ALBUM REVIEW: Tucker Beathard – ‘Nobody’s Everything’

It’s been a rough couple of years for Tucker Beathard but, as it says in the official biography that comes with the release of this album, which is part 1 of a double, like anything subjected to pressure – you either become a diamond or dust.

Back in 2016, armed with a record deal via Dot Records / Big Machine, Beathard released an EP containing songs that had begun to make a dent on the Country charts but then it all went south. The son of songwriting legend Casey Beathard (Eric Church, Kenny Chesney & George Strait amongst others) and brother to NFL quarterback C.J. soon found himself at odds with his record label. “I was getting pushed and pulled,” He told Rolling Stone magazine, “in a different direction to where I wasn’t 100% true to what I wanted my album to sound like.” Eventually, after a year of lawyers and wrangling, he left his contract meaning ‘Nobody’s Everything’ is an independent release, although Beathard is not currently sure whether that will be the case next year when part 2 of the album comes out, as he has had record deal offers in the meantime. Beathard summed up how he felt to Billboard magazine when he declared, “I figured anywhere else is better than the wrong place!”

So, freshly independent, he set about utilising that freedom by recording with different musicians as regular players and band members begun to drop away when the times got tough. He also recorded a ton of the vocals for ‘Nobody’s Everything’ in the small, wee hours of the night, attempting to find a rawer, grittier edge to his sound. It paid off. Beathard has writing credits on all 9 of the songs on offer here and there is a definite experimenting with his sound in evidence as he lurches from southern sounding rock to almost Radiohead-esque guitar driven pop music. His image is ambiguous enough to appeal to a wider fan base than he would have been able to reach through Big Machine but the elephant in the room is that Beathard has to be careful that he doesn’t fall between the cracks – there is little on ‘Nobody’s Everything’ that caters for serious fans of Country music and yet he might not be rock enough for that genre either! There’s a youthful exuberance to his music and a raw, edgey hunger that pervades through the songs that is infectious and hard not to like but I worry that not enough people operate beyond the boundaries of genre perceptions in their musical tastes! Beathard is hard to define, hard to pigeonhole and henceforth difficult to market to a wider public – this is definitely music for open minded people!

Opening track, ‘Ride On’ is probably the song most routed in Country/Americana sensibilities. There’s a real Will Hoge-esque feel to the guitars on this track and the ‘F**K You’ mentality and open-road freedom will appeal to the type of confederate mentality of the fans who don’t like to be told what to do. ‘Leave Me Alone’ has a similar vibe and outlook. Throw in a little ‘Radiohead-around-the-edges’ programming into the Will Hoge mix and you’ll be somewhere in the ballpark of the sound here. ‘Leave Me Alone’ was born out of the conflict with Big Machine and whilst the song was written about a girl, it’s not, really. Beathard explains all. “The song is portrayed through the story of a girl but that’s just how I wrote it to be able to relate to people. It’s not so much a song about a girl or a relationship, it’s about seeing people you thought cared about you walking away.”

That type of frustration and anger is also in evidence on ‘Somethin’ to Say’ and ‘Fight Like Hell’. The former is dripping in punk attitude, driven forward by a sparky guitar riff and pop/rock vocals whilst the latter has more of Soundgarden about it than Sugarland, with its grungy feel and edgier vocal delivery. Youthful angst, thoughtful lyrics and cutting edge programming mean both sounds loom large over most of the tracks on ‘Nobody’s Everything’ with their spirited defiance and middle-finger attitude.

The two best tracks on part 1 of this double album finish it off in some style. ‘This Life’ sees Beathard in ‘self-reflection’ mode. Raw, honest and vulnerable on a song about his experiences in the music industry to date. Beathard, himself, explains it best. “I jumped into the business at 19 years old and was definitely more susceptible to getting carried away with the whole sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll thing. This song sees me ashamed of that and recognizing it.” The song has sparse instrumentation but the power of Beathard’s vocals and the intimate nature of the lyrics are enough to pull you in completely, which is a credit to both his song writing ability and the power of his performance. The same could be said of album closer, ‘How Gone Will I Go’, which is easily the best song on offer on ‘Nobody’s Everything’. A restrained, sparse start soon gives way to anthemic guitars and vocals as the song continues to build throughout. Again, an edgier sound to Beathard’s voice brings comparisons to bands like Soundgarden and Creed to mind once more and by the time the song finishes we have sat through a full-on rock tantrum, with Beathard screaming the refrain, ‘Tell me I ain’t that gone,’ over wailing guitars and crashing drums as the song reaches its crescendo. It’s powerful stuff, emotive, honest and expertly delivered, I’m just not sure how many people out there are open minded enough to buy into it?

And here we are back at the elephant in the room again. Beathard has delivered a powerful album in ‘Nobody’s Everything’. It’s dripping in the angst of youth, it’s messages are authentic and its manifesto is believable. You know damn well that he has poured his heart and soul into the making of it and it’s a way better album than what he would have delivered via Big Machine – but the hard work for him starts now. Without the network that a record label would have provided, the connections to radio & the media and the weight of an advertising and tour support budget behind him I worry that what makes this album unique, it’s undefinable spirit, it’s refusal to belong to any one genre and it’s USP that it isn’t just another white, twenty-something, male, Country singer, might mean Beathard struggles to break out of the box that prevents truly talented independent artists from really achieving the success they deserve. 2019 will be a huge year for him, out on the road, reaching as many people as he can in the best way: in pubs, clubs, bars and theatres as he takes his truth and the power of these songs out to the people, building something from the ground up the hard way. Who knows? That pressure might well shape him into even more of a diamond than we have seen so far if he is willing to embrace it.

James Daykin
@rockjames