Restless Road Hope to Inspire Dream-Chasers With Debut Album, ‘Last Rodeo’ [Interview]
After years of hard work, navigating speed bumps, writing thousands of songs and playing countless shows, Restless Road have finally arrived at their long-awaited debut album, Last Rodeo.
Zach Beeken, Garrett Nichols and Colton Pack’s group journey has been paved with a fair amount of mountaintop highs and valley lows, which is why Beeken candidly notes, “It has been a restless road to get here.”
Like many acts ready to take flight in 2020, their tour plans were scrapped as the early onset of the pandemic hit. Instead of playing arena shows with their longtime friend and mentor Kane Brown, they were thrust back home, sitting on their introductory EP that had just dropped and a burning desire to connect with fans.
That’s when Beeken, Nichols and Pack decided to band together, get creative and connect with fans through a cellphone screen — all under the guidance of their anchoring motto, “Keep your eyes on the road.”
After assiduously creating content after content, touring coast to coast and onboarding new fans on the Restless Road train, the group finally felt like it was the opportune moment to release a full-length project.
“Going into this year, it was really heavy on our hearts. We knew we wanted an album out. We wanted for the fans who have been with us for the last 10 years or the last two years to be able to hear a full body of work from Restless Road and really get to know us,” Beeken tells Taste of Country.
Of course, one would be remiss to not ask about the intriguing debut album title. After all, the phrase “last rodeo” typically alludes to one’s final run of things before bidding farewell, not the start of something new.
“Who doesn’t love a little controversy, you know?” jokes Beeken. “Leaves people wondering whether we’re going to break up.” He then explains what the album and its title track truly signify.
“Last Rodeo is all about not letting anyone or anything keep you down. It’s about bouncing back, making a comeback, dusting off your heart and putting on a show. That’s what our career has been about 'til this point, and we just felt like it was the perfect thing to name the album.”
Pack echoes Beeken, “The whole album is this theme of resiliency and being able to bounce back, keeping your eyes on the road and never letting anybody tell you you’re not going to make it. Throughout the album, there’re songs about love, there’re songs about heartbreak [and] there’re songs that are meant to inspire and empower.”
Pack, who’s currently the sole married man and father in the group, further likens the group’s unwavering determination to the work ethic of professional rodeo cowboys.
“There’s something really interesting about the rodeo lifestyle and cowboys. They’ve always been associated with people who are hardworking and who get knocked down constantly but find a way to get back up,” he notes. “It’s just very fitting. No matter how many times we get told no or get knocked down, we’re going to get back up. We’re going to make sure at the end, we’re the last ones standing.”
Selecting songs for their life-inspired 18-track record wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Notably, those off their 2020 self-titled EP, such as the John Denver-interpolated “Take Me Home” with Brown, weren’t included in Last Rodeo.
That decision was collectively made to give fans “a whole new, fresh look at Restless Road,” while showcasing “key songs in our identity.”
One song that’s become synonymous with the trio’s brand is “Growing Old With You.” The wedding-ready ballad is their biggest song to date, with more than 33 million streams on Spotify alone. Penned by Jordan Reynolds, Jordan Minton and Lady A’s Charles Kelley, the song immediately piqued Beeken, Pack and Nichols’ interest as soon as they heard it.
“We honestly couldn’t believe that nobody had recorded it,” Nichols recalls with a laugh. “It was just such a great song and one that as soon as we heard, we all related to it and thought a lot of people would relate to [as well]. Love is one of the most common themes in everyone’s life. When we first heard it, we were like, ‘Who do we need to talk to? We need to put this out!’”
Another noteworthy ballad on Last Rodeo is the tear-jerking “Roll Tide Roll.” Beeken and Nichols wrote the track with Kyle Sturrock, and the idea serendipitously hit a heartbroken Beeken earlier this year, while he was still reeling from the aftermath of a breakup.
“We were on the beach and the sun was setting and we were watching the tide rolling. Everybody was having a great time but me. I went through a breakup earlier this year, so I had a lot of stuff on my mind,” he recounts. “We sit down to eat at this restaurant and [when] the waiter heard Garrett was from Alabama, he kept saying, ‘Roll tide, roll tide!’”
That’s when an idea struck Beeken like a bolt of lightning. “I kept thinking, ‘Roll tide roll, watch the pain ride out my soul,’” he says, citing a line in the song. “I knew that idea was kind of crazy, but we figured it out. We wrote it and fell in love with the chorus. It feels a bit like a haunting lullaby. It’s a sad one but you know, everybody’s got to cry sometimes.”
While Restless Road collectively excel as balladeers, Last Rodeo isn’t just an album of slow romantic songs or sappy breakup tunes like the stop-you-in-your-tracks “Go Get Her.” “Bar Friends” is a spirited party anthem, “No Can Do” is a jubilant boyband singalong and “10 Things” is every bit a bonafide twangy ode celebrating post-breakup freedom.
“We really dug in deep this year to capture where we’re at with things that we were going through and feeling,” Beeken says. “And so, the album definitely has a lot of different types of songs and there’s going to be something in there for everybody.”
An undeniable standout on Last Rodeo is the universally relatable and autobiographical “On My Way,” which aptly punctuates a project that possibly runs the gamut of every emotion in life.
“I'm on my way / Wherever I go I'll keep on walking this long winding road / And I ain't afraid to love or to change / And be someone better than I was yesterday / I ain't there yet / But I'm on my way,” Restless Road harmonizes empathetically in the tug-at-your-heartstrings chorus.
Writing it came from a vulnerable time in the band’s life. As Beeken recalls, he was down in his parents’ basement in 2020 reflecting on life and failure on the cusp of the pandemic when the words of the sentimental ode hit him.
“I can get hard on myself really easily and a lot of times feel like I’m not doing enough of this or that, or why can’t I quit doing this or that. I think [that’s something] a lot of people struggle with,” he says. “So for me, it just came from a place of wishing I could change and get better at. I just thought, 'I may not be where I want to be yet, but I’m on my way there every day and that’s all I can do.'”
As soon as Pack and Nichols heard it, they jumped on board and wanted to record it.
“It was a song that when we got to hear it back for the first time, it was hard not to get teared up when we listened to it. We knew if we were feeling that much emotion about the song, it was really special,” Beeken recounts.
With their top two goals of making their Grand Ole Opry debut and performing on The Bachelor already checked off, Restless Road are setting new goals. Garnering No. 1 hits, award nominations and augmenting their domestic fanbase sit atop the list, but the trio is dreaming bigger as well.
They’re setting sights on building an international fanbase from the ground up to represent country music in as-yet-unrepresented territories.
“Pop music has done it probably obviously better than anybody. We joke and say we want to be the biggest country band in the world. That is very true, but you almost have to have a pop mentality because I feel like pop has been the only genre that has really transcended globally,” notes Pack.
“We’re just now starting to see that becoming an actual thing globally [in country]. I know Kane, Luke Combs and Morgan [Wallen] just went internationally, but there really hasn’t been a band that’s really started doing that internationally, so I feel like that’s really a big one on our bucket list. If you can be first, you can be one of the trendsetters.”
Already, the band has seen a boost in their digital music consumption in South Africa and various parts of Asia, including Japan and India.
“Have you ever seen a country band in India? Mark my words. We’re going to figure out a way to get to India and be the first one. ‘Growing Old With You’ is just blowing over there!” Zach beams with excitement.
Pack echoes, “I want to go to any of the Asian [countries]. I checked Apple [Music] last night and Japan is starting to creep in on our list of people that are really starting to stream our music. I know with ‘Take Me Home,’ when we first released that song, we had a lot of people in Asian countries who were heavily streaming ‘Take Me Home.’ So I do think that getting into those places that no country artist really, period, has gone into is really also important.”
Until then, the Restless Road guys are dusting their boots and saddling up for a meteoric ride to stardom, while appreciating the milestones they’ve accomplished thus far. When asked what advice they would give their future selves, Beeken, Pack and Nichols say it’d be to live in the moment, be grateful, enjoy the ride and quit worrying about the next step and past mistakes.
“Don’t look at the hard times all the time because if you do that, it’s really easy to give up,” says Pack. “Remember the times that made you want to do music and have that dream to begin with. I think that’s one thing I try to remind myself of all the time. Anytime we have a hard moment, I think, ‘The me 10 years ago would have killed to be where I am at today.’”
“If I can have that mindset every day, it’s going to keep me humble and keep me having that drive and grit to keep going and getting better every single day. That’s all you can do. If you get lost in the sauce, it’s easy to lose your way.”
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Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes