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Mitchell Tenpenny’s ‘heavy’ tour kicks off at Northern Quest

Country singer Mitchell Tenpenny comes to Northern Quest on Jan. 19 in support of his new LP, “This Is the Heavy.”  (Matthew Berinato)
Country singer Mitchell Tenpenny comes to Northern Quest on Jan. 19 in support of his new LP, “This Is the Heavy.” (Matthew Berinato)
By Ed Condran For The Spokesman-Review

Country music icon Garth Brooks sings about the benefits of having friends in low places. Well, there is an upside of having friends or relatives in high places in Nashville.

Mitchell Tenpenny’s grandmother was the groundbreaking Donna Hilley, who was the CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing during the ’90s and 2000s. Hilley introduced Tenpenny to legendary Music City songwriters Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam when he was 11 years old.

“My grandmother told me that Bobby and Curly wrote ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ which is the greatest country song of all time,” Tenpenny said while calling from his Nashville home. “I was blown away. From that moment on I wanted to be a songwriter since I thought the people who wrote songs like that were the coolest people in the world. I wanted to be cool like them someday.”

Tenpenny, 33, became a songwriter on Music Row and penned the top-10 country hit “If the Boot Fits” for Granger Smith in 2016. Shortly after hitting the charts, Tenpenny wrote “Drunk Me,” which became a smash. “Drunk Me” has been streamed more than 500,000 times and helped make his debut album, 2018’s “Telling All My Secrets” a success.

“This Is the Heavy,” Tenpenny’s latest album, lives up to its title. The Middle Tennessee State University alum, who graduated with a music business degree, returns with 20 songs that clock in just under an hour. It’s an old-fashioned country record with deep and soulful music.

“I still love records and I wanted to make one,” Tenpenny said. “I know we’re in a singles driven world with EPs but it made me feel good to make an album with some elements that are outside of country.”

It’s not surprising that Tenpenny strayed from the traditional path since he is a former drummer and hardcore vocalist (“I was lead screamer,” Tenpenny said with a chuckle), who grew up enjoying a wide variety of music. “I loved Michael Jackson and John Mayer as a kid,” Tenpenny said. “And country is in my blood. I enjoy so many styles of music.”

Tenpenny will kick off his “This Is the Heavy” tour Thursday at Northern Quest Resort and Casino.

“We’re looking forward to starting it off in the Pacific Northwest,” Tenpenny said. “Spokane is so beautiful. If I didn’t live(in Nashville), I could see moving to a place like Spokane. It’ll be good to get back since we haven’t been there since before the pandemic.”

Count on Tenpenny to showcase his recent country chart topper, “Truth About You” and the catchy “We Got History.” “I can’t wait to get out there and play “This is the Heavy” material,” Tenpenny said. “We’re rehearsing now. We normally do one or two days but this time we’re rehearsing for five days. There’s nothing like going out there and playing with your best friends. If you’re going to do that, you may as well do it right.”

Tenpenny’s heart is in the right place. The altruistic entertainer created the 10Penny Fund after losing his father to cancer in 2014. The fund helps support cancer patients and their loved ones through the difficult journey.

“I know what it’s like since it has hit my family,” Tenpenny said. “My mother is battling cancer now. It’s a hard thing to face and so that’s why the 10Penny Fund focuses on the mental side of health care with cancer. You need to be stress free and confident when you go up against cancer. The mental aspect is so important. You need to be on an even keel.”

Tenpenny stays grounded thanks to his wife, Meghan Patrick, who is also a country singer-songwriter.

“Part of the reason our marriage works is because Meghan understands me since she has the same career,” Tenpenny said. “I had girlfriends who made me feel guilty when I left to go on the road. They didn’t understand what I do. With the naked eye, it looks great, you go onstage, you play your songs but it’s more than that. With Meghan, it’s so different. She gets it. It works because Meghan and I fell in love with music before we fell in love with each other.”

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