“American Idol” champ Chayce Beckham admits he’s a sap.
“The stupidest stuff will make me cry,” Beckham says with a frequent laugh.
So, it’s surprising he didn’t cry the first time fans sang his songs back to him. There was a logical reason for that, though.
“I didn’t notice because I had my in-ears in,” Beckham says about his monitors.
“My sound guy told me they were singing every word to all those songs. Now I’ll pull one of my ears out and listen sometimes. It’s a great feeling. It’s been an uphill battle. Sometimes we go to a city or town and there are 100 or 50 people who will come. In another town, 1,000 people may show up to that bar.”
A Nashville resident, Beckham is hoping for a good turnout when he plays KNIX Acoustic Summer with Mitchell Tenpenny and Lainey Wilson on Tuesday, June 28, at the Marquee Theatre.
“I’m a big Arizona fan,” Beckham says. “I love the food. You have great Mexican food.
“Authentic Mexican food is great. My grandma makes tortillas at home. Her beans are great; better than half of what you get at the restaurants. I grew up going to Arizona, going to Lake Havasu, Phoenix and Tucson.”
His Latina grandmother is somewhat responsible for his musical endeavors. He spent weekdays at his maternal grandparents’ 10-acre farm and weekends in LA with his dad and Latina grandmother from Durango, Mexico. She had a car but refused to drive. On one of their daily walks around South Gate LA, the preschooler tripped and hit the pavement. They were in front of a music store, and to distract him from his bloody knees she took him inside.
Beckham says a clerk told him, “Your grandma’s going to buy one of the nicest guitars for you, but you have to be good.”
It worked. He took guitar lessons but found he learned more by playing along with country and rock songs on the radio. Post-high school, he played around town in bands.
The forklift driver took his mom’s long-administered advice and agreed to audition for “American Idol” for season 19 in 2021. On the show, he performed the likes of Chris Stapleton’s “You Should Probably Leave” and Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather.”
The eventual winner, Beckham, who struggled with alcohol, said while he was on “Idol,” he had to “lay off the booze and focus on the music.”
“It’s easy to get wrapped up,” he adds. “Everybody wants to go out every night and drink. It’s easy to get stuck in that. I just surround myself with good people. That’s always been my go-to formula for success. They put me in a good place.”
He says the season 19 musicians were extremely close, providing more of a supportive environment than a competitive one.
“It was us versus the show than us versus each other,” he explains. “It was us trying to figure it all out. We were rooting for each other. We all wanted each other to be there as much as the next person.”
Beckham counts among his friends Willie Spence, Caleb Kennedy (who was granted bond May 20 in a fatal DUI case), Graham DeFranco, Madison Watkins and Hunter Metts.
“We all kind of had a close bond,” he says. “Caleb Kennedy is, unfortunately, having a hard time right now. But all of us spent Easter together with our families. It was a big family. It was enjoyable. I was the last person to leave the hotel, and it was very sad.”
Beckham says “Idol” has a tough crowd, likening them to armchair quarterbacks.
“Everybody likes to talk while they’re sitting on the couch, watching the fight,” he explains, using mixed martial arts as an example. “‘I would have done that differently.’
“Nobody takes the time to consider how much courage it takes for the person to walk out there and get on the stage, how much courage it takes to walk on the stage and grab the mic, sing, perform and beat a bunch of other people. Anybody who does it has my respect.”
Beckham is hitting the stage regularly and co-writing songs in Nashville. Beckham was the first contestant to win “Idol” with an original song in “23,” a semi-autobiographical account of his struggles with alcohol. He made his professional bow with “Can’t Do Without Me,” a duet with labelmate Lindsay Ell. For the EP “Doin’ It Right,” Beckham wrote four of the six tracks.
“Doin’ It Right” features the song “Tell Me Twice,” an ode to his mother’s encouragement to try out for the ABC show.
For the next release, Beckham promises a change. “Doin’ It Right” was accessible modern pop-country, and the next one will feature in-depth, downhome tracks.
“I want to showcase different sides of the country music I want to make,” he says.
“I want to be able to write and record commercial songs and noncommercial songs. I want people to say, ‘This is a Chayce Beckham song. I know I’m going to like it’ but not worry about what category or genre that falls into.
“Luckily my label and management have embraced that and the ideas I have cutting certain songs. It’s nice that they believe in it.”
KNIX Acoustic Summer w/Mitchell Tenpenny, Lainey Wilson and Chayce Beckham
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 28
WHERE: Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Avenue, Tempe
COST: Tickets start at $20