Country artists have long cornered the market on holding a mirror up to the world and letting us get a long hard look at ourselves. Few genres express the hard-earned truths and plights of the everyman quite in the same way. Though, while doing so, they also become our confidant, our solace in those struggles—giving us a sonic hand to hold with the promise that we’re all kind of going through the same stuff.
Chayce Beckham did just that when he debuted his original song “23,” on American Idol. A song about growing pains and that weird time in your 20s when you don’t feel quite like an adult but at the same time aren’t given the same grace were given as children, the song struck a chord with enough of the country, and the star-studded panel of judges, that he made it all the way to end of the show and eventually took home the crown.
Since the show, Beckham has had a whirlwind year full of a tour with Jimmie Allen, a lauded EP, and a number of gem singles that have ignited even more of a buzz around the 26-year-old. Only a year ago, Beckham was living at home and driving a forklift. Now, he’s well on his way to finding a permanent spot in the ranks of Nashville’s best and brightest.
Despite being booked and busy, Beckham stopped by the American Songwriter office for a chat about his skyrocketing career, his perspective on songwriting, and where he’s headed next.
Beckham won season 19 of the famed competition. His win was made even sweeter by the fact that he was the first alum of Idol to win with an original song—the aforementioned “23.”
“It was a really eye-opening experience putting music out and connecting with people through it,” Beckham tells American Songwriter about his time on the show. “I guess it was something that I always wanted to do but just could never find the right avenue to get it out to people. So it was a life-changing experience to get to go and sing a couple of my own songs and then get to be the first person to win with an original song.”
With the last year being such a haze, Did Beckham have the chance to truly process it all, taking time to reckon with his new lease on life?
“It’s been a whirlwind getting to learn and experience life in new ways,” he says. “I don’t really have as much time as I’d like to wrap my head around it, but it’s nice to have good problems instead of bad ones.”
His latest release, “Keeping Me Up All Night,” is an anthemic number full of swaying guitar lines and a pounding drum beat. Laid overtop all of the tried and true instrumentation is Beckham’s rich vocals that burrow deep in the ear and entice for the span of three minutes. When listening to it, it’s easy to find yourself hitting the replay button a few times.
“We wrote that song about that isolated feeling of being left alone,” he says of the song. “It was written with four other people so it’s nice that you get those different perspectives wrapped up into one. I think that way people can connect to it because it shares a lot of life experiences.”
Before sharing “Keeping Me Up All Night,” Beckham delivered an EP that saw both fan and critical acclaim. Doin’ It Right is full of a starry-eyed optimism that gives the listener permission to focus on the joys of life.
“Just live, be happy and breathe,” he says of the EP message. “Go outside and do stuff the things that you love and talk to your family. Those are the most important things to me. I feel like those are good messages to push across.
“Focus on yourself too,” he adds. “It’s okay to be selfish sometimes and to focus on what you want to do or where you want to go. That should be a priority in your life.”
The closer to Doin’ It Right, “Love to Burn,” is in the vein of focusing on himself. Singing But when you’re not, you don’t miss me / You love me like I got love to burn, Beckham is calling out a selfish lover with deeply relatable lyrics.
“‘Love To Burn’ is about having someone you love take advantage of you,” he shares. “They loved you like you had loved to burn. Every time I’ve played that song live, I’m dripping sweat. It’s a super active song. It’s always fun to see people dance into that one too.”
Another EP cut, “Where The River Goes” is in the spirit of finding your happy place. For Beckham that looks a lot like a Californian lake with just him, a boat, and a fishing line taking on the day.
“Before any of this stuff happened, before I ever got to move to Nashville and do American Idol, I would find peace out on the water, fishing,” Beckham reveals. “‘Where The River Goes’ is that feeling of ‘screw it, I don’t care if I miss work today, I’m gonna float and just enjoy myself.’”
Since sharing his EP, Beckham has had the opportunity to take the songs out on the road with Jimmie Allen. Along the way, he was able to connect with the fans he has helped through hard times.
“Getting to talk to people whenever you go play shows is one of the coolest things,” he says. “You get to connect with them after the show and hear their stories or their testimonies about struggles in life that they’ve gone through. It’s been nice seeing people show up and know the words to the songs and really connect with the music.”
He adds, “I just talked to this kid in Idaho who told me about his breakup and how “23” is what got him through. That’s amazing because I have music that did the same for me.”
In terms of what Beckham is looking forward to in the next sure-to-be-whirlwind years, he wants to continue to tell stories and find relatable truths in his life.
“My songs can be taken lightheartedly or more seriously,” he says. “I think there’s always that fine line that I can walk with my music. It may be fun and upbeat but there might be a deeper message behind it for someone else. I just want to write more songs that tell more stories and talk about the real things that people deal with every day.”
More tangibly, he is slated to join Luke Combs and Riley Green in a tour across Canada this fall.
“I met Luke comes on American Idol and we hit it off,” he says. “After I won the show he reached out and asked if I wanted to go on tour. So I’ve been excited to go on this tour since I got off Idol. It’s also my first tour outside of the United States. I’ll be with Luke and Riley Green. I’m a big fan of both so, it’s gonna be an exciting time.”
Photo Credit: Jacoby Plyler / BBR