Chord Overstreet Sets Out to Forge His Own Path

You probably know Chord Overstreet mostly for his role as guitar-wielding romantic Sam Evans on Glee. The hit TV musical has been off the air for five years, but Overstreet is still shaking off the stigma. 

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“If people have a label, they’ll put you under that label,” he says. “It’s hard to shake it unless what you’re doing is completely mind-blowing or goes viral.”

The Nashville native pursued music years before his star took off on a major network, but the pressure to demonstrate his worth remains. “It’s difficult to get into a room and prove yourself as a songwriter,” he admits. “People have pictures of who and what you are because of what you’ve done previously.”

His plucky optimism is not without a glimmer of melancholy; he knows, perhaps more than anyone, of the work it takes to break through the static.

Overstreet grew up on a farm 40 minutes outside Nashville and comes from a hearty creative stock. His father is prolific songwriter Paul Overstreet, known as a genius co-writer behind such country standards as Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen” and “Love Can Build a Bridge” by The Judds. Paul quickly became a beloved pillar of the songwriting community, but even standing in such a long shadow, Chord doesn’t feel much pressure.

“Seeing that it is really possible and what goes into the business, you definitely want some of the same accolades,” he confides. “I don’t really compare myself to him, but if I could come close to half the stuff he’s achieved, that’d be a win for me.”

To say Chord was immersed in the music industry is an understatement. His mother often recounts the story about how Paul would take his children on the road ─ six kids in total, including Nash (guitar player of pop/rock band Hot Chelle Rae) ─ and trot them out during his shows. The braggadocious performer he was, Chord often struck a rockstar pose at the end of the stage, punctuating his fascination for the spotlight. “I’ve always kind of been that way,” he laughs.

Paul’s legacy was quite evident early on, and it always just felt normal. “We’d be eating breakfast somewhere, and people would come up and ask for autographs,” Chord recalls. “For as long as I can remember, that’s just how it was. I was always the biggest fan of his. You can’t not be if you know him. He has this energy and spirit people just want to be around.”

Following a high school football injury and knee surgery, Chord shelved his athletic aspirations and took to playing video games to pass the time. It wasn’t until his father urged him to find another avenue of distraction that he picked up the guitar and started writing songs. Chord’s first song was called “Death Row,” a southern-gothic tale of revenge and murder, inspired by Johnny Cash. “The song was about a guy who was put on death row for killing a girl he was involved with,” he explains. “She was involved with someone else, and the other person actually killed her.”

Chord could have followed in his father’s footsteps but his interests took him elsewhere, from starring on Glee to mounting a strictly pop endeavor. Now fronting a band called OVERSTREET, predominantly influenced by Elvis and the Beach Boys, Chord strikes both a contemporary and throwback sensibility. Songs like “Die” and “For a Heartache” sprout from an organic place, and his voice is as enticing as ever.

OVERSTREET’s latest entry, “Summertime,” has the most clearly defined Beach Boys mood, building on Chord’s previous work yet imprinted with a fresh coating. “I’d been writing all these sad, depressing, heartbreak songs. I was a little emotionally fried,” he says of writing the tune. “I kept picturing a season of my life where everything was going great. I wanted to be outside again and light up a joint.”

With an arsenal of 100 songs, Chord eyes a series of single releases before settling on a body of work that’ll be the followup to 2019’s Man on the Moon EP. Honing his songwriting voice has benefited the most from taking his sweet time, opting to co-write as much as possible as a way to open up his world. “The reality is I have everything in my head, and I know myself better than anybody else does,” he explains, “but co-writing gives you a completely different take on an emotion. People have completely different stories, but everybody can relate to certain feelings. That’s why people respond to music.

“I’ve learned to not take everything so seriously. When you go out and really live, stories will fall into your lap. No matter what, if you don’t know who you’re writing with, you never know when lightning will hit. One song can change your life.”

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