Interview: Tucker Beathard Is Grateful for the Rocky Road That Led to His Debut Album
"It sucks that this is the case, but the truth is that just being able to create music how [you] hear it and how you feel ... that is not as easy as you'd think in this business," says Tucker Beathard, cracking a dimpled grin beneath a low-slung baseball cap, a Sprite bottle and a can of dip sitting on the table in front of him.
The country singer signed to the now-defunct Dot Records, an imprint of Big Machine Label Group, at the age of 19, and started strong with the Top 10 single "Rock On." He was planning a full-length debut called Dear Someone in 2017 -- but that album never saw its release day, and Beathard cut ties with Big Machine, frustrated by the lack of creative control that he felt he had over the music he was making.
"It's a lot of different people that are trying to do this or that, pushing and pulling," Beathard explains. "So having the freedom to just go out there and not worry about anything except having fun and making music like you should, it's harder to come by than you'd think."
"Just being able to create music how you hear it and how you feel ... that is not as easy as you'd think in this business."
During the prolonged period when Beathard was extricating himself from his Big Machine contract -- or, as the singer puts it, stuck in "Lawyer-land" -- he wasn't able to release new music. At times, he wasn't convinced that the day when he'd be able to put out a song on his own terms would ever come.
But, it did. After finally, officially separating from the label, Beathard began experimenting in a homemade studio with producer Ryan Tyndall and engineer Jordan Rigby. Over the course of six months, what began as a no-pressure jam session turned into an outpouring of new music, resulting in Nobody's Everything, the first half of a double album studio debut.
It's difficult to listen to Nobody's Everything, which drops on Friday (Nov. 30), without thinking about the journey to its hard-won release. You can hear the chip on Beathard's shoulder in the music. His beaten-down frustrations take center stage in tracks such as "This Life," with weary, stripped-down vocals that Beathard waited to record until two in the morning, when his voice was tired.
"It was all about capturing [the song] in the most authentic way," the singer says about the decision to record his vocals when he knew they would be more strained, and to capture the few seconds of talking at the beginning of the track before he started to play the song. "We were like, 'Man, it needs to be that real.' I think being that, to some extent, vulnerable and raw is the way to go with certain songs, especially ones that have that kind of emotion."
After such a lengthy struggle to become independent, it would be understandable if Beathard wanted to keep his music away from collaborators for a little while, but the singer says he always knew it was simply going to be a matter of finding the right people. In addition to assembling a tracklist that includes songs from Michael Hardy, David Lee Murphy and Beathard's father, songwriter Casey Beathard, the singer connected nearly instantaneously with Tyndall and Rigby when the trio started working together.
"After I got freed from my previous deal, [Tyndall] was like, 'Let's go down to the studio and mess around, record a few songs,'" Beathard relates. "I had a good feeling about it, and I think he did too, but we didn't know what was gonna come out of it. But after that first week of recording, getting done with three or four songs, we were all like, 'Well, there's something special here.' It was so much fun, and it just felt right."
Despite its negative aspects, Beathard's circuitous road to releasing his album taught him valuable lessons about when to listen to others and when to be a leader. "I'm always of the mindset that you're the artist. Every write that you go into, you should be the captain of that ship," he says. However, equally important for Beathard was recognizing when someone else had a skill set that could complement his own.
"I do know there are certain elements that I don't bring to the table. With [Tyndell], for example, he compensates for certain things that I'm not super skilled in, and goes in directions I wouldn't naturally go in," Beathard continues. "That's what made working with him a really great match."
Once the songs started coming, they didn't stop. Eventually, the singer found himself with nearly 20 tracks ready to put out into the world. "We got to 18 songs, and I was like, 'Man, we can record more, but what else do we need to say?'" Beathard recalls. While he couldn't wait for fans to hear the new music, he knew that he needed to pace himself.
"And before getting ahead of ourselves and getting excited, wanting to put them all out right now, it was like, 'Let's be patient and have some strategy behind it.' Because it's a lot of information," he adds. As a result, Beathard decided to share his new music as a double album, released in two parts -- the first double album ever to be released by a country artist as a debut.
While Beathard grappled with frustration and darkness during the process of making Nobody's Everything, the singer says the project's release marks the beginning of a more hopeful chapter in his career. "If anything, I'm finally seeing the reasoning behind everything that I went through," he explains. "Making this album showed me that 'Wow, thank God it didn't work out in the past, because this is the debut album I needed to come out with anyway.' So now I'm just at the point of being super excited about everything, and seeing the positives behind it all."
After all of his career's false starts and creative differences, Beathard relates, this project is one put out truly on his own terms. "Because with this one, there was no restrictions. [We were] just literally having fun and experimenting. And just making music that I really felt was right," Beathard says.