Though the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, life rarely follows one path so directly. Nashville-based guitar maestro Phil Hughley knows this fact intimately; during his childhood in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Hughley saw Eric Clapton perform on television, and he fell in love with the guitar. It changed his life.

He spent his adolescence learning everything he could musically, studying guitar and learning how to bend it to his will. While music embedded itself in his soul, Hughley’s path lead him away from his true passion and to The United States Military Academy—until one fateful night while on patrol. Hughley had a vision—his fourteen-year-old self stood before him, and reminded him that music was his true calling. He left West Point to attend Cleveland State University in Ohio, and returned to the arts.

In 2007, Hughley moved to Nashville to pursue his dream and became a go-to session player and perennial sideman, in studios and on stages across the country with the likes of CeCe Winans, TajMo (the collaborative venture of Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal), and The McCrary Sisters, earning himself two Dove award nominations for writing and producing in the process.

Now, it’s time for Hughley to step away from the side and into the spotlight as Gtar Phil & The Chank with the release of his forthcoming EP, Harlem, a collection of blues-inspired, Americana-leaning gems—another deviation from the path. In spite of his rock and funk background, Hughley found himself veering into a new musical lane, under the encompassing umbrella of Americana music. And Americana music needs a voice like Phil Hughley’s.