Sorry, Ryan Adams: This Texas Musician May Have the Best Taylor Swift Cover

A video of this singer and guitarist from Denton covering “Shake it Off” has racked up a half-million views in a week – and it’s not hard to see why.

By Leah ScarpelliOctober 8, 2015 9:30 am

Below is cell phone video shows Joel Cross, a singer and songwriter from Denton, covering Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” at the Dallas Botanical Gardens earlier this week. About 600,000 views later, Cross has become an overnight sensation.

Cross’ take on the Taylor Swift cover has sprung him suddenly into the limelight. He was featured in the Huffington Post UK for his acoustic performance. The cover is “Too Beautiful for Words,” the article’s headline says.

It’s a smooth and soulful take, some are even calling it “better than the original.”

Until now, you’ve probably never heard of the University of North Texas Music School graduate, but Time magazine, MTV, online newspapers in France and Brazil have.

Cross told the Standard he was surprised by all the attention. He didn’t know his performance was being recorded until after his show, when a young man approached him to ask if he could post the smartphone video online. “[I] woke up the next morning to an article in the Huffington Post, just kind of floored,” he says.

He grew up in a musical family – his dad wrote a lot of gospel music, Cross says. His seven brothers and sisters sang and played together from the time they could speak, Cross says. They would perform in nursing homes and in churches before school.

Cross says he has no clue how he’s going to build on this new hype about his music, but he has been working on an EP since the beginning of the year. He’s planning on releasing it in a week.

“Regardless of whether I ended up spending my whole life playing the local gigs that I’ve been playing, or if I go viral with Taylor Swift and other opportunities come a-knockin’, I already committed myself to music,” Cross says. “It’s just what I love to do. And I wanna live a life doing what I love.”

Hear more from Cross on his playlist.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.