Larry Fleet’s blue-collar background produces songs that are relatable to everyone.
Larry Fleet was waist deep in a flooded rice field hunting ducks in Arkansas when he got an idea for a song.
Granted, most people in that situation wouldn’t view the muddy water of a rice field as inspiration for a song, but Fleet has a different perspective on things when he’s outdoors.
Growing up east of Nashville in the small town of White Bluff, Tennessee, the rivers where Fleet fished and explored as a kid were always muddy. Later in life, Fleet was baptized in the Tennessee River, and, of course, that was muddy as well. So when the rising country star was duck hunting in the muddy water of a flooded Arkansas rice field, he knew it was fit for a song.
Enter “Muddy Water”
“Muddy Water” is one of 21 tracks on Fleet’s latest album, Earned It, and it’s one example of how the 37-year old draws on his love of the outdoors for inspiration in his music. “I don’t think I would’ve paid any attention to muddy water if I wasn’t hunting in it and growing up out in those muddy rivers all the time,” Fleet says. “You notice small details like that when you’re hunting and actually standing in it.”
Details that are relatable to the common man are the backbone of Fleet’s blue-collar songs, and it’s what led him to Nashville. Yet there was a time when Fleet put his country music dream on hold and nearly gave up on making it to Music City. He first tried to break in to the music scene 16 years ago, writing songs that seemed like a good fit for the radio. It was a logical approach, since at that time radio airplay was the key to earning a living as a musician.
Writing from the Heart
But Fleet admits he could just never get it right, because he was writing songs for radio instead of the person who mattered most: himself. Frustrated, Fleet went back to an occupation with which he was familiar and he knew would work. “At that time, I was still growing up, and being a country music singer was out of the cards. It was a nice dream, but you have to be realistic about things,” Fleet says.
He decided to go to work in the concrete business, following the footsteps of his father and grandfather. For several years, Fleet was making a living pouring concrete and laying block, and country music was something he just did on the side, singing in bars on the weekends.
Fleet didn’t mind the hard, back-breaking labor of concrete work, and he stuck with it until six years ago after a chance encounter with country superstar Jake Owen at a private gig in 2017. A friendship formed, and Owen took Fleet under his wing.
Seeing the potential in Fleet as a singer and songwriter, Owen told him he could introduce him to people and open some doors. He also stressed to Fleet that it was up to him, however, to put in the work.
Not Afraid to do the Work
After years in the concrete business, Fleet wasn’t afraid of the work aspect. Leaving the job that put food on the table for his family, however, was a bit uncertain. “I was making a living pouring concrete, and he thought I should quit my job and try to make something of this,” Fleet says. “It was a huge gamble to try this music thing again.”
This time, Fleet used a different approach to carve a path into country music. Fleet leaned on the things he knew—family, hard work, and the outdoors—to shape his music. By staying true to himself, Fleet found success with his 2019 debut album, Workin’ Hard, which led to a deal with Big Loud Records.
His next album, Stack of Records, produced Fleet’s biggest hit to date with “Where I find God,” which has racked up more than 32 million on-demand streams since its release in 2020. The song is an emotional tribute to those special places where people connect with God, and for Fleet that means time with his wife and two young children, sitting in a deer stand with a rifle, and, of course, duck hunting in muddy water.
Those are the things that are meaningful to Fleet, and that’s why it reflects so well in his music. “I stay true and honest and sing about what I know and live every day,” Fleet says. “When you write about something that you don’t know anything about, you’re faking that story. When I write songs about what I know, the details come easy and it connects with people.”
Life Informs Larry Fleet’s Style
Fleet has applied his blue-collar work ethic to his music career and tour, which has been going nonstop for most of the year. He has opened for Willie Nelson, Parker McCollum, Morgan Wallen, Jamey Johnson, and Owen, and he’s also headlined some of the tour stops as well, including a September 22 show at the Ryman Auditorium that sold out on the first day tickets went on sale.
Despite the busy schedule, Fleet still makes time to go to those special places where he finds God. It is the reason why he takes a break from the road for parts of November and December. “For the last 12 years, I’ve been going to south Alabama with my buddies to hunt the swamps down by Bay Minette. We do it over Thanksgiving, and it’s about 40 or 50 of us that get together to hunt deer and hogs,” he says. “It’s so much fun.”
Larry Fleet, Duck Hunter
In December it’s time to switch to duck hunting, and Fleet travels to Arkansas, west Tennessee, and Oklahoma for waterfowl hunts with friends. The hunt that Fleet is looking forward to the most, however, is one that will take place around his home in Tennessee. His oldest son is four years old, and he’s begging dad to take him deer hunting this year. “I got a spot with a bunch of does and some small bucks around, so I’m going to put up a blind with a heater so he can come out there with me,” Fleet says.
Perhaps that first father-son hunt will generate more songwriting inspiration for a future album. After all, when Fleet sings about what he knows and loves, the words come easy. “I definitely draw from the woods and being outside, hunting. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned out there,” he says. “Whether it’s the quiet, the birds singing different melodies, or that old muddy water, there are interesting stories in the little things like that.”