Don't let Larry Fleet's humble demeanor fool you: the Chattanooga-based Country singer-songwriter is the real deal, with fans in contemporary heavy-hitters like Jake Owen and living Country legends like Willie Nelson. He's a thoughtful songwriter with a knack for a one-liner, an ear for a good hook and a powerhouse voice that strikes the perfect balance of soul and twang. And he's ready to show off those chops on his debut album, Workin’ Hard, out on November 8 via Big Loud Records.
Sonically, Workin’ Hard draws from Fleet's eclectic musical influences, which include Outlaw Country icons like Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson as well as classic Soul singers like Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. Fleet's blue-collar roots shine across the album's lyrics, which show him to be a hard worker, a family man and the kind of guy you'd want to slow-sip a beer with. This is especially true on the album's powerful title track, which traces Fleet's journey from a small-town ball player to a Country star with his own family, which now includes his newborn son, Waylon (named, appropriately, after Fleet's idol Waylon Jennings).
Fleet recorded Workin’ Hard alongside producer Joey Moi (Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen, Morgan Wallen) after two whirlwind years that saw him on tours with Owen and Nelson, and landing his first record deal. "Some nights I sang for money, some nights I sang for beer," Fleet sings on "Workin’ Hard," a sentiment made all the more powerful when considered alongside his swiftly rising profile.
While Fleet's undeniable talent would have brought him success one way or another, he had a lucky encounter with Jake Owen in 2017 that led to a fruitful collaborative friendship. Fleet performed a mix of original music and Classic Country cover songs at a friend's "redneck barn party," which Owen attended. After Fleet wrapped up his performance, Owen was wowed by his talent and introduced himself.
"We hit it off," Fleet says. "A week or two later, he had me come over to his house. We sat around a bonfire and played music and hung out and he told me, ‘I think you need to quit your job and go after music.’ I said, ‘I got a wife. What are you gonna do, take me on the road with you?’ The next week he called and we hit the road. We played some theaters and he took me to an arena. He got me in touch with Kendell Marvel and some other writers, to start writing better songs. It all started right there with Jake."
Before that chance meeting, Fleet was working construction jobs. He found success in the difficult field of masonry and eventually landed a gig working for an engineering firm, where he further showcased his construction expertise. Fleet had already been working on making a living at music for 10 years, and when he met Owen it seemed his hard work had finally paid off."
I was on top of the world when I was on stage" Fleet says. "I was like, 'This is where I need to be.'"
After touring extensively with Owen, Fleet was offered an opening slot on tour with Willie Nelson. Nelson was so impressed by Fleet's performance that he brought him on stage during his own setto sing Gospel songs, which was a dream come true for a life-long Nelson fan like Fleet.
"It was just me and my guitar in front of Willie's crowd," Fleet says. "That's why I wanted to start writing songs, because of Willie Nelson... The crowd really got what I did. They seemed to love me."
Fleet wrote six of the Workin’ Hard's eight tracks, enlisting the co-writing talents of songwriters like Will Bundy, Brett Jamesand Rhett Akins. The upbeat, romantic lead track "Tied Down" showcases Fleet's clever lyricism, while "Lied About Love" smolders with his soulful vocal performance and swampy, Southern Rock guitar. The sweet, rootsy "Best That I Got" is another standout track and shows just how seamlessly Fleet brings together his Soul and Country roots, both of which he attributes to the musical tastes of his parents. Tying the album together is Fleet's masterful voice, which finds the sweet spot between Classic Country and the contemporary sounds of today.
"Tied Down" is anchored by the playful lyric "I'm down to be tied down" and accented with soulful harmony vocals and a banjo-heavy, country-fried arrangement. The track is destined to be a Country radio staple and sounds tailor-made for backyard parties on hot summer nights.
"I wrote 'Tied Down' with Will Bundy and Jim McCormick," Fleet says. “We usually write what we know, songs about real life. It was actually one of those songs that just kind of wrote itself. ‘I’m down to be tied down’ is a country way of saying, ‘Let’s get married and do the thing.’"
Workin’ Hard is the debut project of a tireless artist who knows who he is and what he wants to do. Larry Fleet may be humble, but he's paid his dues and he's rightfully poised for stardom. Turn up the volume and see what all the fuss is about.