The day after his momentous performance with Morgan Wallen at London's O2 Arena, Larry Fleet sat down with Holler to peel back the layers of his 2023 album, Earned It, as well as touching on the process of penning ‘Man Made A Bar’ for Morgan and Eric Church, his admiration for HARDY's songwriting style and more.
Each Larry Fleet's three albums so far has been underpinned by a warm, energising sense of gratitude and optimism, with the Tennessee native repeatedly expressing his appreciation for the various detours that led him - among other places - to securing the opening slot on the biggest country show the UK has ever seen.
When digesting Larry Fleet's latest full-length project, Earned It, it's evident that he's only just getting started. The record is pervaded by the endearing humility that propelled his deeply personal 2021 ballad, ‘Where I Find God’, into a career-altering smash hit.
However, unlike some of Larry's contemporaries, this introspection is refreshingly tempered by a sense of levity and the unmistakable feeling that he's having fun.
Whether he's gently listing off the little moments that give his life meaning on ‘Things I Take For Granted’, or rattling through a delightfully dizzying array of puns on ‘There's A Waylon’, Larry Fleet keeps you emotionally engaged throughout.
“When I put a record together, I'm thinking about the live show”, Larry explains, “Not every song can be ‘Where I Find God’ and ‘Things I Take For Granted’...there are parts of your set for those powerful moments, but the rest, people are coming out to your show to dance and have a good time and forget about their problems for two hours”.
He underlines, “There's a positive message behind everything...There's so much negativity in the world…[but] I’m living proof that good things do happen. I should still be laying concrete. But here we are, I’m in [the UK]...I’ve been very blessed. That's my outlook, and what I've tried to put out there is positivity and hopefulness”.
One of those ‘good things’ is undoubtedly getting a song cut by the most popular artist in country music, Morgan Wallen, and an undisputed titan of the genre, Eric Church. ‘Man Made A Bar’, co-written by Larry Fleet with Rocky Block, Jordan Dozzi and Brett Tyler, was one of the keystones of Morgan's record-breaking 2023 opus, One Thing At A Time. It's now being given its chance to shine on Country Radio, with Morgan Wallen unveiling ‘Man Made A Bar’ as his new single - and with Morgan's track record, this essentially makes it a dead cert for No. 1.
The bearded crooner admits some songs are easier to relinquish than others, “I battle with it sometimes. Because some of them are so personal…like ‘Daddy Don't Drink’, that’s a true story, man, I wrote that about myself…[Whereas] ‘Man Made A Bar’ wasn't as personal to me, but I liked it and I knew it was good song...‘Heart On My Sleeve’, ‘Daddy Don’t Drink’ or even ‘Earned It’, those are my songs because that's me”.
Amidst a sea of evocative and personal songs, ‘Earned It’ stood out to Larry from the outset as a potential title-track for the new record. The uplifting anthem, which was co-written with his ‘Where I Find God’ collaborator, Connie Rae Harrington, pays tribute to Larry's roots, “Growing up, I wouldn’t say we were poor, because that would be an insult to my family, but we’d struggle from time to time. They had to work hard…they said, ‘Nobody's ever gonna give you anything. If you want something, you're gonna have to earn it’. So I learned skills, my dad taught me a lot…I've been very fortunate and lucky to make a good living for myself and do something else, but ‘Earned It’ was our way of life. A lot of people downplay working…but the people back home are very proud to work. So when you say, ‘Earned It’, they're like, ‘Yeah, I did...I paid for it with blood, sweat and tears’”.
He qualifies this, “‘Earned It’ wasn't about being braggy or arrogant…Even when I first I got my record deal, I still wasn’t making money for the first couple of years. If I didn't have an awesome wife with a great job, it probably wouldn't have worked out, I wouldn't have been able to afford to do it…My bass player, he sold birdseed for this, I laid concrete and my guitar player was a roofer. We would literally just play bars on weekends...[but] we had fun doing it, we love music. So I think we earned it…We've done all these other things in order to do what we want to do and love”.
Larry Fleet gearing up for another successful year, with the soulful songsmith currently readying the sweet, rose-tinted ‘Things I Take For Granted’ for a focal role in 2024, as well as joining up with Parker McCollum for his Burn It Down tour.
And as he continues his ascent into the genre's upper echelons, few that have had the good fortune of crossing paths with Larry Fleet would question that he has, indeed, earned it.
In addition, Larry Fleet delved into the creation of ’Things I Take For Granted’, plans to return across The Pond in 2024, his respect for HARDY's songwriting and more:
“I was in Arkansas or Kansas...We were out playing a bunch of shows, and so I brought my bus with me. I have my songwriter friends on it...We were standing out in the parking lot, and we were just talking about being gone from home and I said, ‘It's the little things [I miss] like stuff that [my boy will] say…and so we were just talking about all the different things we were missing. It's the little things like…catching three green lights in a row, and I was like, ‘Man, they’re the things we take for granted’ and then I was like, ‘Well, that sounds like a good title’.
So we went in and we wrote that, and it was just about the simple things in life that we take for granted. It ain’t like scratching off a lottery ticket and winning a million dollars…it’s the little things that pass by every day, until one day, you wake up and your baby is already four years old. Little things slip by before you even know it if you don't pay attention to it. So this was about paying attention to the little things”.
“We're looking at next August, there's a festival going on. Then when we come over for that, we can do six or eight [solo] shows to go with it. I’ll probably bring my family with me next time too…I’ll probably do what I did [at Morgan Wallen’s O2 show]...I just brought over a couple of guys and we did the acoustic set, which allows me to tell stories and it also allows you to see what we can actually do.
There's no tracks, there's nothing, it's just bare bones, some boys playing guitars and singing. I'm looking forward to it, I really want to invest over here…I really enjoyed it [at the O2], and people were so respectful. They listened, and they genuinely latched on to what I was trying to say, and that was a breath of fresh air”.
“One of the new ones has been 25/8. When I play [the intro] everybody screams, they wait for it…Also, ‘Beer Needs A Beer’. It's not a great streaming song, but it's fun to play. The same thing with ‘Taking The Long Way’, it’s high energy, it feels good. But the biggest ones that I've noticed go over well…are the heartfelt [songs].
Of course, ‘Where I Find God’ is going to be big every night, wherever you go. People are going to know that song…‘A Life Worth Living’ is one of my favourite songs I've ever written. It's just simple, and I think that's really the key for me, writing simple songs…The more you try to make it fancy or whatever, you lose people. People just want something simple, where you say what you’ve got to say”.
“The first project we had was Workin’ Hard, it was eight songs. It was my introduction, and so I wanted to make it very acoustic…Then, on Stack Of Records, we leaned into more commercial country music…I want to reach the most people I can reach. I wrote every single song on Stack of Records, and I built it like a stack of records…I wrote every one of them, and not strictly just out of me thinking I'm the greatest songwriter. No, at the time, I was not that well known, so I didn't get good songs sent to me! INow, fast forward to Earned It, I had a pile of songs [I'd written], but...you have the greatest songwriters in the world living in Nashville and pitching you songs. Finally, I now have great songwriters that like me and like what I'm doing, and they know that I'm gonna cut a good song.
You want to keep evolving. You want to stay true to your sound that people love and why they like it…[but] you have to keep changing your style a little bit and keep tweaking. Morgan Wallen has done the same thing. He has found his area, and he keeps evolving in that. And that's why people love him. That's why he sells out the O2, he doesn’t sound like anybody else - everybody else wants to sound like him!”
“‘Lucky Dog’ is by HARDY, he wrote that and he sent it to me, and I was like, ‘This is awesome’. I never would have written that song. But it was cool. I love that...”
As of right now, I'm not [involved in HIXTAPE Vol. 3]. I don't know what will happen. With ‘In Love With My Problems’ [on HIXTAPE Vol. 2], it was kind of last minute. HARDY was like, ‘Have you got anything?’ and I was like, ‘Well, I wrote this one’...Then I went and recorded it with Jon Pardi. But it wasn't this big rollout plan. He just called me up. So I haven't got the call yet! I hope to do another, that was fun”.
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