Whenever Denton musician Joel Cross played shows around North Texas, he often received requests to play Taylor Swift's pop hit "Shake It Off." He's not sure why, but he eventually took fans' advice and it's now paying off.
A video of Cross performing the tune at the Dallas Arboretum over the weekend is making waves worldwide. A graduate of the University of North Texas' music school, Cross gave the tune his signature soul treatment, which the Huffington Post UK called "too beautiful for words." The video has also been picked up by TIME, MTV.com and Uproxx, garnering more than half a million views in the two days since it was uploaded to YouTube.
After his gig Saturday, Cross says he woke up to text messages from friends saying he was all over the Internet. When he saw the press, Cross says he was "shocked" and "dumbfounded." He's not used to getting this kind of attention.
"My biggest dream is to reach as broad an audience as I can in some way, shape or form," he says. "To feel a glimpse of that right now is nice and humbling to know how quickly things can change."
When Cross approaches a cover, he likes to add something to it, not simply re-create it. He's done so with other popular hits, such as Keb Mo's "Am I Wrong," but wasn't sure what he had to offer the Taylor Swift song.
Commenters on YouTube love it because of its stripped-down vibe. One went as far to say:
"The world would be a better place if musicians like him were dominating the charts."
(It's worth noting others were upset because the video is filmed vertically, to which Cross says, "C'mon people, there's way more important things in the world than how a video is captured.")
Cross' newfound fame seems to have come at the right moment -- he's releasing a self-titled EP in mid-October that will be available on iTunes. And because of the response to the video, he's also now considering recording a studio version of "Shake it Off." Cross isn't sure where the viral fame will lead, but he's not letting it get to his head.
"My main focus is making the music that I love, locally or if it becomes something bigger," he says.
"I just want to keep my heart where it's always been, and that's the music."