Mitchell Tenpenny Shares His ‘Farm Emo’ Philosophy On New Album, ‘This is the Heavy’

Mitchell Tenpenny; Photo by Matthew Berinato
Mitchell Tenpenny; Photo by Matthew Berinato
Mitchell Tenpenny; Photo by Matthew Berinato
Tenpenny co-wrote and co-produced the 20-track project.

Mitchell Tenpenny made history this week when his song “Truth About You” hit number one. It was the shortest time span between number one songs in the modern chart era, with just three weeks since “At the End of a Bar” with Chris Young reached the top of the charts. Now, he’s released a massive album to match the weight of that historic achievement.

This is the Heavy boasts 20 tracks co-written and co-produced by Tenpenny, a collection of songs that are defining a new subgenre of country music.

Tenpenny talked to Country Now about the stories behind the hefty new album, his upcoming nuptials with Canadian singer-songwriter Meghan Patrick, and the best advice that Luke Bryan has given him.

Mitchell Tenpenny - This Is The Heavy
Mitchell Tenpenny – This Is The Heavy

“I miss rock and roll,” declared Tenpenny, who grew up playing in rock and roll bands. “I really wish I could do some of the guitar things I’ve been wanting to do and it’d be accepted in this genre. And so we just went for it and that’s why it’s called ‘This is the Heavy.’” 

Although there are some heavy lyrics throughout the album, Tenpenny was primarily focused on the weight of the sound. “I wanted it to feel just heavier, like the mix is wider, it’s bigger. I wanted it to feel heavy.”

That sound has culminated in a subgenre of country music that Tenpenny has coined as “farm emo.” His friends that used to be in emo rock bands are now writing country music, so Tenpenny jokingly called it farm emo and the phrase stuck. “It’s just a bunch of pop punk kids, writing country music,” he laughed.

Mitchell Tenpenny; Photo by Matthew Berinato
Mitchell Tenpenny; Photo by Matthew Berinato

Tenpenny ended up with 20 tracks on This is the Heavy, mainly because he had a hard time narrowing down the group of songs that he’d written in the three years since his first record was released. “I just didn’t feel right to do it at 11 or 12 [songs],” said Tenpenny. He kept going back to his team, asking for room on the record. It started at 15, then 17, then Tenpenny told his manager, “We’re just gonna have to tell him we’re doing 20 songs. Like, it just doesn’t make sense.” Once he accumulated 19 songs, he knew he needed one more. “It was just bugging me that it wasn’t 20. And I was like, we’re adding another one. We’re putting an intro to this CD.”

When it came time to sequencing those 20 songs, Tenpenny wanted the flow to be just right. “I went up to the golf course by myself and I just took a Bluetooth speaker and I just went and played 18 holes and just listened over and over again and just tried to figure out which sounded the best,” he recalled. “I took my time that day and just went out there and listened and just really paid attention to the timbre after each song ends going into the next. That was super important for me.”

The intro track, the album’s namesake, sets the tone for the entire record before leading into “Good Place.” Tenpenny is excited to play it live after rehearsing it with his band. “Everyone was having fun with that one, ‘cause it’s more like pop punk with the power chords… it’s just energy the whole time. It’s a lot of fun.

One of the most poignant moments on the album is the track “Bucket List,” which was meaningful for Tenpenny personally as well as his fans. “When the world shut down, it kept us going,” he recalled. “It just kept us alive and inspired during those crazy times.” He added, “A lot of people have reached out to me and said they needed that song. They used it. And when that happens, that’s the most humbling thing in the world.” The song also marks a shift in the album.

“It’s kind of a change in pace. The music kind of gets a little different, a little bit more hopeful at that point of the record.”

Tenpenny features genre-blending singer-songwriter Teddy Swims on the track “Elephant in the Room,” which was the result of a friendship that formed about three years ago when Tenpenny slid into his DMs. “I was like, I know you don’t know me from Adam, but I just wanted to reach out. He hit me back up immediately. He’s like, man, I’ve heard your song ‘Drunk Me.’ I’m a big fan of that too, man.” They struck up a friendship and finally met up in person about a year and half ago. “It was like, we’ve been brothers forever. It was crazy. Like we just instantly connected, started writing songs together,” Tenpenny recalled. “He’s one of the sweetest dudes in the world, but what a talent he is. He inspires you in the room to be better. He’s just absolutely incredible.”

Mitchell Tenpenny and Meghan Patrick; Photo by Getty Images for ACM
Mitchell Tenpenny and Meghan Patrick; Photo by Getty Images for ACM

The last few tracks of the album give a more romantic vibe, inspired by his fiancee Meghan Patrick. “Losers” is their love story, describing the Nashville bar where the couple met and got engaged. Reminiscing about his proposal, Tenpenny said, “I’ll never forget that moment. And I definitely cried. I had a whole speech planned and she messed it all up. Cause I couldn’t even, I couldn’t even talk.” The couple is set to tie the knot on October 23. Although Tenpenny admits they’re both big procrastinators, he gives Patrick kudos for all her hard work. “She’s doing an amazing job right now, working with a wedding planner and getting everything situated.”

Tenpenny is currently on the “Raised Up Right Tour” with Luke Bryan, who has offered the rising star sage, yet blunt advice. 

“To calm the f*ck down,” Tenpenny laughed, recalling the candid advice Bryan gave him. “To chill out. Everything’s gonna be okay,.. I know everyone says it, but you know, hearing it from him it’s, I don’t know. It’s a little different.”

In 2023, Tenpenny can carry that advice into his headlining “This Is The Heavy Tour,” which will kick off in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 26 at The Union Event Center with Tyler Braden as the opener. Tickets are on sale now. For more information, go to mitchell10penny.com.

“This Is The Heavy Tour” 

January 26               Salt Lake City, UT  The Union Event Center 

January 28               Los Angeles, CA    The Novo 

February 3               Nashville, TN         Ryman Auditorium

February 4               Nashville, TN         Ryman Auditorium

February 10             Columbus, OH        KEMBA Live

February 11             Royal Oak, MI        Royal Oak Music Theatre 

February 16             Baltimore, MD        Rams Head Live 

February 18             Chattanooga, TN     The Signal 

February 24             Columbia, SC         The Senate 

February 25             Athens, GA             Georgia Theatre

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