Injuries closed the door on a pro football career. Instead, Don Louis found success in music

The East Texas country singer’s new single, “Long Time Comin,'” is out on streaming platforms today.

By Kristen CabreraApril 19, 2024 2:20 pm, ,

When one door closes, another opens – that we often look so hard at that closed door, it’s hard to see the one that’s just open for us. But for singer and songwriter Don Louis, you couldn’t say that.

Originally from Commerce, Texas, he thought sports was his calling growing up. In fact, he was on his way to a pro football camp when the effects of his injuries sank in. He knew he’d have to hang up his cleats and his gridiron dreams, but that wouldn’t be the end of his story.

Far from it. It was only just beginning.

Don Louis joined the Standard to talk about his journey from East Texas to becoming a successful musician. Listen to interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Congratulations on your success and continued growing success in music. Tell us a little bit about what life was like growing up in East Texas.

Oh, man. It was… Definitely make you a lot tougher if you come from where I come from.

I was born out there in Dallas, Texas. Ended up moving to a place called Cumby in between Cumby to Commerce area and grew up on a little 12 acre farm with my step-pop and my two brothers. Man, we ran a farm out there. It was not for the faint of heart and definitely made us stronger.

But everything you learn out there in the fields is what you take to real life. Nothing’s given to you. Hard work got to be happening every day, and we’ve been able to apply it to the music dream for myself.

It’s been amazing to see God come into my life and work with it and you never realize what’s happening in the beginning of your life that’s going to be making so much of a difference later on.

Well, obviously, if you play football, you learn a lot of lessons along the way. But did you have a love for the sport, or was it just something you found yourself in? 

I come from a football-predominant family. My cousins, the older ones, were just so good at it and I did have a love for it. I was very good. Not just on a sense of your friends, your high school friends: “Man, I would have made it, man, if I didn’t this didn’t happen and that didn’t happen.” I feel like we had something that really stood out and it made sense.

But it didn’t work out how we wanted it to and because of that, I ended up following my dreams and learning how to play the guitar stuff. And it’s just been an amazing process and journey for myself.

It didn’t sound like it would be a logical career progression – from a possible football icon to music. What made you decide “I should pick up this guitar”? Did you always love music, or was this something that just sort of grabbed you?

Oh, absolutely. I’ve loved music. I did not think that it was going to transfer. I didn’t think I was going to be singing songs or do anything like that, though, professionally.

My mom grew up when we would clean on Sundays, we would we go out I guess just hummin’ the hymns of certain songs or country radio would be on – you know, 99.5, The Wolf – and I just have always kind of had music in my ear.

And then later on in life, I just got to hearing what was getting celebrated on the radio station. And I told myself straight up, “I think I can replicate the success that these people are putting out or if not, do better.” And I’ve only been doing this for four and a half years now, and I’ve seen so much growth that it doesn’t just happen because you’re lucky. I mean, I used the same football discipline to make it make sense, you know?

You said this was only like for four and a half years ago, and now you’ve had millions of views of some of your songs. Tell us about “Neon You.” How’d that come about?

Can’t fathom it, seeing a million streams when you’re from a place that has literally like 2,000 people.

“Neon You” was given to me first coming in to learn how to write country, because I did R&B and hip-hop and didn’t know how to traditionally structure a country song. Well my boy who was my producer – he has passed, R.I.P to Chad Sellers – he gave me a few decisions for songs and my manager didn’t believe in the song at all and I told him “let me sing this song. I think this is how I want to start structuring my music more around.”

And when I started doing that, I immediately saw the success and it was crazy to see it just pop off. It was a beautiful song. I’m very happy that it was shown my way in any kind of way, because it could have been given to somebody else and never made the same light at all.

What’s it like diving into country? And I’m kind of curious why country music, especially given your background and the fact you were doing hip-hop, right? 

Yeah, I did the hip-hop/R&B thing. Not because, like, I wasn’t from the country. Like I said, we grew up on a farm, but the hip-hop game was the biggest trash heap at the time, in 2020, in my opinion.

But my rap music’s just not for the world enough and I wasn’t going to lower what I was talking about on my values and stuff anymore. I wanted to write the music that I wanted to. Country definitely gives an outlook on that. It’s subjective, and I was able to make the country music that I want to make now.

And it’s kind of swaggy. It’s still got the southern roots to it, but you could tell like, “oh man, this guy comes from the mud. He’s from the sticks.”

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Tell me about the song “East Texas.” Something about of an autobiographical term?

Yes. I was listening to the George Strait where he goes “all my exes live in Texas.” And I made mine before BigXThaPlug, and I wanted something that started off kind of like a Mexican kind of feel and it drops the bass. It just drops so hard the whole song takes over.

It’s my mom’s favorite rap song, and I just wanted to feel like, “hey, man, this is my monologue. I’m about to be a bad mother trucker. Get out of the way, here’s my raps.”

Speaking of moms, I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but Beyonce’s mom has kind of taken a shine to you.

I love that. I did love that. That was a beautiful thing to see the Knowles family over here. Lets me know that we’re right. We’re at the edge of music success almost. I’m excited to be one of the new artists and the face, hopefully in the future.

I know you got a song coming out, “A Long Time Comin’” that seems to capture the work that you’ve put in on this journey. Could you tell us more about it?

That’s exactly what it is right there. I felt like, you know, when they had all the action heroes back in the day – from Rocky Balboa and all those people – doing the work, and then they have the montage video going. Like I wanted my own songs that kind of shows a montage coming into my life like, “hey, man, I’ve been working.”

This isn’t just going to be this guy came in and he’s a success overnight. There’s no microwave success happening over here. This is because he wakes up every day and he puts the work in.

Every time I’ve ever had a job in my life, no matter how good I was at the job, unfortunately, I was always treated like the odd man out because I was a new guy coming in, but was a really hard worker. But apparently that hard work doesn’t also equal up to further promotion life. So I’m now for the promoter of my life and God has been helping me get to the next level, which I’ve been trying to reach.

A long time comin’. Where are you going, Don? What’s success going to mean to you?

I’m gonna give it all the way, man. I’m gonna prove that, as long as I can speak, I can make $1 billion again. I’m gonna make as much as I need to, and I’m gonna keep on helping the world.

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