Within a year of winning Season 19 of American Idol as the first contestant to be crowned with an original song, “23,” and following the success of his debut single, a duet with Lindsay Ell, “Can’t Do Without Me,” Chayce Beckham has released his debut EP Doin’ It Right.
Produced by Ross Copperman (Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, Keith Urban), along with co-production by Lindsay Rimes on the title track, Beckham co-wrote four out of the six tracks on the EP, offering a more uplifting look on the days ahead. From the opening “Where The River Goes,” about disconnecting and resetting to go where the world can’t find you, the song is a subtle nod to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ In The Dark.”
Doin’ It Right is the first whole snapshot into the 25-year-old artist as a singer, songwriter, and procurer of life, from the gospel-tinged “Tell Me Twice,” inspired by his mother, who pushed him to try out for American Idol for years—and something the two would say to one another about going for what they wanted in life—to chasing love on the slower crooned “I’ll Take the Bar” and “Talk to Me” before the more Americana-tipped “Love to Burn.”
Talking with American Songwriter, Beckham shared the story behind the songs of Doin’ It Right, the transformation of his American Idol original “23,” working around “demo-itis,” and telling more “complete” stories.
American Songwriter: Here you are with six new songs, and it hasn’t even been a year since American Idol. How did Doin’ It Right start piecing together for you from the time of AI. Were some of these songs already with you for some time?
Chayce Beckham: Some of them were old. “Tell Me Twice,” I wrote when I got to Nashville, and “Love to Burn,” was one of the original songs we cut with the first batch of songs. The other ones were songs that I’ve fallen in love with. It was this long period of listening to music and writing and creating what I wanted to put out, which are six strong songs that I could use to help launch my career.
AS: Were there some songs that transformed completely on Doin’ It Right from the time they were initially written or demoed?
CB: There are some songs that didn’t make it on the EP. They’re really good, and I love them, but it was just the way everything sequenced. There’s definitely a process. I think they call it “demo-itis,” when you get hooked on the way your demo sounds, so when you hear something different you get scared. It’s an interesting process to take in songs that might sound one way and by the time you get them back, have a different energy. It’s a different monster. “23” did that. I wrote it as an acoustic song that was meant to be played by a guy with an acoustic guitar, and it turned into the song that you know. It has its own life. I never anticipated it to sound like that, but I loved it.
AS: Doin’ it Right plays like a very personal glimpse into your life, love, and family. Is there another thread between these six songs for you?
CB: I think they talk about how it’s okay to not beat yourself up and just enjoy your life. I wanted that feeling whenever you listen to those songs. If you’re going through a hard time, you’ll get through it. That’s what I was trying to promote, a feel-good record from front to back.
AS: When do you know a song is ready?
CB: I think any song has the possibility to be a great song, depending on when, where, and how it’s delivered. Every song has that chance to be a great, big song. It just depends on how it’s presented to people. There are a ton of songs that we didn’t get to cut that I want to cut. There’s never really a time when you notice they’re ready. Sometimes it’s the ones that are the most put together or presentable.
AS: There’s also a feeling that a song can emit.
CB: Absolutely. Whenever I listened to all these songs, I had a very calm, relaxed feeling.
AS: How do songs typically come together for you? Has this shifted at all in the past few years?
CB: I think I’ve learned a lot about songwriting, and methods. There are different techniques and tools that I can put in my toolbox to use whenever I write a song, but I think good ideas still come from experiencing things and living life. Whenever you go through something, it might give you a certain feeling that you might want to transfer to a song. I think that’s where the best ideas and titles come from. I look at songwriting in a lot more different ways now.
AS: It’s also eye-opening working with different writers because everyone approaches a verse or a chorus or a melody differently.
CB: I’m kind of a freestyle writer and I work with whatever comes to mind like, “Hey this is a cool hook or cool verse.” I know people who want to write the chorus or verse first. It just depends on who you’re writing with, but I’m more of an anything-goes guy, where I don’t really care about using the same word twice. There are certain things that work for me that wouldn’t work for other people, but that’s the beauty of collaborating with people and learning about different styles. I can always go and write songs by myself, or I can go write songs with other writers. It’s a full experience.
AS: Now that Doin’ It Right is out, what kind of songs do you find yourself gravitating towards?
CB: My heart has been pulling me towards a lot more down-home, rootsy songs. I’m trying to break that mold of the type of music that I’m making, or that everybody else is making, and backtrack a little bit into the country music. It’s okay to go back and capture some of these sounds and pay tribute to some of the songs that made country music. I’ve been pulled towards a lot of older songs lately. I’ve been listening to a lot of folky stuff and playing a lot of John Prine. Some of my favorite songwriters of recent are people like Townes Van Zandt, so I want to implement some of that style into my next project and do more organic stuff.
I want to show some more depth as far as the songs go, and the stories that I’m telling. I like songs that tell complete stories. I want to get more into telling stories, and talking about everyday people because that’s what makes me love music.
Photo: BBR Music Group