It is during trying times that we sometimes find ourselves, and come out better on the other side. Holly Tucker has spent the past year waiting for the light to show at the end of the tunnel, and is finally starting to see the results.
After finishing sixth on season four of The Voice, Tucker released her successful album “Steel,” which charted three singles on the Texas Regional Radio Report. Looking to build off of the momentum of “Steel,” Tucker was already planning her next release.
Things came to a screeching halt, and the music was delayed. The first two singles from the project, which Tucker labels as “Holly Tucker 2.0,” have each been released over the last six months, and have become her two highest streamed original songs on Spotify.
Now, get Tucker’s take on her experience on The Voice, the success of “Steel,” her trying 2018, releasing her two newest singles, and when fans can expect to hear more of “Holly Tucker 2.0.”
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Holly Tucker: All of the classics. My grandfather was a guitar player, and my great-grandfather was a fiddle player; we’ve had music all throughout our family, country music specifically. I grew up on Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. My bread and butter, where I really fell in love with country music, was in the 90s. I loved artists like Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Sara Evans and Jamie O’Neal; those power females of the 90s. They made me really want to get into it.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted pursue a career in music?
HT: There was! It was one of the very first times I ever got on stage. I was about 7 years old, and it was at my home Church. It was just an incredible feeling. I had never felt that before. I know that’s pretty young, but I just knew I wanted to practice singing as much as I could. After that, I got a little karaoke machine for my room, and I would sing with it for hours and hours. When I was about 11, I wanted to start practicing on actual stages, so I went all around Texas doing different little country opry’s and open mic nights anywhere I could get on stage to practice. That is how I got my start.
PC: How did the opportunity for The Voice come to you?
HT: American Idol was really popular at that point, so I thought that looked like a good option for me. I started trying out for all of the singing shows when I was 16: American Idol, X Factor, and even The Voice season 1. I kept getting told no, and I was really done with singing shows like that honestly. I was playing a show in Dallas one day, and I saw that The Voice auditions were in town, so I said, “What the heck, what’s another no?” I auditioned at the open-call auditions, and I got a yes! I kept getting callbacks, and I made it to the blind auditions, where I got four chairs to turn for me!
PC: What is it like as a performer to sing in front of artists with the collective success of Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Shakira, and Usher and have them all turn their chairs for you after being denied your chance so many times?
HT: It’s extremely validating! Having to go through all those no’s, it gives you pretty thick skin. You just have to keep pushing on, and keep going anyway. Once I finally got that validation from those great artists, it gave me the feeling that I was really meant to do this after all that time. I was finally settling in to what I thought I should be doing for the rest of my life.
PC: What was the biggest thing you took away from your entire experience on The Voice?
HT: I was 19 when I auditioned for the show, so I was kind of insecure and shy. Being on that big stage and getting the advice from someone like Blake was great. I took away becoming a better entertainer, becoming less shy, and coming into my own. I was afraid I was going to be judged for whatever reason, so not being afraid to be myself was another huge thing for me.
PC: Were you feeling any pressure, internally or externally, as you were preparing to release the “Steel” album after the success you had on The Voice?
HT: It took me three years after the show was over to put together that album, and to reintroduce myself to the scene. It was nerve-wracking to put new stuff out there, but it was time. I was excited about the songs I’d been writing, and it was just an upward trajectory that I knew I needed to take in order to get to the next level, so I was really excited! Especially to say that I was doing it independently, without the help or funding from a label; being able to stand on my own two feet with it, it was just exciting to get to branch out with that and reintroduce myself!
PC: “Dallas on Your Boots” was your first song that really caught on with listeners. What do you think it is about that song that has allowed it to connect with people the way it has?
HT: I think it was the lead up to that song. I had released a couple of singles before that, including a duet with Ray Johnston called “Wax Paper Cups,” which was my introduction to the Texas country scene. Next, I did a song called “You’re in Texas,” which was just straight up Texas pride, and both of those singles paved the way for something like “Dallas on Your Boots.” Those first few songs were more happy and laid-back, and “Dallas on Your Boots” revealed a more of the serious side of me, who I wanted to be as an artist, and what I wanted to put out in the future. It was the first really big thing that I was excited about off of that record.
I think it did well because it’s a message that a lot of people can connect with. A lot of people have had that person in their past that doesn’t allow them get over someone. Unfortunately that happens all the time, so in one way or another, everybody has experienced something like that, and I think that’s why the song has connected with people.
PC: The “Steel” album features many flashes of both a traditional and more modern country sound. Was it at all important for you to showcase that level of artistic versatility at that point of your career?
HT: It was. I wanted to show that I’m not a one-trick pony, and that every song wouldn’t sound the same. I like to keep people guessing. However, I wanted them to hear that same familiar voice. My passion is creating a moment with my voice; I want that to be the factor that makes me stand out. I think with that record, it showed who I was, and the many different sides of me, so it was great to see people connecting with it!
PC: “The Finer Things” is another song that has performed really well, and delivers a great message. What do you hope people take away from “The Finer Things”?
HT: I released that in November, and that was two-and-a-half years after I had put out anything from “Steel.” That’s a long time to go without new music. Unfortunately, it’s just really expensive to create new music in this business. With “The Finer Things,” I wanted to show people the growth that I had gone through in the last two-and-a-half years. I have been doing a lot of writing, and a lot of growing as an artist and as a person. I want people to be able to see that, and take away a good message of things that I’ve learned. In this particular song, I really learned that it’s the people in life that you keep close to you that make life special and worth living. It’s not fancy cars, expensive vacations, or all the money in the world. Those things are nice, but it’s really who you have around you that matters. Those are the real finer things in life. We’re calling this new music “Holly Tucker 2.0,” and the first part of that was “The Finer Things.”
Going into “Country Music Won’t Let Me;” that’s a completely different take on country music than I’ve done before. It’s way more traditional, and it’s a sad song, and I don’t typically do sad songs. With this next release of music, I always want to be growing; not changing; always staying the same person deep down, but I want to be evolving and giving my listeners something that they may not have expected. That’s really what I wanted to happen with this new music, and I’m really excited for everybody to hear the rest of it!
PC: “Country Music Won’t Let Me” has gotten off to a great start. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
HT: I wrote that one with a couple of good buddies from Nashville. We got to talking in the writing room, and the conversation got to what country music has meant to each of us in different ways. We all agreed that country music can make you “feel” more than any other genre. I think a lot of people value country music in that way. We thought that it would be especially poignant if someone was going through a really bad breakup. When you just can’t get someone off your mind, country music can either help heal you through catharsis, or it can get you over the situation, but whichever way it is, it just makes you “feel” really deeply more than any other genre. That’s where this song came from; every time I think I’m over somebody, I hear that one song, and it just takes me right back to that moment I got my heart broken. Country music won’t let me get over them. It’s a different take, because looking at the title, you don’t think it’s going to be about a heartbreak, and that’s what I love about it. It’s very unexpected, it’s very different, and the title just jumps off the page at you.
PC: In just two months since its release, “Country Music Won’t Let Me” has become your second highest streamed original song. What kind of validation is seeing the results of your “Holly Tucker 2.0” evolution with your last two singles?
HT: It’s definitely sweet to see that. We’ve been through a really rough year in my career. I haven’t really opened up about a lot of the details about it, but I was involved in some bad contractual deals, and I had to sort of buy my way out of those contracts. Not like a record deal or anything, but just a situation that I couldn’t get out of without paying for it. I had to do that, and through all of that financial struggle, I had to hold off on the new music being released. Initially, this music was supposed to release last year, and we were really excited about it and ready to go, and then it just came falling back down on Team Holly. It was a dark time. It left a really dark cloud over me and my whole team. We just prayed a lot, stayed close together, talked through everything, and just kept going and pushing. We didn’t want to let anything stop us. We just kept going, even when it was hard. I was finally able to buy the music back and have it in our possession, so now we can do what we want with it; there’s finally starting to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
PC: As you’re preparing to release new music, is there an even high level of anticipation after the rough year that led up to releasing it?
HT: Absolutely. There’s a much higher pressure on us now, just because we’re in a situation where we would have had that money and financial help to promote this new music. To be honest, we don’t have that right now. That’s what we’re really praying about, and we’re working hard to find the funds and means to be able to promote this new music. The thing is, if you put out new music and you have nothing financially to back it up, it’s not going to go anywhere. Nobody’s going to hear it, because nowadays, Facebook, Spotify, Pandora and Spotify are making you pay to reach your own fans, who have already said that they like an artist and that they want to hear their stuff. That’s what we’re facing right now. If this fails, I don’t know what’s going to happen. To be honest, it’s a very faith-strengthening time; completely relying on our fans and God to bring us the means that we need to make it happen.
PC: It’s been almost three years since you released “Steel.” Where do you think you’ve grown the most in the time since that release?
HT: I think my faith has definitely been tested more than it ever has. Sometimes I was so angry that I didn’t even want to get out of bed. It’s been a real growing experience for me; having to not worry so much and not be in control of everything. The truth is, we’re not even in control of anything. We can work hard and definitely take steps to push ourselves forward, and I value that, but I believe that it’s in God’s hands. I believe he put me here for a reason, and I believe that he’s going to put the doors in front of me that are going to lead me to my purpose.
I think my songwriting has grown a lot as well. On “Steel,” I only co-wrote five of those songs, which is pretty standard, but on this next project that I’m about to put out, I am a co-writer on every single song. It’s a lot more personal to me, and I’m looking forward to being a little more vulnerable like that, and letting people in a little more.
PC: You’ve opened for many major artists such as Willie Nelson, Clint Black, and Tracy Byrd, among others. What can you take away from those experiences that can help you in your own career?
HT: Every time I get to share stages with people like that, it’s a learning experience. I always try to take something away from it. Usually, the thing that I always like to watch is how an artist performs, and how they connect with their crowd. I always want to be bettering my own performance, and to really be able to move people through what I’m doing. I collect little tidbits of information based on who I’m opening for or who I’m sharing the stage with at the time. One of the best performers, especially in Texas, that I love watching and getting to share the stage with is Neal McCoy. He’s an incredible performer. He’s got the audience in the palm of his hand from beginning to end. He’s just exciting! He moves around everywhere, and he plays all kinds of different music, like, he’s up there doing Bruno Mars! He’s performing like he’s not 60 years old, it’s crazy! I try to always take something away from those experiences.
PC: You’ve said that you’re planning to release new music. What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
HT: I have a new single coming out on June 28th called “Take Me Fishin’,” which is a summer song. This is the song that we’re really leading up to with this project, and we think it’s going to be another groundbreaker for us! I have a brand new part 1 of an album coming out at the end of August, and it will be my first whole project that I’ve released in three years. We are also planning a part 2, which will come out more towards the end of the year. When that comes out, we will put both parts together in order to reveal a little bit more of me at a time. I want to show my growth as an artist and as a person, and I always want to keep people wanting more! It’s a lot of work leading up to all of this; there’s so much more involved than people think, but it’s worth every bit of it.
*All images courtesy of Holly Tucker*