Country Next: Tanner Adell
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Tanner Adell.
Tanner Adell; Photo by Sean Yedid
Tanner Adell is bringing a fresh new vibe and sound to the country music genre. With a background in dance, a conviction in her voice, and energetic songs to her name, the rising artist and entertainer is bound to have listeners hitting the dance floor with every performance.
Growing up, Adell would often split time between the beaches of California and a rustic Wyoming ranch. The change of scenery also led Adell to be exposed to all different kinds of musical genres. But, she formed a deep appreciation for ‘90s country music early on. As an adopted child, Adell discovered she had a natural gift for singing and performing. But, she didn’t know where that talent came from.
“Growing up, my adopted parents weren’t singers. They didn’t play any instruments. I was just this all-encompassing musician. So, when people were like, ‘Where does she get that?’ They were like, ‘We don’t know!” Adell tells Country Now.
With the support of her adoptive mother, Adell built a confident foundation for her music at Utah Valley University. She then took her talents to Nashville, where she continued to carefully hone her craft.
Adell’s first release came with the sassy “Country Girl Commandments.” The song showcases the singer/songwriter’s spunky attitude and clever pen with lyrics featuring an incredibly catchy countdown. After debuting the track, the momentum continued with the release of “Honky Tonk Heartbreak” – a dance-worthy tune written with Chris DeStefano and JT Harding.
Now out with her brand new five-track debut EP, Last Call, Adelle is proving she is a force to be reckoned with.
Adell recently caught up with Country Now to talk about her journey from Utah to Nashville, her recent songs, her debut EP, and more.
Read on to find out more about Tanner Adell in this exclusive Q&A below…
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How did you discover your love of country music?
I’ve been a country fan for as long as I can remember. I was listening to country music before I knew what country music was. When you are little, you don’t think about what a genre of music is. But the first song that I can clearly remember listening to – so, my mom’s friend had just given her a mixtape CD. My mom never really listened to music or danced to it or anything like that. So she’s always just given these CDs to me, and there are two songs that I’d put on repeat. I would take my boombox into my garage, and I would dance to them. One of them was Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You,” and the other was “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” by Shania Twain. I was like five years old when I did that. So, I didn’t really know what country music was until YouTube came out. I was like, ‘Oh, my CD is so scratched up. I can’t even listen to it. So I would type in the lyrics of “Somebody Like You,” and those came up, and I was like, ‘Okay.’ So, I would play the lyric video over and over again. That and Josh Turner’s “Would You Go With Me?” That’s really where my love for country music started.
Growing up, I spent a lot of my time in Manhattan Beach, California, and in a small town called Star Valley, Wyoming. Manhattan Beach is another small beach town in Southern California. I spent my school year in SoCal, Los Angeles County. Then my summers, about five months out of the year, were spent in Wyoming. My family has a ranch out there in Star Valley. So going out there and having horses, chickens, cows, goats, and all of that good stuff, I guess I just gravitated toward the freedom of the wide-open spaces and just being able to walk for miles. I would say that’s probably where a lot of my influence comes from.
Did you always want to pursue a career in music? And, if so, did your parents support that decision?
It’s an interesting question because I’ve always had a desire for music ever since I was a child. It was always where if my eyes were closed, I could see myself on a stage singing whatever the song was that I was listening to, whatever was on the radio. In my mind, there was always this concert of me being a performer and dancing and singing. My parents were supportive of my creativity with instruments. I was about four years old when I started piano lessons. Then, when I was ten, I started playing violin in my school orchestra. Then I switched to string bass because I love bluegrass. I was born in Kentucky, so bluegrass has always been in my blood. I was always encouraged to do what I wanted to do. So, my parents did nurture my love for music as well. But, I always knew from a very young age that it was what I would do for the rest of my life.
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How did your experience at Utah Valley University shape your artistry?
So, I joined the Commercial Music program there. It’s funny because I wanted to stay and go to school in California. My mom was like, ‘I found this program. I feel like you should do it.’ My family is very religious, and my mom was like, ‘You pray about every decision you make.’ She had prayed a lot about where she felt I needed to be. And, she said, ‘Utah. I have family there, and I have been there many times.’ I was like, ‘No! I’m not leaving the beach. I’m not leaving you. I’m staying in California!’ (Laughs). But, she encouraged me to include God in that decision. So at the end of the day, I was like, ‘Okay. I’m trusting mom, and I’m going to go there.’
It ended up being one of the greatest experiences of my life. I auditioned for the program. I got in, and I was assigned a vocal coach. My vocal coach just elevated my skill. It’s funny to look back on it because I am comfortable performing in front of people now, but, at the time, I had such crippling anxiety. I was painfully shy about singing or playing the guitar or writing music. I would never let anyone listen to me. But, every week, I had to prepare something to sing in front of the class. One of my professors encouraged me to join a band there, and I told him ‘no’ many times. He just kept on me and was like, ‘I want you to come in and try it out and see if you like it.’
I finally went in, and immediately I was like, ‘Oh! I’m actually good at this.’ I always thought I would be a recording artist. But, this was the experience that made me think I could be an entertainer. Every year for that band, you have to have this adjudication, where you can go in and sing for the heads of the Commercial Music program. They decide whether or not you’re going to move onto your Sophomore, Junior, or Senior year in the program. So, instead of going into a room and singing a couple of songs that I had been assigned, my test essentially was to put on a show with about three other bands that were in the program. We had to put on an hour-long set and I had two other girls that sang with me. I choreographed it. They weren’t dancers, but damn, I made them look like it. So that was my experience with performing live probably three times a year for a grade. I learned that entertainment is not only my passion but my strength, and if you listen to my music, you can hear there’s a big performance aspect to it. I think there will be some songs where I’ll sit down, play guitar and sing, but other than that, I’m going to be dancing. So that’s really where that came from and that confidence of being on stage. I mean, the band, my music professor, and my vocal coach changed my life.
How did you navigate your music career once you moved to Nashville?
In my experience, I think that I was very fortunate to have met the people that I met early on. They completely believed in me. And, I’ve done a couple of writer’s rounds in Nashville, and no one ever stands up during them. But I’m always standing up and moving around. I guess I love my music, and I know other people will, and I let that do the talking. I think not a lot of people are doing or have done what I am doing. I think there’s a huge hole missing in the female part of the country genre right now. I love the ‘90s and early 2000s country. I feel like women have had this energy, confidence, and strength, and I want to bring that back. That message is clear when I’m singing and performing my music, and the response has been very positive.
Does being adopted have any impact on your music?
You know, it does. I reconnected with my birth family about a year and a half ago. I met some of them about seven months ago. So, growing up, my adopted parents weren’t singers. They didn’t play any instruments. I was just this all-encompassing musician. So, when people were like, ‘Where does she get that?’ They were like, ‘We don’t know!’ I never had that connection or a parent to be that kind of example. But finding my birth family, I learned that I have two blood siblings. One of them produces his music and is incredible at guitar. Then, I found out that my birth father was a rapper in the ‘90s in Atlanta. So, I think now, especially, there’s just – I’ve always been confident, but I never knew where that confidence came from. Knowing that it’s in my blood, I think that kicked everything up a notch. I feel like, growing up, adopted kids have different challenges or insecurities or fears of abandonment. And, I think you can hear that in my more heartfelt music.
“Country Girl Commandments” received a lot of attention on TikTok. How did that song come about?
I wish I could play fiddle like that. Fiddle and banjo are my favorite sounds. The fiddle player on that, he’s Kane Brown’s fiddle player. So we sent that song to him and said, ‘We want a cool fiddle,’ and that fiddle on that dropped part is him playing on it. There’s no effect on it or anything. So, I wrote that with Michael Whitworth and my producer Andrew Baylis. That idea came about when my boyfriend and I were giving a dog a walk. We were talking about different ideas. He’s my sounding board. I always bounce stuff off of him, and then we’ll create the idea, so I can take it into these writing rooms. I come in very prepared. I don’t know if everyone is like that, but I have pretty much all of my ideas figured out when I go into a write. I haven’t heard a countdown in country music like that. So we were talking, and I was like, ‘I have this idea’ because I had just written a song the week before that I wanted to have a religious undertone, and I was like, ‘What about a song with the commandments, but if you were a girl?’ Like, ‘What are the commandments that girls have if guys were to do them? If they don’t do them, then they have no chance.’ Then the name just came to us, and the idea was born.
How do you transition from “Country Girl Commandments” to “Honkey Tonk Heartbreak”?
I love writing upbeat songs, which can be very difficult for some people to do. It can be tough for people to keep that momentum going. Upbeat songs are not easy to write, but I think I am good at writing upbeat songs because of my dance background, and I also love to do it. I want to be on stage dancing. So, at the end of the day, I’m going to go in with a song that can be something I can perform onstage. All of my music is going to have that type of energy. After releasing “Country Girl Commandments,” I wrote “Honkey Tonk Heartbreak.” Immediately, I was like, ‘Oh man! This is a smash! I want this to hit the dance and cheer community.’ Luckily, TikTok is such a great tool. Putting that song on there, everybody responded in the same way they responded to “Country Girl Commandments.” They were like, ‘Oh my gosh! I have never heard anything like this. This is music that we can dance to!’ If it wasn’t authentic, I think it would have been hard to follow up. But because that’s who I am, that’s the energy that I’m going to bring every time.
You just released your new EP. Congratulations! Can you tell us about that project?
Yes! So, I would love to do a whole double-album in the future. I have so much music, and choosing singles is so difficult for me because I have so much music that I think is top-notch. “Country Girl Commandments” and “Honkey Tonk Heartbreak” are not on the EP, but I’d assume they will probably be on the full-length album. I’ve got five songs on there. It started with it just being a two-pack, but then all of a sudden, I was like, ‘I want three or four songs.’ Then it was, ‘Okay, now we’re doing five.’ So, it turned into that. So the songs on there are “Beer Can,” which is bluegrass, “Whiskey Talk,” which is a very classic country-pop song, “Tall Grass,” “Do-Si-Don’tcha,” and “In The Name Of Whiskey.” For “In The Name Of Whiskey, I wanted to introduce a little bit of my soft side, but keep that cool energy. So, it’s more of a breakup song. It’s a little bit of a power ballad. So with this EP, there’s a little bit of everything. There’s some pop. There’s some bluegrass, some country, a little bit of Beyoncé, and a breakup song. So, I am so excited! They are some of my favorite songs that I have ever written.
Do you have a favorite song on the EP?
It is so hard to choose favorites because they are all my babies. My mind changes every day depending on my mood. Right now, I would probably say “Whiskey Talk.” I’ve already listened to that song this morning. It’s just a fun song. I also like “Do-Si-Don’tcha.” I think those will be the two to kick some a**.
With “Do-Si-Don’tcha,” there’s a fun story of how that song came about. That one has some of my favorite writers on it. The producer did “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes. And, I mean, it’s just a fantastic production on his part. Then Rocky Block is on that. He just co-wrote “Broadway Girls.” He was on that track with Morgan Wallen. So we got some big hitters on that song, and it just turned out to be incredible. That song is your Beyoncé of country music. If she did country, that is what she would be doing. It’s very dancy.
As a performer, is there a particular stage or arena that you’d dream of playing?
Yes! My ultimate goal and the one where I will feel like I have made it is Madison Square Garden. That is the dream! Give it a year, and I will be there! I love a big stage, and Madison Square Garden is so iconic. So that plays a big part in my decision. But I think that would be a pretty emotional moment for me when I’m playing on that stage.
What’s next for you?
Right now, we’re trying to figure out where I fit into and place as an opener for people going on tour this spring, summer, and fall. We haven’t picked anybody yet. After this EP, I’ve got a lot of stuff planned!
Fans can keep up with Tanner Adell on Instagram.
Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Country Now, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.