Arriving from a big night in Oklahoma which wrapped only a handful of hours before, Tanner Usrey’s van slides into Memphis, TN, one Saturday afternoon. Despite feeling a little withdrawn, he quickly summons his wits, puts on his hat and appears as a force unstoppable.
While the rest of the band loads in for their gig that night at Growlers in Memphis’ Midtown neighborhood - a building where Elvis used to train in karate - Usrey delves into details of his anticipated debut studio album. He talks of working at Modern Electric Sound Recorders in Dallas, TX, with producer Beau Bedford, where respected talents such as Orville Peck, Paul Cauthen and Sunny Sweeney have also cut.
Two strongly-embraced singles, ‘Pick Up Your Phone’ and ‘Take Me Home’ have already been released, the latter of which echoes Usrey’s current mindset on focusing on himself and worrying less about what others think: “And I don’t really care about what they say / You know people want to talk anyway.”
Growing up on 90s country giants like Garth and Alan Jackson, Usrey admits a current taste for British rock and roll à la Exile on Main St. and Faces, while noting the undeniable and early impression Red Dirt bands like Cross Canadian Ragweed and Wade Bowen left on him while growing up in Prosper, TX. He also shared on personal feats of late, like having his song ‘The Light’ featured in the fourth season finale of Yellowstone.
Over 10 years into life as a working musician, Tanner Ursey is intent on moving down the line toward greater self-understanding and less noise from the outside.
When and where did you get your start as a performer?
I’ve always sang since I was like five years old. I started playing gigs in 2013 after I graduated high school. It just snowballed from there… worked my ass off for 11 years, and now it’s this.
Who were some of your early influences?
I grew up on Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks, and then my brothers got me into the Red Dirt scene, like Cross Canadian Ragweed, Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers Band. Whiskey Myers, obviously, coming out through high school. Now, I’ve just been listening to a lot of old stuff like the Crowes and Stones. I’ve been on a big Faces kick lately.
Could you share your experience working with Beau Bedford and the Modern Electric crew in Dallas, TX?
Beau is a wizard! Working on this album with him has been crazy. He’s got such a great process. We align on how we want things to sound pretty well. He’s just one of the best. First of all, he’s got a lot of cool gear. He’s been able to bring out the sound I like, that I’ve always wanted, and make everything sound how I wanted it to.
What are some of his productions that strike a chord with you?
I like Paul Cauthen a lot. He’s done some Orville Peck stuff, and Orville Peck is great.
What’s the tone of the new album?
It’s got a little bit for everybody. Stones, like Exile on Main St. Some Black Crowes and Faces.
Is there a song that stands out for how it came to you? Maybe in an unusual way?
Probably ‘Take Me Home’. I was sitting in the green room one day in Ft. Worth, and it kind of fell out. It wasn’t that different, but it was definitely unexpected.
What kind of guitars are you into right now?
I’ve got my Gibson SJ-200 that I got a couple of months ago. I think it’s a 2020 pre-war re-issue. I’ve got a ’65 Airline Rocket running with a ‘65 Fender Vibe Deluxe amp.
What are one or two of your favorite songs to play live right now, and why do you think that is?
‘Take Me Home’ has been really hittin’ live, and then one of the new ones, which I think will be our next single, ‘Give It Some Time’. By the end of the song, everybody’s singing along already.
Could you share on the inspiration behind your song ‘The Light’ and what it’s been like to have it featured on Yellowstone?
I was going through a dark time, and I was like, you know what, this is what it is. So it just touched on that. And the Yellowstone thing was crazy cause I wasn’t expecting it, and I got an email one night at like 10 o’clock. I’ve watched that show since the beginning.
Are there any causes or organizations you feel people should be aware of or supporting?
Addiction is a big thing for me—also, Glioblastoma, brain cancer. I lost a friend to that a couple of years ago. Find an organization and donate to it. Glioblastoma – there’s not much attention being drawn to it – it’s kind of rare.
Fresh off the road, what’s an important life lesson you’ve recently learned?
Put your blinders up. Don’t worry about anyone else. Worry about yourself. And also, whenever you’re home, be home and not on the road, if that makes sense.
Do you have any music-related advice for young people starting out, now that you’ve been doing this awhile, have some dirt under your fingers?
If you’re starting out, get in a van or a truck, whatever vehicle you can, and go pound the pavement. I know that in the era of TikTok, the viral era, that’s not what people want to do, but it’s what you have to do.