Ty Herndon’s rise in country music isn’t a linear venture. Instead, it’s riddled with ups and downs, lefts and rights, and more hard-won triumphs than he cares to recount. But, as his latest album Jacob attests, despite the turbulence, Herndon has continued to persevere.
Soon after Herndon found fame in the country music scene, clinching chart-toppers and lauded albums, he was arrested for indecent exposure in Dallas. On the day of his arrest, Herndon had been up for a few days on end, high on crystal meth. On top of all of that, he was trying to find even footing amid newfound superstardom, a sham marriage arranged by his record label, and his recently professed homosexuality.
Reeling from the after-effects of those struggles for years, Herndon hit a breaking point in 2020 when he attempted suicide. After making it out to the other end, Herndon put everything he had into getting better—checking himself into a treatment facility and focusing on his mental health journey.
Herndon lays all of that bare on Jacob. The album’s 11-tracks tell the story of the trials and tribulations he had to surmount before finding his way again. Despite the heavy nature of the record, the lead single kicks things off on a lighter note.
Finding Herndon on the other side of turmoil, “Till You Get There” was born from a seemingly inconsequential comment from the singer after coming to a hopeful precipice in his journey. The decision to follow through on the track was born from wanting to have at least one song that could find a home on country radio.
“I said, ‘Guys, if we’re planning on going out to country radio here, I think we probably need to write something that has a little bit of a happy ending,’” Herndon tells American Songwriter. “I just remember reflecting on where I’m at today and thinking I wouldn’t go back and change things, but I didn’t know that till I got here.”
He continues, “We leaned into all the things that we go through that hurt us but ultimately make us stronger. We don’t really know that until we get on the other side of it. I’ve lived that more times than I care to talk about.”
The accompanying video for the song is a simple treatment, seeing Herndon surrounded by his backing band, running through the number amid a black room. For Herndon, the simple visual was an effort to do something “high energy and fun.”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a video that was just a performance piece—that was high energy and fun,” he said. “So I went to my manager and said I just want to have all my peeps and my band around me. I just got to get the honor of just standing there singing these words, and bouncing around like I always do.”
The album’s central message is wrapped up in its title, Jacob. The title comes from the biblical character of the same name who dealt with severe challenges before finding his way and becoming the leader of his tribe—a story Herndon can very easily relate to.
“When I was in treatment in Houston, I had a really cool spiritual adviser,” he recalls. “I was sitting there with him and he said, ‘Ty your story is a lot like Jacob in Israel.’ It was funny because my grandma used to talk about those verses when I was growing up.”
He continues, “After four months of treatment and a wellness journey, I began to love myself more than I ever have. I began to understand my disease. It’s really been a miracle for me, so I came home and talked to my producer and he thought it was a great idea – to tell my story through music.
“There’s not a song called Jacob on there, it’s just about the idea of wrestling with God, falling down, and getting back up,” he says. “Jacob became a leader in his tribe, paying his journey forward. That’s what I’m trying to do with this project. I just want to tell people, ‘life is hard, you’re not alone and you have the power within yourself to change your ending.’”
While there are some lighter moments, a significant portion of the album deals with the hard-earned lessons Herndon has received over the last few years. One particularly vulnerable track “God or the Gun” recounts the moment the country star attempted to take his own life. The song sees Herndon make his decision, choosing to fight through even in his lowest moments.
“I just remember sitting on my living room floor, right by my baby grand piano,” he says. “It’s so crazy to me that the very place that I decided I didn’t want to not be on this earth anymore, is the very place that I was sitting to write this song.”
“When we finished it, I’ll be honest with you, I openly wept,” he adds. “It was this moment of healing and taking back that spot in my house. It will always now represent a place of healing, of rebirth, and creativity. So we burned a little sage and moved on to the next.”
One of the lighter moments is “Dents on a Chevy.” Featuring a collaboration with fellow country singer and longtime friend Terri Clark. The song is a feel-good track we’ve all been wanting for the summertime. It’s a bright light amid, the understandably, somber album.
“It’s one of the only songs on the album I didn’t write,” he says. “It’s just a feel-good song from two old friends that have been together for 25 years. To me, the song said, ‘we’re gonna have some fun with this record, it may be a little difficult to listen to at times but, we’re going to kick you off with some good times.”
When asked what his favorite song on the record is, Herndon chose yet another vulnerable offering, “Hallelujah.”
“It’s a piece of art for me, something I could really sink my teeth into,” he says. “The song started out as a love song to my future husband. We’re no longer together but I still believe in that great love—I believe in it for everybody.”
He continues, “In the middle of recording that song. I started to feel like it wasn’t a love song to anyone but myself. It’s full of romance, spirituality, and everything I think love should be.”
Along with the album, Herndon is launching a podcast series that sees him delving even further into his mental health journey by connecting with other artists who have similar stories to tell.
“But it was important that I think to speak to mental illness,” he says. “I also just wanted to hear other people’s stories. LeAnn Rimes is my first guest and I’ve known her since she was 12. Her battle with mental illness is this incredible story, some of which I didn’t even know. After hearing it, I knew that this was gonna really help people.”
Helping people is the name of the game for Herndon these days. From the album to the podcast series, it’s clear Herndon is moving forward from his past and leaving a guiding light in his wake.