Meet Mitchell Tenpenny — a man of soul, swagger and stories of a Nashville gone by.
Tenpenny is a rarity among artists in town in that he’s a native Nashvillian, born and bred, and he’s also got the music industry in his blood. In his youth, he spent many days in the office of his grandmother, the late Donna Hilley, a music publishing legend who was president of Sony/ATV Publishing.
It was there that Tenpenny discovered his first love: songwriting.
“I remember the day I wanted to be a songwriter,” he told CMT.com. “I was in my grandmother’s office and I was about 8 or 9 years old, and Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman were there. I didn’t at the time realize they were songwriters. I thought my grandma was the head of a label, not a publishing company. I didn’t know what she did. I was a kid.
“But I loved ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ and she said to me, ‘Hey, these are the two guys that wrote that song.’ At the time, I just assumed all artists wrong their songs. But it just clicked for me, because those guys were cool. You know Bobby, he’s just so low key, and I thought that was just so neat. I wanted to be that. I wanted to be that guy behind the scenes writing the songs.”
And he did become that guy. Even now that he’s stepping into the spotlight as an artist, Tenpenny still has the heart of a songwriter — one full of notes, memories, lyrical ideas and techniques all his own, inspired by the beauty and beautiful mess around him in his everyday life.
That’s exactly what you hear on his debut EP Linden Ave., a collection of real moments and memories brought to life in Tenpenny’s own voice, a mix of soul, Southern rock rasp, country, pop and blues. Growing up, Tenpenny was exposed to just about everything thanks to the power of television and the radio, in addition to his exposure to the great Nashville songwriters. He credits everyone from the Oak Ridge Boys to R. Kelly to the church for influencing his sound.
“I loved Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 and Motown, and that is where I think a lot of my soul influence comes from,” he said. “And church. I sang in church growing up and those were my first concerts I ever played, playing guitar in the corner at church services and finally getting a chance to sing. And I grew up with pop and country, and there’s some kind of balance there.”
It’s a balance heavy in the new generation of country, much to the chagrin of some but to the delight of so many others. And as the genre opens up more, so do more minds. For Tenpenny, it’s all about just being authentic.
“I’m not Hank. I’m not Willie. I’m not Merle,” he admits. “And I’m not going to try to be them. They’ve already done it, so why would you want to try and be that? I just want to give you something pleasing to your ear and is hopefully something you can relate to.”
And he plans on keeping it country.
“I did grow up in the South, and we’re gonna talk about all that. I mean, you’re not gonna talk about hunting and fishing in a pop song. It’s like Sam Hunt: Sam’s pop, but his lyrics are country and there’s a blend there.”
And it’s working for Tenpenny. Linden Ave. is a blend of country, pop and soul with even a few hip-hop beats as an undercurrent in a few places, but it’s lyrics are undeniably country. And most importantly for Tenpenny, it’s just fun to listen to.
Among the highlights of the project that easily flows from top to bottom are songs like “Laid Back” and “Mixed Drinks,” a tune written for a girl nursing a heartbreak.
“We were sitting at the bar, and we saw a girl just sitting in the corner by herself, just drinking and drinking and looking at her phone and slamming it down,” he recalled. “That could only mean one thing. We wanted to give you a song that gave you permission to drink a little on a heartbreak when everyone’s like, ‘No, you shouldn’t go do that.’ But we are. We’re gonna go to the bar and drink too much that night. It’s OK. I just want to be that person that’s real, that says it like it is. I don’t want to sugarcoat it.”
Which he definitely doesn’t do in “Bitches,” a singalong which at first glance definitely raises some eyebrows. But Tenpenny says the only target of the song is the cheaters of the world — guys and girls alike.
But still, it was a hard sell at first, even to Tenpenny himself, and the decision to release it didn’t come without reservations for everyone.
“It took a lot of convincing with the team, and it took a lot of people believing in it and seeing people sing it back,” he admits. “Seeing women sing it back, that was big for us to be able to all agree that maybe we could do this and do something different. It is what it is, and it is not about calling women bitches. It’s about cheaters, and everyone knows that emotion. When you get your heart broken … that’s what happens.”
And it’s a true story, by the way. At the time it was written, two friends had just been cheated on. Tenpenny says he just started humming the melody and the words — “I don’t deal with bitches no more” — just fell out.
“My buddy said, ‘No one will cut that!’ I said, ‘Man, I’ll cut that!'”
Pretty soon, what started out as a just-for-fun, kiss-off song became a widely circulating demo, with Tenpenny receiving videos of people singing it in their car.
“I understood that emotion, and I felt like women would understand that emotion, too, from being cheated on by guys. And they can scream it, too. I want it to be an anthem. Fill in the blank on whatever you want to call it.
“We kept it light-hearted and fun, because it’s not supposed to be so serious. It supposed to be something that when you are having a hard time like that, you can crank it up and just forget about it for a moment.”
For Tenpenny, giving the fans an emotional release it what it’s all about. Road life is the best life for him, because he gets to see his music go to work.
“It’s my favorite thing in the world is to be out on the road with my band and my best friends,” he said. “That’s what started it all — playing in bands. I love playing with my friends onstage. That’s where our stuff translates best. I will lose my voice by the end of the show and we’ll stay out there for three hours after just meeting everybody because it means the world to see people come up. That’s why we do it.”
But it all begins with the songs, and Tenpenny strives to continue to grow as a songwriter, always thinking of his grandmother’s tireless support of Nashville’s music community and the feeling of family among writers.
That’s a legacy Tenpenny is keen on seeing through to this current generation. Even as fellow songwriters and artist friends like Devin Dawson make their way up the ladder and charts, Tenpenny says the camaraderie between them all is the most important to cherish. After all, that’s what made Nashville so great in his eyes as a young boy.
“We are all competing, but at the end of the day, those are my best friends,” he said. “I remember that Nashville. It wasn’t competition, and it was awesome and then it turned into this really cliquey, really political thing really fast, and I’m ready for it to be done.
“My group of friends, we’re all coming up together, and every time someone gets a single — you know, Devin, Paul DiGiovanni — we’re all in a group chat and we celebrate each other.”
He admits the atmosphere is a combination of support and friendly competition.
“We’re obviously competing,” he said. “I would love to have that single, but that’s my boy. And if my boy gets it, then that helps us all. And that’s the best thing in the world.”
And that’s a spirit and cause that would make definitely make his grandmother proud.
Mitchell Tenpenny‘s “Truck I Drove in High School” checks the boxes of an upbeat country love song — but there’s not a girl to be found. Readers can press play below to hear the country up-and-comer’s ode to his old ride, premiering exclusively with The Boot.
With “Truck I Drove in High School,” Tenpenny, Andy Albert, Devin Dawson and Jordan Schmidt co-penned a high-energy track that encapsulates that feeling of being a teenager with a car — no matter how beat up or broken down it is. The song’s first verse paints a perfect picture with lyrics about “a tailgate hangin’ on by a thread” and “an old V8 knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door.”
“I remember feeling like I was king of the road in my first truck,” Tenpenny tells The Boot. “It eventually squeaked so bad you could hear me coming from all the way down the road, but that wasn’t the point. The point was, you were finally free and able to get out of the house, pick up your friends and just go!”
Tenpenny and his co-writers played up the parallels between a first love and a first car with lyrics such as “Lord knows it wasn’t perfect / But I was happy it was workin'” and a bridge that goes “I kinda wonder where she’s at these days / I bet she’s runnin’ like nothin”s changed.”
“They say ain’t nothin’ like the first time / And it was love at first drive,” Tenpenny sings in the chorus of “Truck I Drove in High School.” “Yeah, I owned that road in that rusty gold old truck I drove in high school.”
A Nashville native, Tenpenny will release his Linden Ave EP on July 14; the singer-songwriter co-wrote all six tracks on the project, which is available for pre-order via iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify. Readers can visit Tenpenny’s official website to learn more about him and get a list of upcoming tour dates.
Listen to Mitchel Tenpenny, “Truck I Drove in High School”:
Read More: Mitchell Tenpenny, 'Truck I Drove in High School' [Exclusive Premiere]
By Kevin Coffey / World-Herald staff writer
Jun 1, 2017 Updated Jun 1, 2017
Summer is here.The kids are on summer break. You’re heating up the grill a few nights a week. The sun is setting late in the day. It’s time to sit on the deck with a few beverages, some good food and something on the stereo.But what to play?I’ve got you.There’s a ton of new music out, and a lot of it will be perfect for summer.
Lorde, “Green Light” — It takes a minute for the song to heat up, but once it does, the piano pop ballad is infectious, bright and perfect for summer.
Ed Sheeran, “Castle On the Hill” — The best song on Sheeran’s album is all about reminiscing, a perfect summer pastime while you watch your kids run through the yard.
Miley Cyrus, “Malibu” — Drifting away from amped up pop, Miley sings a breezy love song over a stomping beat and melodic guitars. It’s good.Haim, “Want You Back” — A hopeful song about a relationship’s end features what the Haim sisters do best: pretty melodies, gorgeous harmonies and choruses that stick in your head.
DJ Khaled, “I’m the One” — Nobody puts together talent like DJ Khaled, and this track featuring Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne and Quavo is fantastic. Watch the video if you get a chance.Phoenix, “J-Boy” — The French pop outfit delivers a synthy jam that sounds straight out of 1987. I dig it.
Mitchell Tenpenny, “Laid Back” — Maybe the bro-iest of bro country tunes, this song is still good for, as it says, “soaking up rays in a lawn chair.
Kygo, “It Ain’t Me” — Every time this song, which features vocals from Selena Gomez, comes on the radio, it stays in my head for days. It’s a simple melody topped with her gorgeous vocals. Oh, and then there’s its anthemic chorus.
Computer Games, “Every Single Night” — It’s a simple pop song, but it does it for me.
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, “Hope On the High Road” — For you rock or country lovers, Isbell is back with a rocking record led off by this crunchy gem.
Kyle, “iSpy” feat. Lil Yachty — Every time this song comes on, I get a smile on my face because of its playful nature.
Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like” — There’s not a bigger song right now. This one grew on me, and now I listen to it in the car with the windows down like I’m as rich as Bruno.
Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still” — I can’t help but bob my head to this groovy indie rock song. And if you’ve got a minute, check out the remixes by Flatbush Zombies and others.
Danger Mouse, “Chase Me” feat. Run the Jewels, Big Boi — This one hits so hard, I might also add it to my workout playlist.
Greta Van Fleet, “Highway Tune” — Roll your window down and fly your hand on the wind as you cruise down the highway listening to this Led Zeppelin-like jam.
JACLYN WHITESIDE | May 26, 2017
Hold my calls.
Mitchell Tenpenny is on a roll with his third release in less than a month and he’s not slowing down yet. The newest is the groovy banger of a song called “Laid Back”. Grab yourself some friends, drinks, this song on your summer playlist and get “Laid Back”. Pick it up on on iTunes here and give the teaser a watch below. Mitchell’s EP Linden Ave is available for pre-order now and it includes “Laid Back” and his popular single “Bitches”.
By Mitchell Tenpenny Published May 12, 2017Fox News
Mother’s Day is always a special day to me because I've been blessed with two of the most amazing women in the world: my mother and my grandmother. They were undeniably a gift from God, and I've learned so much from these remarkable women.
My grandmother, Donna Hilley, was the glue that held our family together. She hosted Sunday dinners after church and hers was the house where everyone was invited to gather and to celebrate.Grandmother was also CEO of Sony/ATV Nashville, and during her time there, the company signed acts such as Little Big Town and Maypop and secured the back catalog publishing rights to country music legends such as Conway Twitty, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. She ranked No. 4 in Entertainment Weekly's "Ten Most Powerful People in Country Music" in 1992, grabbed the "Woman of the Year" title from the Business and Professional Women's Club in 1978, and was inducted into her home state's Alabama Music Hall of Fame. She mentored, made time for and rooted on hundreds of artists in Music City, just as she did for her grandchildren, never missing a football, basketball or baseball game, no matter how busy she was, if one of us was playing. I can still hear her today, screaming my name from the stands, with the same confidence in her voice that she no doubt used when negotiating publishing deals. I felt like I could do anything.
Grandmother was a magnet – she drew people to her, her family, her artists.
She was also a lighthouse – shining a path and showing the way forward, with a grace and a passion and a toughness that made everyone around her push themselves a little bit harder.
When I was 11 years old, I was in her office at Sony when she introduced me to two songwriters named Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman. She told me they were the two writers who wrote “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” I had no idea that recording artists did not always write their own songs. This was one of those pivotal moments in my life. I couldn’t help but think that maybe I could be a songwriter who could create songs as “cool” as the two legends who were kind enough to spend time with me.
It was in that moment that I realized who Grandmother was, that her larger-than-life persona and the way she loved extended way past me and the world I knew to a whole community of songwriters. She was in the business of bringing their art to the world!
From the time that I was young, she taught me to learn how to make my own demos and play every instrument, knowing that would make me more valuable to a publishing company when I was ready to search for a deal. She bought me my first Pro Tools rig and a guitar, setting my future into motion. She lit the path and showed me the way, just as she’d done for countless other lucky souls who crossed her path throughout her life. .
Unfortunately, Grandmother became sick and passed away before I had a chance to show her the impact her gift had on me and my musical journey. Sometimes in life things happen and we don't understand why. But I knew what she would want me to do, and I used it as inspiration to live up to the legacy she created for me, my family, our city and the music that we love.
I can honestly say I'm here today because of my family, and my family is here today because of my Grandmother. I miss her everyday, but I’m so humbled to be a part of this crazy industry, one that she introduced me to at such a young age. Grandmother was not just a typical publisher; she was a publisher of peace, confidence, boldness, dreams, passion, integrity — and most of all — a publisher of love.
Happy Mother’s Day, Grandmother.
Nashville-native and Riser House Records artist Mitchell Tenpenny is set to release his label-debut EP, 'Linden Ave,' on Fri., July 14. For more information click here.
JACLYN WHITESIDE | May 5, 2017
No holding back with this one.
Mitchell’s soulful country rock voice will appeal to many in this track about liars and cheaters. Most of us have dealt with an undesirable person like this at some point so you’ll be clapping along gospel style praising Tenpenny for his honesty. It’s groovy and catchy and meant to be your new theme song if you have been cheated on.
Tenpenny is so ready for the world to hear his music that he released “Bitches” just a week after releasing “Alcohol You Later”. AND his EP Linden Ave is now available for pre-order. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing the EP and trust me, it’ll be the best five dollars you spend on music for a while. You also get “Bitches” immediately with pre-order of Linden Ave so might as well do it all. Mitchell is the Everyday Man of Music who will win you over with his voice, sound, and “let’s get drunk together after the show” type of personality. Big fan and am looking forward to the release of his EP July 14th. Find Mitchell’s music, buy “Bitches” and pre-order Linden Ave HERE.
Wow, are we glad we found Mitchell Tenpenny on social media. Mitchell is a gifted songwriter, he wrote Granger Smith's hit, "If The Boot Fits" and Jon Langston's song, "All Eyes On Us".
Friday, April 28th Tenpenny released his debut single "Alcohol You Later" under Riser House Records. Everybody loves great vocals and a catchy chorus. Mitchell delivers all that and a bag of chips to his fans.
Mitchell is on the top of our Summer Watch and Jam list for 2017. We can't wait to see the future for this talent because it's all about the song and this guy sure knows how to lay down those lyrics and deliver it gift wrapped.
by Jim Casey | @TheJimCasey | April 26, 2017 Nashville native Mitchell Tenpenny has been making a name for himself over the last few years by plying his unique brand of swampy, soulful country music, as well as distinguishing himself in the writing room (he co-penned Granger Smith’s Billboard Top 10 hit, “If the Boot Fits”).
As Mitchell gears up for the July release of his new EP, Linden Ave, the singer/songwriter/instrumentalist (guitar, drums, piano, bass, banjo) is whetting fans’ appetites by releasing his new single, “Alcohol You Later,” to iTunes on Friday, April 28. But you don’t have to wait until Friday to hear it—Nash Country Daily is premiering the new tune today.
“I wanted to write a song about something that I’ve personally dealt with and seen happen over and over again,” says Mitchell to NCD. “It’s something people can relate to but don’t necessarily want to admit. I heard a Southern gentleman tell his buddy at a bar, ‘I’ll call you later’ with a heavy Southern draw. In my head, I heard ‘Alcohol You Later,’ and I immediately wrote it down and brought it to my co-writers Sam Sumser and Michael Lotten. This song is simply about the truth of liquid courage and how we’ve all felt the need to rekindle an old flame after having a few.”
Listen to the exclusive premiere of Mitchell’s “Alcohol You Later” below.
JACLYN WHITESIDE | April 28, 2017
He says number one on his speed dial and I say number one on my playlist.
Mitchell Tenpenny is an artist that I’ve been a fan of since I made the move to Nashville. You may not have heard his name yet but you’ve heard songs he’s written before. Tenpenny was a writer on Granger Smith’s “If The Boot Fits” and Jon Langston’s “All Eyes On Us”. Today he released his first song under Riser House Records, “Alcohol You Later”. I LOVE a good play on words and Tenpenny is one hell of a talented singer too. “I got that title sitting at a bar and I heard a real southern gentleman tell his buddy ‘I’ll call you later’ and I thought I heard ‘alcohol you later’ and immediately thought about drunk dialing and personal experience of saying something is over when it really isn’t, especially when liquid courage is involved. So I wrote something that Nashville has a huge problem with, that being drunk dialing. But everyone does that honestly and I wanted to say something real that people actually relate to,” Tenpenny explained to me. He is at the top of my list for artists I’m excited about and is going to shoot out of the gate running with this one. Big things are coming for this guy and you’ll want to jump on the fan bandwagon quick. If you haven’t had the pleasure, I’m excited to introduce you to Mitchell Tenpenny. Give an acoustic version of “Alcohol You Later” a watch below and pick it up on iTunes here.
Photo via Dallas Wilson
Christina Bosch | April 15, 2017 | New Videos | 0 Comments
The stripped-down acoustic video for Mitchell Tenpenny’s “Telling All My Secrets” isn’t the least bit flashy, which allows you to focus solely on Tenpenny’s soulful voice and thoughtful lyrics. The black and white aesthetic highlights the Nashville native’s crystal clear vocals, and combines with romantic lyrics (“Come a little closer, I’m gonna need to hold you when I tell you this”) to create an intimate moment. Watch the video below:
Catch Mitchell Tenpenny opening this spring for Granger Smith. Check out his Facebook for more information and full list of tour dates.
Music industry organization Young Entertainment Professionals (YEP) featured Rewind: Soulfinger on April 12 at The Basement East, benefitting Songs Against Slavery. The two-hour show included throwback Motown classics performed by Charlie Worsham, Caitlyn Smith, Lucie Silvas, Mitchell Tenpenny, Jillian Jacqueline, Estef, Abe Stoklasa and more.
Pictured (L-R): Riser House Records artist Mitchell Tenpenny; YEP Exec. Director Amelia Varni; ACM Guitar Player of the Year Derek Wells; Independent artist Lucie Silvas; Warner Bros. Nashville artist Charlie Worsham; YEP Co-chair and CEO of Gyrosity Projects Garrison Snell. Photo: Jason Myers