‘American Idol’ Champ Chayce Beckham Charts His Course to Nashville

Chayce Beckham
Q&A
ABC/Eric McCandless

Chayce Beckham is the new American Idol. A fact that hasn’t sunk in for the blue-collar pride of Apple Valley, California.

“It’s still a blur. I’m still in shock. I’m waiting for it all to hit me all at once when I get home,” the heavy machine operator turned singing superstar said, hours after Ryan Seacrest made the announcement during the May 23 Season 19 finale.

For Beckham, it’s more than a dream realized. The 24-year-old hit rock bottom just last year and almost died in a bad DUI car wreck, which served as a rude awakening. Fast forward to today, and Beckham is overcoming past demons to become an inspirational success story.

Here, the country singer-songwriter reflects on his Idol journey and looks ahead to what’s next.

How much has music and focusing on the show helped to take you out of a dark place?

Chayce Beckham: A lot of stuff went bad. I didn’t really want to go [to the audition]. It was hard for my parents to get me to focus and compete. They helped me turn my life around. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. Luckily, I listened to them and followed through. I started following my gut and stopped trying to control every aspect of my life. It took some time for me to realize I just had to go with the flow and be the best person I can every day. Family and music are the only things that kept me alive. It’s awesome to be that champion for those who struggle and battle with the same things I have—for them to see you can turn your life around.

American Idol

ABC/Eric McCandless

Was there any part of the process that was particularly hard for you?

I lost my voice a couple of times. Learning the songs you might not know—that part is stressful, but it comes with the territory. It wasn’t anything I wasn’t expecting. Other than saying goodbye to good friends you make, that’s never fun. I was expecting the crazy ups and downs of showbiz.

Was there a song choice you were worried wouldn’t go over well?

When I repeated the Chris Stapleton song during [The Top 4 episode]. It was ‘You Should Probably Leave.’ The judges didn’t love it during ‘Hollywood Week.’ I remember missing that note where it didn’t go quite where I wanted it to go. I was a little nervous about doing that song again. I performed it, and that ended up being one of my favorite performances. I kind of redeemed myself in the end.

In the entertainment business, you hear these cautionary tales. Have you gotten any advice from the judges about weathering fame?

I do have a good support system from a lot of the artists who I have met in the music industry. A lot of country artists I have connected with, rock artists. There are a lot of people who are pointing me in the right direction. I’m grateful for that. Even all the mentors were phenomenal. When you do a show like this, they have your best interests at heart as far as being a successful artist. They want you to go out there and look good. From Luke [Bryan] to Lionel [Richie] and Katy [Perry], they’ve all played a huge role in that.

How has the show helped you find your identity as an artist?

I think I’ve become comfortable with myself and am just having fun. I enjoy playing and letting loose. I’m not thinking about it so much. It’s nice to feel free and realize who I am as an artist and realize the music I want to make. It feels good not to have that pressure and to make music on my own terms. I think it has opened me up as an artist and made me a better performer. I think you do those shows over and over again, they’re really high pressure. This is a fast-track into the music industry. A music camp.

Finalists record an original song and release it in the middle of the competition. Yours was “23,” which skyrocketed up the iTunes charts to No. 1. Did that bring you added confidence?

It’s crazy to jump in there, record a song and release my first single and have it do really well. There have been horrible things that have happened to me, but these are great blessings. I was grateful to put the song out and that it was well-received by people. That it was able to be at the top of the charts on iTunes, words can’t describe it. It’s all you want as a musician to put songs out and have them get recognized. That was probably one of the best feelings in the world.

What are your thoughts on how the song has resonated with people?

There are people who think of it as a drinking anthem. To other people, it’s a sad song about trying to sober up. Some people think it’s a life story. It depends on the person, the meaning varies. That’s the beautiful thing about music. I can’t tell someone what the song means to them. I love hearing people’s perspectives. It’s cool that record can touch people on a few different levels like that.

Chayce Beckham

ABC/Eric McCandless

Have you scheduled your fishing trip with Luke yet?

He was trying to get me out there tomorrow, but I can’t. I’m going to get with him once I get back out to Nashville and see what he has planned for us. We’re probably going to, hopefully, move out there pretty soon. I want to have my own fishing boat. That way I can school him on the lake.

Coldplay’s Chris Martin gave you a good hair product business idea during his mentor session with you. How close are we to seeing “Chayce Paste” on shelves?

I don’t know. Then I’d have to slick my hair back for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t be able to change it up every now and then or even cut it off. Before Idol, I had long hair past my shoulders. I want to try to make some hit records before I look to get rich quick any other way.

You’re headed to Nashville to record. What kind of album do you hope to make?

Most of my record is already written. I have multiple songs. I just have to go through them and find what songs fit and get them recorded and have some singles out and hopefully drop a record soon. It’s going to be country music. It’s what I want to do and the career I have been chasing for the last few years. Stapleton is one of the best songwriters on the planet in my opinion. Luke Combs is a beast of a songwriter too, so to go up there and play their songs, it’s really awesome. You learn different techniques every time you learn a new cover. It’s nice knowing I can go to Nashville and potentially link up with those guys and collaborate in the future. You never know what will happen. I’m going to test the waters and find out.