Interview: Tucker Beathard Explains How He’s Still Smiling After 5 Years of Battles
If Tucker Beathard's last five years could be boiled down to a single quote, it'd probably be this one: "You're only as strong as your last test."
Radio success and radio failure ("Rock On" and "Momma and Jesus," respectively), an almost-released album followed by an acrimonious split from Big Machine Records, a surprise baby girl on the West Coast and the death of his little brother Clay, for whom his new album King is named (Clayton King Beathard) — in the end, his faith was tested and strengthened under fire.
“I’ve always been scared having to deal with something that tough because I knew I wouldn’t be strong enough and I definitely wasn’t wrong," Beathard tells Taste of Country during a Zoom conversation, referring to 22-year-old Clay's death after an altercation at a bar in Nashville. "But I did underestimate that power and it was something I was experiencing first-hand during that time."
"I Ain't Without You" sums this up in a way only two professional songwriters can.
“I just realized how strong I am, only with the power of Jesus Christ," Beathard says, speaking of a song he brought to his father, songwriter Casey Beathard (Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Rascal Flatts), knowing only he would get it.
"You're the sun on my face / You're a cool breeze blowing / You're a second wind, whisperin' / Keep on goin' / You're a tug on my heart, the laugh of my head / You're feeling and knowing / I ain't without you," he sings to open the acoustic album closer.
“To some extent, it felt good to write that song, to kind of let out that internal stuff," the 25-year-old says. "At the same time, I know for me I was pretty emotionally drained to where it was kind of tough, and it still is kind of tough to write much … just because I don’t have much emotional gas in my tank.”
Not much gas was needed, however. The vulnerable and rangy "Can't Stay Here" is the only other truly new song on King, the second of two albums (along with Nobody's Everything) he wrote and mostly recorded with plans to release a double album in late 2018 and early 2019. He signed with Warner Music Nashville and then life got in the way of those plans, but the meat of the album is — as promised — a more uplifting, uptempo collection of angsty songs.
Fans will recognize and enjoy the latest versions of unreleased staples such as "20/10 TN" and "Better Than Me," as well as "Faithful," a song he recently recorded a studio video for with Lindsay Ell. They're him, but not necessarily representative of who he is in August of 2020.
“I’ve never been broken down that much where it’s like, ‘Dude, I can’t do it,'" he shares. "This is way too much emotionally. I’m way too broken to not have that help.”
A year off the road has been good for the soul. There are plenty of reasons to be mad about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but Beathard appreciates having time at home to fish, ride dirt bikes and heal. He's smiling a bit more now, especially as he talks about his 2-year-old daughter Sage, a little girl he just revealed to fans in July.
“I didn’t have to learn how to care about my daughter or anything like that," he says, thinking back on the day she was born. "I definitely … man, I was young and … I was scared.”
Beathard "manned up" and he's been crisscrossing the country as much as possible since July of 2018, and doing what he can via video conference channels to stay in the little girl's life. He's dating someone new now, and has been for nearly as long; they're doing well, but in no hurry. Beathard, playing a bad boy role he's well-suited for, smiles when asked if anyone is pressing him to propose marriage.
"Especially with the craziness that's in my life right now, I'm definitely trying to, uh, sort out some other things before I feel like I can handle that step," he says.
If anyone has earned a hall pass, it's Beathard.
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