At the age of 12, Johnathan Robinson picked up one of his brother’s guitars.

The Shelby Middle School student worked to learn a chord or two.

Now — with the stage name of Pistol Hill — he travels the country performing around 250 shows a year in venues the size of Dragonfly Wine Market to stages like the Don Gibson Theater.

He credits his Shelby roots in helping to navigate a career in music.

“It was an easy scene to grow up in,” Hill said.

Many musicians started their music careers imitating their favorite bands, Hill, on the other hand, began writing his kind of music.

“I was trying to learn songs from Matchbox 20. I was into the punk-rock music at the time, and I just could not get the chords,” Hill said remembering his rocky start. “I decided to write my own (songs). I wrote 200 or 300, and they were all absolutely terrible.”

Hill said as he started to grow, so did his music. He started playing at local music spots in Shelby, including the Don Gibson.

There were ups and downs with people early on. Older musicians gave him some grief about making something more of his music than just a side gig in town. His father hoped Hill would follow in his footsteps as an entrepreneur.

“We grew up poor, but I watched my dad build a business slowly into something,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why couldn’t I do it with my music?’”

After graduating from Shelby High School in 2012, Hill decided to take a break to head to Appalachian State to study business, just like his dad wanted. It didn’t last long.

A year and a half in, he was depressed and unsure where to go or what to do. It was at that time he found God and just a few months later country music. He had found his calling and moved forward with writing music and finally learning a cover of two.

It was also when the name Pistol Hill was born.

“I feel the name Pistol Hill is the name that was given me when I found my purpose,” he said.

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