Larry Fleet is no stranger to hard work, working construction jobs while honing his songwriting craft before landing a record deal.
Just in time for Labor Day, Fleet takes listeners behind the scenes of his rise to success with his latest album Earned It, which he released on Sept. 1. The follow-up to his aptly named debut, Workin’ Hard, continues Fleet’s narrative of pride in blue-collar work, family values, and traditional country music.
The White Bluff, Tenn. native caught up with Music Mayhem ahead of the album release to chat about creating his latest album like a set list, the story behind his song “Man Made a Bar” that was recorded by Morgan Wallen and Eric Church, touring with Parker McCollum and more.
“Body Of Work Artist”
Fleet had been yearning to release a 20-track project for a while and he finally got the green light from his record label, Big Loud Records, to do so with Earned It.
“They said, man, you’re a body of work artist, what they called it. So people push play on number one and let it go,” he recalls. He would put out 100 songs if he could, that he loves seeing what people react to and what their favorite song is. When it came to building this record, he decided to structure it in a way he knew has worked – his live shows.
“I didn’t get a ton of radio support on ‘Where I Find God’ and stuff. It only made like 41 or something on the chart,” Fleet shared. “I had to build it the old fashioned way by playing shows, which is awesome.”
He recently performed in Atlanta, Georgia and reflected on how far he’s come. “The first time I played there I sold 27 tickets and the next time I played there I sold 1500 or whatever it was. So I built it there and we just had to keep playing and keep grinding.” The success of his concerts inspired how he built Earned It. “I wanted to put a record together, like a live show, like a set list.”
Title Track Sets The Mood For The Rest Of The Project
Larry Fleet assembled the track list in about 30 minutes with the help of his band. He explained that the title track sets the mood for the record, then the rest follows the energy flow of a live show.
“Lucky Dog’s up in the top and it’s very high energy, which is how you start a show out. You want to come out strong out of the gate and then you come back down a little bit with Ain’t Mad at Jesus, which is still a good decent tempo. But that’s what I did. I grouped the songs together to make ’em make sense together, but also how I would do it in a live show.”
He also grouped together some of the tracks that he considers a nod to “old school” artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Vince Gill.
The lyrical content of the album is a reflection of where the husband and father of two has been and where he is now. “I’m writing songs where I’m at in my life and just so happens there’s a million other people just like me that are in the same spot or they already went through that spot and they kind of reflect on it.”
The concept for the title track came from a serendipitous writing session with Fleet and frequent co-writer Connie Harrington. Fleet considers him a “title guy,” crafting tunes from title ideas. When he and Harrington were going through possible titles, they realized they both had “Earned It” on their lists. He knew they had to write it.
“She [Harrington] grew up a lot like I did too. So it was a thing about working hard and earning everything that you get. And my dad used to say, nothing’s going to be given to you.” Fleet feels that is true with his music career as well. “I’ve had help, but I’ve had to really, really work hard to get to where I’m at. And I still work hard every single day. It doesn’t get any easier. I mean, the easier part is playing a live show where you got more people coming that know your songs, that makes it a little easier. But every day I work hard.”
He decided to name the album after this song not to be arrogant or cocky, but to explain that he’s had to work hard to get to where he’s at. He’s already seeing the response from fans at his live shows, who are singing along to every word. “It’s just an anthem for working men and women. And honestly, that demographic is massive. There’s not enough people writing for the working man and working woman. So I think it’s a good one for that and for the people and just to be proud of what you got.”
How Larry Fleet Celebrates Labor Day
The timely release of Earned It coincides with the Labor Day holiday weekend, a celebration for working men and women everywhere. Larry Fleet says it’s always been important to his family.
“We always celebrate working people in my family, it’s a pride thing. It’s like, man, we’re proud of what we do and you’re proud of the things that you’ve worked hard to get.” He adds, “It’s a time where we always get together with family and cook food and hang out and we’re enjoying the day off. And we got friends and stuff in town that are staying with us this weekend, so it’s always a big one.”
Even with his success as an artist, Fleet says he’s still drawn to hang out with “working class” folks. “No matter how big you get and all the famous people that are around, I always tend to go to the guy that’s like the concrete worker and see what he’s working on.”
He admits he misses the type of work he used to do. “Honestly, I miss working hard every day doing construction stuff, and I worked my butt off where I’m at right now, and it gets harder and harder every day, but I miss building something with your hands. I think that’s why I like writing songs so much, is you start with nothing, you end up with something. Same thing when I was doing concrete and asphalt and different things like that. You start with nothing, you end up with something, you can look at what you did. And so I’m always drawn to those kinds of things. I guess that’s why I like Labor Day too.”
Story Behind “Man Made a Bar” Recorded By Morgan Wallen And Eric Church
One of the songs Fleet wrote for another artist is “Man Made a Bar,” which was recorded by Morgan Wallen and Eric Church, appearing on Wallen’s One Thing at a Time album. Fleet wrote the tune the same weekend as “Things I Take for Granted” and knew that it was special.
“We got the demo back and I was like, man, this song’s great,” Fleet recalled. He knew that Wallen was almost done with his record, but sent it over to him saying ‘Hey man, if you don’t want this, I’m going to record it, but if you’re looking for something, I think this is pretty cool.’” Wallen responded that the song was awesome and he loved it, but then Fleet didn’t hear anything else for a while. Wallen’s producer Joey Moi called Fleet to him know that they had recorded the song, then the next week Wallen called him to share that Eric Church would be featured on the track as well.
“As a songwriter, I’m always happy and proud if a song gets recorded that I wrote. But to have Morgan, which is arguably one of the biggest artists in our genre and a lot of other genres too, he’s huge. And he cuts the song you write great, and then he says, Eric Church’s going to be on it too. I’m a huge fan of both of these guys, especially Eric Church.” Fleet has been amazed by the early response. ”The thing’s already went platinum and it ain’t been out no time.”
Unexpected Gift From Parker McCollum
Fleet recently wrapped up a tour with Parker McCollum, who surprised him with a special gift during their last night on the road together.
The pair had been performing Brooks & Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road” together every night, and when Fleet began to walk away after the song ended, McCollum took him off guard.
“He was like, we’ve got something for you. And I turned around and there’s this, I ended up looking it up, a Martin like triple O. It’s an Eric Clapton signature guitar. It’s a really, really awesome, great guitar. I’ve never actually had a Martin guitar, so this was a big one for me,” admits Fleet. “It was one of the nicest things that people have done.” He added, “He’s a great guy and we’ve become buddies over this time of touring together. So I think that we’ll stay friends forever, and that was a super, super nice thing that he did for me.”
This fall, fans can catch Fleet on his headlining tour that kicks off September 23 in Indianapolis, Indiana and runs through November 3 in Orlando, Florida. His band has been rehearsing in anticipation of which songs from Earned It that fans will like.
“We got a new steel guitar player and stuff that is new. So they’re rehearsing something that we’re anticipating on people liking. So that’s the hard part,” says Fleet. “I’m having to kind of make a guess on what I think people are going to like. But we definitely have older songs that made us what we are right now.”
The “Where I Find God” singer says fans can expect about eight songs from the new album to make it into the set list.
Sold Out Show At Ryman Auditorium On September 22
Fleet also has a sold-out show at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville coming up on Sept. 22, which he never expected.
“I thought it was going to be one of those that it was kind of a risk doing it,” Fleet admits. His booking team had suggested booking a smaller venue and eventually build up to the Ryman, but Fleet convinced them to take a chance and it paid off. “This is my first time actually, even being from Nashville, my own headlining selling ticket show in Nashville.” The show sold out on the first day of being on sale. “This is my first time to do that, and to do it at the Ryman is crazy and for it to sell out like that.”
Fleet’s success may continue to surprise him, but it’s easy to see that he’s “earned it.”
Larry Fleet’s EARNED IT TRACK LIST
- Earned It (Larry Fleet, Connie Rae Harrington)
- Lucky Dog (Zach Abend, Smith Ahnquist, Michael Hardy)
- Ain’t Mad At Jesus (Larry Fleet, Josh Miller, Jake Mitchell)
- 25-8 (Casey Beathard, Nicolette Hayford, Jim Wolf)
- Things I Take For Granted (Larry Fleet, Rocky Block, Jordan Dozzi, Brett Tyler)
- Lord Willing (Larry Fleet, Will Bundy, Brett Tyler)
- Two Beer Plan (Larry Fleet, Thomas Archer, Ryan Beaver, Mark Holman)
- Taking The Long Way (Larry Fleet, Will Bundy, Brett Tyler)
- Something He’d Say (Larry Fleet, Josh Thompson, Jake Mitchell)
- Beer Needs A Beer (Larry Fleet, Brett Tyler, Logan Wall)
- There’s A Waylon (Steve Moakler, Joseph Patton, Logan Wall)
- Angels Were Gone (Rodney Clawson, Jessie Jo Dillon, Joybeth Taylor)
- Try Texas (Jake Mitchell, Larry Fleet, James McNair)
- Tennessee On You (Rocky Block, John Byron, Jacob Durrett, Ashley Gorley)
- Muddy Water (Larry Fleet, Jesse Frasure, Brett Tyler)
- Devil Music (Jessie Jo Dillon, Neil Mason, Brett Tyler)
- Layaway (Larry Fleet, Mark Trussell, Josh Miller)
- Much To Talk About (Tommy Cecil, Jordan Dozzi, Craig Wiseman)
- Grow (Rodney Clawson, Josh Miller, Dallas Wilson)
- Daddy Don’t Drink (Larry Fleet, Derek Bahr, Luke Laird)
- Young Buck(Andy Albert, John Byron, Devin Dawson, Jacob Durrett)