“I truly believe persistence wins … and I feel like this album will get me over the hump,” the country singer-songwriter tells PEOPLE

Life has long been a waiting game for JD Shelburne.

At 38 years old, the proud Kentucky native with the country music pedigree has long played small gigs for measly audiences and miniscule tips. But last year, when he finally reached a place in his career where he had established the fanbase and the momentum to release his debut album, and when he finally received the news that his wife was expecting the baby they had long prayed for after dealing with infertility, the pandemic took hold. Tour dates were canceled, and album prep was scratched and Shelburne – along with the rest of the world – found himself without any sort of game plan.

But then, he started looking at his life in a whole new way.

“I started thinking that maybe this was God telling me to take a break,” Shelburne tells PEOPLE in a new interview. “Maybe God was giving me the time to be with my wife during her pregnancy and hang out with my family and truly enjoy our new son. I really just had to step back and let Him take the reins.”

And so, he did. After playing shows 200 times a year for four hours a night, Shelburne rested his voice and rested his ears and let his brain breathe for a little while. He and his wife Amy Jo also bought a house and welcomed their son Jax to the world in September. And in true Shelburne fashion, he found a way to turn the negative into the positive via a series of Facebook Lives and livestreams where he could play his music and introduce his fanbase to his growing family. And now, the wait to release his first full-length debut album Straight from Kentucky is over.

“I feel like it’s my time,” explains Shelburne, mere days before his hometown concert in Taylorsville, Kentucky this Saturday. “I’ve been in Nashville since 2008 and I really built my own ship from the beginning. I’ve been doing everything all by myself for over a decade. I think what I wanted was to make an album that could get me to the next level. And I really believe this one will.”

The pandemic allowed Shelburne to take what was originally going to be an EP of seven songs and expand it into an album with 11 songs that give an all-encompassing look into the heart and soul of the kid that grew up on a tobacco farm loving country music. The unexpected time off also gave Shelburne the time to discover the endearing song “Hometown in My Headlights,” exclusively premiering on PEOPLE.

“I just loved it from the moment I heard it,” Shelburne says of the irresistible song. “It felt like summer. I started listening to it on my walks around the neighborhood. And the more I listened to it, the more I fell in love with it.”

The music video for “Hometown in My Headlights” also ended up being filmed just 20 miles from his Tennessee home, in front of an out of nowhere diner that was once used in an old Kid Rock music video and a slick-looking car that looks awfully like the one Shelburne was given by his parents back in high school.

“We were actually setting up the scenes for the ‘Hometown in My Headlights’ video and some random guy drove by the diner and said we looked like we needed a cool car in the shoot,” Shelburne remembers. “We were like, what do you got? And he’s like, I got this Mustang and I was like, OK.”

It was just another crazy moment in the life of Shelburne and his quest to become the country music star he has always deserved to be.

“I’ve gotten so far,” he says. “I’m at this point where, it’s like, if I give up now, I will always regret it. I just feel like I’ve got the greatest fan base and at the end of the day, my fan base has really kept pushing me along all the way to now. They are what has kept me going all these years. It’s just every year, I’ve got a little bit farther.”

He grows quiet.

“There’s been so many times where I didn’t get a gig, or I didn’t get an interview, or I had the door slammed in my face. But I truly believe persistence wins … and I feel like this album will get me over the hump.”

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