Songwriter of "Better Than Me”, “Find Me Here”, “Prayin' For You”, and “I Ain’t Without You”.
There’s a quote by Maya Angelou that singer/songwriter Tucker Beathard has come to know deeply. “You may not control all the events that happen to you. But you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
The second half of an ambitious double-album debut, the Warner Nashville artist’s new LP, KING, has evolved into even more. Driven by personal growth and unthinkable tragedy, it rounds out the 20-plus song opus Beathard began with 2018’s Nobody’s Everything, and signals that a bold breakout talent has found his voice.
“By the time we started getting ready to release this project, so much had happened, it just felt like a whole different thing,” Beathard says. “And one of the biggest things was my little brother passing away at the end of December. That played such a big part in changing who I am. It grew me a lot.”
Titled KING for the middle name of Beathard’s brother, Clay, the project sees him continuing a journey started by chart-topping success with “Rock On,” his heavy hitting debut single. But now steering his own creative ship, he was free to turn into the emotional wind. KING soon captured a wider emotional range than even Beathard anticipated, and from us-against-the world romance to soul-crushing grief, each chapter was studded with a novelist’s flair for unexpected epiphany.
“Just the whole energy of everything felt different,” he says. “Mostly my character, and more than anything my faith. When something that big happens, you’re either gonna grow stronger or you’re gonna let it break you down.”
Beathard chose the former. Co-producing each of KING’s 13 tracks with Ryan Tyndell and Jordan Rigby, he returned to the basement studio where the trio created NOBODY’S EVERYTHING years before. In truth, most of the tracks were recorded at the same time that first project was – hence the “double album” distinction – but to reflect his forced growth spurt, Beathard scrapped or retouched older songs and added others written in the tragedy’s wake. It ended up becoming a musical mosaic of Beathard’s fire-tested spirit, each song a different tile in the bigger picture.
Always the artistic loner, he’d long been prone to hiding away and pouring his guts out on the page, and with KING that pattern intensified. In fact, Beathard co-wrote all his material and recorded all the vocals, drums and guitars himself, breaking an increasingly-tired mold for a project that cuts against the modern-country grain. Thrashing punk and thundering hard rock proudly form KING’s foundation, while atmospheric pop and introspective folk round out co-writes with Beathard’s hit making father, Casey, Jeff Hyde, Luke Dick and more.
“It’s just about music being raw and making it the way it’s supposed to be made,” he explains. “With a couple of friends who are dedicated and can contribute in a home-made studio, and just having fun. To be honest, I have no freaking clue what will or won’t work. I’m just focused on making music that I like and seeing what happens, and you can hear that on the album.”
“Better Than Me” set the stage in 2019, a high-octane anthem to ending up on a breakup’s losing side which showcased not just Beathard’s sawtoothed vocal, but also his vulnerable side. That chip on his shoulder is often a piece of his broken heart, it seemed to say.
The next offering from the record, “You Would Think,” doubled down as an open-to-interpretation plea for mercy, while “Miss You Now” turned the full body ache of loneliness into armor, and the grooving “Can’t Stay Here” marked an important step forward. The first song written after his brother died, it’s a playful send up to a relationship’s closing time and a much needed musical smile.
Others like “Too Drunk” tap into heavy metal humor, while “20-10 Tennessee” uses college football as a moody metaphor for romantic-miracles, and “One Up’er” finds Beathard putting a barstool blowhard in his place with swampy, bluesman swagger.
“Only,” meanwhile, shouts his love of an abstract sonic experiment, and “You On” shows the math. Proving his case as a country artist without parallel, it surfs the mellow waves of a dreamscape ocean before crashing on the banks of a radio-friendly hook, all about turning the world off and his lover on.
“It’s just a cool, vibey thing, and I wanted a truly sexy song,” Beathard says. “Personally, I think if you’re looking at an album, ‘cohesiveness’ means you’re saying something different with each song.”
Elsewhere, fans finally get a studio recording of Beathard’s early-career streaming hit, “Faithful.” Much loved as an acoustic ballad to taking chances on love, it’s now reborn as a stunning post-rock anthem with background vocals from acclaimed singer-songwriter, Sarah Buxton.
But it’s with the album’s final track that Beathard places the crown on KING’s head. Co-written with his father, “I Ain’t Without You” stands as a powerful message to his late brother – and in a broader sense, to all those struggling to cope through unprecedented trials.
“’I Ain’t Without You’ brought the whole album together,” Beathard says. “I never thought I would be strong enough to deal with something like [Clay’s death], and then I realized that I’m not – not without my faith in Jesus Christ. Not without ‘You.’ I knew my dad was the only one who could fully understand what I was saying, so it was a special moment for us to be able to write out such a significant chapter in that song. It’s one that had to be on this project. It just had to be.”
Looking back on the project, from its ambitious beginnings to what has ultimately become a humbling experience, this isn’t how Beathard expected things to go. But he’s proud he didn’t back down, and ultimately thinks he ended up right where he needs to be.
“For me music has always been a way to escape,” he says. “There’s a lot of things people are dealing with internally that they don’t have voices for right now, and I’ve learned that if I write from the heart, if I sing from experience, I can be that voice. Some people can’t pinpoint what they’re feeling, but they can hear a song and be like ‘Damn, that’s it,’ and I hope I can help them get there.”