Interview: Rising Country Music Artist Larry Fleet Discusses His New Album Stack of Records

Larry Fleet strums his guitar with stacks of records behind him
Photo Credit: Matthew Paskert

Ever since Larry Fleet released his first EP Workin’ Hard (Big Loud Records) in 2019, the Nashville native has stayed true to that title. Following the success of the debut EP, Fleet then released his biggest song to date, “Where I Find God,” which earned Fleet a place on several hit country music charts. The song’s music video has been viewed 17 million views on YouTube. That album (produced by ACM Producer of the Year nominee Joey Moi) has garnered critical acclaim from publications such as American Songwriter and Rolling Stone, while Fleet has claimed a place on 2020 Artist to Watch lists by Pandora, Taste of Country and Sounds Like Nashville.

Fleet, who spent many years working in construction while playing music as a side passion, met country star Jake Owen, who took an instant liking to Fleet’s humble nature while recognizing the major talent as a skilled songwriter and performer. The two paired up, performing to packed arena shows culminating in a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Fleet to performing onstage with none other than Willie Nelson, one of his musical heroes. This month, Fleet will release his first full-length album Stacks of Records. Fleet spoke to us about his incredible journey from his home in Tennessee.

Jason: Thanks for talking with us. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you.

Larry Fleet: I’m from Dixon County, TN, right outside Nashville and lived there most of my life until about six years ago when I moved to Chattanooga after I got married. It’s a great place with a lot of mountains.

Jason: When did the desire to sing and write country music begin with you?

Larry Fleet: I started playing music when I was five or six years old and always loved to play. I never figured I could make a living at it. I played bluegrass, gospel and then got into country, soul, southern rock and I enjoyed learning about different music. I started writing my own songs in high school just out of boredom from playing other people’s. When you do something long enough, you’re bound to get better at it or at least you hope you do.

Jason: You’ve been a performer for many years and I understand most of those you were struggling to find an audience just to be heard.

Larry Fleet: After playing a few years in Nashville, it wasn’t working out. I never got what you’d call a ‘big break’ so I went back to work doing construction. But then, by chance, one night I was playing guitar in a barn and Jake Owen walked in and long story short, he wound up taking me on the road with him. He wanted to help me out, and he’s done just that. He’s been a good friend.

Jason: Can you describe the feedback you received from your early song writing?

Larry Fleet: Early on, I didn’t know what I was doing. There were people I was influenced by such as Willie Nelson or Dave Matthews or whoever I was listening to at the time, so I would imitate what they were doing, but later I figured out who I was. I come from a blue collar family. My first job was working as a bricklayer, which was hard work. That’s who I was and where I come from, so I started writing as honest as possible about what I knew and that’s when my writing got better. I knew what I was talking about. When I wrote “Working Man” I knew I was onto something.

Jason: Do you have a philosophy when it comes to connecting with listeners?

Larry Fleet: It’s just about being honest. I’ve noticed talking to people at shows they’ll say ‘don’t change because what you’re doing is making a difference.’ I’m writing to those listeners. I happen to be decent with words and can say what they want to say. One night I was playing when a guy in a wheelchair came up to me and he’d looked like he’d been through it a little and he told me he heard my song “Where I Find God “a week before he found out he had stage four cancer. It was so emotional to hear how this song had changed his life. He told me ‘keep doing what you’re doing because you’re making a difference’ so as far as being a songwriter goes, that’s the biggest compliment you can get. That is how I connect with my audience. I’m not playing somebody who I’m not. I just write from the heart and be as honest as I can. That seems to be working out.

Jason: What do you believe are the sole reasons country music resonates so strongly with audiences? Is it the simple truth and honesty contained in the lyrics?

Larry Fleet: It should be. I think that’s why people feel a connection to me. There’s a lot of good songs on the radio but a lot of the time you say ‘is the tempo good? Can you party and drink beer to it?’ For me as a working man there’re more days than Friday and Saturday in a week. You got to get through Monday through Thursday and I was writing about those days, and Sunday too, but I think the purpose of country music is to be honest and tell the stories that people are actually going through. That’s why I was drawn to Merle Haggard. He wrote about going to prison because he lived that. Willie Nelson is a great storyteller, and that’s what’s so great about country music. It’s about telling stories that people can connect to and relate to. It covers all the emotions, whether it’s the party emotion or emotions of sadness—anything you’re going through country music can deliver a song for you.

Country singer Larry Fleet plays on his guitar (photo credit: Matthew Paskert
Larry Fleet photo credit: Matthew Paskert

Jason: Can you describe what the feeling is like when someone such as Jake Owen comes along and believes in you after a long period of grinding away.

Larry Fleet: That is a pretty cool feeling. I remember the night I met Jake in a little barn. Here’s this famous country singer who’s been doing well, that’s a moment you take notice of. For him to come up and talk to me and say ‘I like what you’re doing’, he had no idea I poured concrete for a living. It was a huge turning point in my life and I had met a lot of people through the years say ‘man, you’re good, I want to help you out’ and they never do. They say they’ll help you but then forget about you and move on, but Jake didn’t. He called me the day after the night we met. Then for him to take me out on the road and believe in me and what I was doing and say ‘come out on the stage with me in front of 3000 people and play the songs you wrote.’ Jake likes old school classic country music and because my stuff is off an old school flare, he liked what I was doing. He wasn’t gaining anything from helping me. That guy’s authentic. He’s a genuine good guy and we still talk all the time. He still promotes me and tells people about me. He helped get the spark going.

Jason: Do you think you might return the favor and support an-up-and-coming musician in the same way?

Larry Fleet: Oh, yeah. For sure. I’m meeting all kinds of artists, guys who might open for me and when I find a young songwriter, I’ll always talk with them. Coming up, I had little direction or anyone to guide me, so that’s a huge thing. Jake was helping me to learn how to navigate through this business from the perspective of a singer/songwriter and that right there is worth a million bucks. People spend years figuring that out. Jake helped me with all that. So I want to do the same thing, pay it forward. That’s the way it should be. It’s not about competing with one another, as we’re all doing the same thing and there’s plenty of room for all of us.

Jason: With writing on your own and then collaborating, do you have a preference and what is the major difference between the two?

Larry Fleet: I’ve written plenty of songs by myself and with those, it’s about getting how I feel and how I think. For writing with somebody else, I can come in with my thoughts, but often, you’re in a room and presented with three people’s different thoughts on an idea or a twist or how to turn that hook into a chorus. I love writing with others because I feel that most of the time you’ll wind up with a better song. You have other ideas flowing and other ways to think about something. I’ve written good songs by myself, but I’ve written better songs with other people.

Jason: Do you have a song you’ve written by yourself or in a collaboration that you’re the most proud of or one which resonates the strongest with audiences?

Larry Fleet: I’ve written a lot of songs that I’m proud of and on the record coming out I’m proud of every one of them. There were different stages of my life. I wrote these things and at the time I wrote them, the subject of each one mattered the most to me. The song “Where I Find God” is the one which changed my career path. I’ve been struggling so long to have people take notice of my music and that was the one which drew a lot of attention to me. I wrote that one with Connie Harrington and we were as honest as we could be and I’ve had so many people say to me that song has changed their life and put them on a new path and direction and as a songwriter that’s a pretty outstanding compliment to receive. As of right now, and it may change, that song is my favorite because it’s powerful and it’s done a lot of good for people.

Jason: What can you tell us about the new album Stack of Records?

Larry Fleet: I was bringing in new songs while we were recording. We started recording when the studios opened up at the end of last year into the first of this year. We took our time with this album. Or first one was eight singles and here I wanted to put out a full body of work. I heard people liked to press play on the first track and let the songs go and I wanted to give listeners more stuff to listen to. This one has fourteen songs in total—thirteen will be available for streaming and a bonus track that features Jamey Johnson, which will be available for purchase on iTunes. We worked hard on this and I wanted it to be the best we put out and I think it is.

Jason: What does success mean to you?

Larry Fleet: I get to play music and write songs for a living and I’m able to keep the lights on and pay the bills so that to me is success. When I started out, I just wanted to write the song. I never cared about being the guy on the stage playing. To me, it’s about doing something you love and making an actual living. That’s success to me.

Jason: And getting to play with some of your heroes, such as Willie Nelson.

Larry Fleet: Now that was a tremendous moment. I felt that I’d made it then, and I had barely any music out. I told someone at the time that success was Willie Nelson knew my first and my last name. I could have died a happy man at that, but now success means something different at each stage of my life. I’ve played with Willie and Jake and Jon Pardi is one of my new favorites, we’ve done a lot of shows together. It’s been a whirlwind from playing bars where nobody would even pay $5 to come watch me to now perform on the big stage. It’s a big moment.

Jason: Along with the release of your first full-length album?

Larry Fleet: And now this new album which we’re all proud of. There’s a song for everybody on this record wherever you’re at in life, there’s a song for you and everybody’s going to have a favorite one. I’m proud of it because it’s an honest representation of who I am and where I’ve been. I hope everybody likes it and I hope they wear it out.

Follow Larry Fleet on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and at his official site.

Purchase Stack of Records by Larry Fleet on Spotify and Apple.

Larry Fleet Stack of Records Album Cover

Written by Jason Sheppard

Entertainment reporter living at the end of very cold Canada. Proud owner of a diploma in journalism and just about every CD by John Williams ever released. Favorite directors are Spielberg, Scorsese, Kubrick, Tarantino, Fellini, Lynch and Fincher. Twin Peaks, Sopranos and Six Feet Under are the greatest TV dramas ever crafted and I love 90s sitcoms such as Spin City, Sports Night, Newsradio, Seinfeld and even that one with Deadpool working in the pizza place. Click linkies below to follow me.

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