When listening to Mitchell Tenpenny’s latest record, This Is The Heavy, it’s hard to imagine any other title would’ve been a better fit.
Videos by American Songwriter
From the dense drum lines and the wiry guitars to the lyrics that bare a deep emotional weight, the album is certainly Tenpenny’s heaviest to date.
“I wanted to take back some of the influence I had when I was in rock bands,” he tells American Songwriter. “Both the production and the lyrics are a little heavier. I wanted to hone in on expressing myself more with deeper lyrics and giving it a really thick, heavy production on it.”
Though the Nashville native has never been one to idle long without releasing new music, the pandemic saw Tenpenny take things up yet another notch as he quickly amassed a sprawling 20 songs for the record—among many others that didn’t make the cut.
What survived is something that is unlike many of the country records you’ll hear from his peers today. Tenpenny began to blaze a trail forward by looking back at the influences he amassed while playing in rock bands when he was younger—namely the post-metal/emo bands of the ‘90s and early ‘00s.
While infusing a good bit of their musicality into the record, he still manages to keep things distinctly country—and distinctly Tenpenny.
The lead single from the record was almost never released at all. “Truth About You” started as a demo Tenpenny posted to Tik Tok. From there, it shot off like a rocket and spent some time on the top of the country airplay charts.
“I just put a little bit of the demo on Tik Tok and it just took off,” he says of the single. “We all the sudden had so many messages of fans telling they related to it. It’s been so crazy watching the life of that song.”
The record starts off with an instrumental, the title track, that features pounding anthemic drums and hypnotizing synths—another ode to his influences in the rock world.
“I think starting with an instrumental sets the pace of the record,” he says. “For this one, the opening is pretty drum heavy going into something sort of pop punk. You don’t hear that sort of thing in country a lot so I figured ‘what the hell.’”
The final track on the record is one that Tenpenny holds near and dear. After shopping it around to a few artists, “That’s How She Goes” eventually found a permanent home with the Nashville native.
“I’m glad that it finally made it on the record because it was always meant to be mine,” he says. “I always thought some other artist would cut it but, it never worked out. I’m very glad it’s in my life now.”
Earlier this year, Mitchell began a tour with Luke Bryan. Tenpenny said the experience was a masterclass in performing and primed him for his own headlining tour that he will embark at the beginning of next year. Find the dates below.
“What an entertainer,” he says of Bryan. “I’ve just been soaking it all in and trying to learn as much as possible. He’s given me great advice and I just really appreciate the opportunity.”
He continues, “I’m excited to get out on my own tour. That’s where the diehards come in. It’s the coolest feeling in the world. It’s why you pick up a guitar.”
Mitchell Tenpenny’s “This Is The Heavy” Tour
January 26 Salt Lake City, UT The Union Event Center
January 28 Los Angeles, CA The Novo
February 3 Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
February 4 Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
February 10 Columbus, OH KEMBA Live
February 11 Royal Oak, MI Royal Oak Music Theatre
February 16 Baltimore, MD Rams Head Live
February 18 Chattanooga, TN The Signal
February 24 Columbia, SC The Senate
February 25 Athens, GA Georgia Theatre
Photo: Matthew Berinato