: Medicine was nominated for a Grammy, Best New Age Album. Joel collaborated with India again in 2019 for her album Worthy, co-writing and playing guitar on several songs. Joel currently divides his time touring with India and working on his next project. It is scheduled for release in 2020.