Sometimes not getting what you want is a blessing. For country outlier Tucker Beathard, the souring of the record deal he was sure he needed, turned out to be the catalyst for NOBODY’S EVERYTHING, the first installment of a double album, and a work exponentially more compelling and focused than his shelved major-label debut.
“All the hurt I went through,” the multi-instrumental musical force muses. “I couldn’t catch a break, just getting your ass kicked by the industry every day, and the stuff you think that matters. Now I’m thankful it all got me to this point and gave me the confidence to do it my own way.”
Tucker Beathard figured it out the hard way, but like anything subjected to pressure, he knows you either become a diamond or dust. Though he jokes about a year spent in “Lawyer-land,” as he and his manager worked to extricate himself from his first recording contract, the 23-year old songwriter/road-rat threw himself into his music in a whole new way. Forging a leaner, realer sound, the kid raised on Radiohead, hip-hop and the songs his father Casey Beathard has written for superstars Eric Church, Kenny Chesney, and George Strait created a taut hybrid that was more street than studio, more grit and raw emotion than polished gloss.
Raised around some of Nashville’s seminal writers, the dirty blonde’s sense of wordplay, melody, movement and story is beyond his peers. Just as importantly, his desire to do it his way informs his music. “Something To Say,” “This Life,” “Leave Me Alone” and “Fight Like Hell” represent a generation coming of age and refusing to politely do what they’re told.
For the natural athlete who gave up a scholarship to pursue music, that means hitting the road hard; finding a producer who would spend days in the basement chasing songs, tweaking what’s been recorded and seeking a sound that felt more aligned with the firebrand’s own sense of what music should be.
“The walls got broken down for me to really own and express emotions more, the vulnerability and the intensity of what was happening,” he confesses. “There’s a whole crowd of people out there who are misunderstood, the outcast types, and they’re dealing with the same stuff emotionally.”
“I make music for my own sake, obviously, but why wouldn’t that music be for all the people who feel like I do? ‘Cause there are a lot of us out there, and when we got into the writing and recording, beyond me not selling out, how could I sell them out?”
It’s an odd sort of moral conscious Beathard employs. Not one to preach or tell anyone else how to live, he is willing to dig in, sacrifice and stand up for what he believes. If that meant retreating to someone’s home to record with a producer/friend and an engineer, seeking what they could squeeze out of the driving melodies without interference, so be it.
If that meant watching his band mates drop away when things got lean, okay.
Having been raised around the music business, Tucker had seen how flush the good times could be. Like everyone, who’d eschew that? But not at the cost of his music, or the loyal fans who kept coming even when his first full release failed to launch.
“It hurt,” he says of the band defections. “But it also opened me up to more players. There were a couple months, especially in the summer where I’d built up a rotation of people. Some were higher tier guys. We had a college guitar player, who was so hungry.
“I needed to see who believes enough to get in the van, drive out to these places and play some one-off gig. It brought me full circle and back to myself, but it also was God saying, ‘You have to go through this to understand…’
“This past year, I learned there’s a great group of loyal supportive fans across the country who stuck with me through all of it. I’m so proud of our fan-base throughout this all, because all they cared about was the music and being here with us. They knew so many of the songs, which says something since we didn’t have that much released music, but they cared enough to find the songs… and then sing them back to us.”
Sometimes it is the audience who keeps the writer honest. For Beathard, who’d taken a beating in the name of what his songs should be, the audience was the fuel to keep going. No matter what it took, he burned to make his songs the way he knew they should be.
Tucker Beathard continued being the voice for the outsider, the lost, the unrepentant and the kid nobody sees. Like Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and even Johnny Cash, he strives to capture the person beyond the fringe. One listen to NOBODY’S EVERYTHING, and it’s obvious where his heart lies.
“The title of the album, ‘Nobody’s Everything,’ came from the idea that maybe everybody’s nothing, but to someone they’re everything. It is the people that nobody sees: the people they overlook, they’re still everybody to some one person.”
“’Leave Me Alone” was a product of a lot of built up stress, hurt and frustration that I was overwhelmed with at the time. I just locked myself in my room, picked up my guitar and just tried to channel or release everything I was feeling. I started playing that riff and the first thing that came out was ‘just leave me alone.’ For me, it’s not so much a song about a girl or relationship, it’s about seeing people you thought cared about you walk out when you need them the most, and the emotions that come along with that.”
“’Something To Say’ is the newest song, and it pretty much sums up the punk attitude side of me that’s angsty, but also the fire. At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone. If there are people out there who are passionate and fired up, they’re the ones who understand, who need songs like this. They’re the ones who don’t talk about it, but keep their heads down, who walk and just do the work. They’re my people, and this is their music.”
At a time when the news keeps torqueing our cortisol buttons, it’s hard to know who or what to believe. Tucker Beathard understands. He realizes how worn thin we can get, and he understands what it’s like to feel broken. Nowhere on the album is that more apparent than the stark “This Life.”
“We wanted to make it feel as real and rough as it was,” he remembers. “We didn’t care what anybody thought. We were just three dudes making music on our own, and not thinking about anybody else. This was music for our sake, and the sake of the songs. We did what felt right, and what pulled the feelings out of the song.
“We waited ‘til 2 a.m. when I’m most in my head to capture that vocal. And we just cut a bunch of passes. We didn’t worry about getting all the notes right, it was about the feel. And you can feel every bit of what that song is in the recording.”
Sometimes it’s the trials that forge the truest art. Greatness isn’t for the easy, it’s for the brave and the ones willing to push past the obvious limits and keep going.
“Ryan and I were in the studio for months ‘til 3, 4 a.m. experimenting, making music. When no one is telling you what to do, you’d be amazed the places you go.”
For Beathard, the place where he found himself was a basement in a recording engineer’s house on the outskirts of town. He learned about artistic quests, seeking truth and building the kind of creative alliances that sustain the music instead of merely the commerce.
“It definitely wasn’t easy, but it makes sense now,” he says. “It was a long year, and it didn’t take long for my mind to start going crazy. It had taken so long [to release music], and I didn’t want to wait any longer. But I’m glad it did… because I look at what I’ve learned, what we’ve built, how the songs have grown.”
Just as importantly, Beathard has grown. As an artist, he’s not afraid to strip things back to the root. As a writer, he’s willing to press a song for maximum meaning. As a performer, the year spent in a van with a revolving cast of musicians, has made him fearless in whole new ways. But most importantly, as a human being, he’s found the core of his reason for living.
He marvels at how much more than a mere year in limbo it turned out to be. Laughing, he confesses, “It’s almost like several of the songs I wrote before I was fully emotionally there to 100% understand the real character of what I was singing. I wasn’t mature enough as an artist, or hadn’t been through enough to really understand. I was writing ahead of my emotions.
“Maybe I caught up with some of these songs. I wrote them, but now I feel like I really know them, know what they’re about.”