Downtown Waco venue The Backyard is filling its outdoor stage this spring and summer with plenty of Texas country/Red Dirt music notables, including Aaron Watson, Pat Green, William Clark Green, Roger Creager and Casey Donahew.
In that schedule, Waco singer Holly Tucker’s name stands out — she’s the only female on the list.
That’s symptomatic of the challenge Tucker faces in the field she aims to make home, Texas country music, a fertile field where many country musicians have built regional careers but one where men tend to get the coverage and the airplay.
Texas female artists such as Miranda Lambert, Kasey Musgraves and, most recently, Maren Morris have used Texas as a steppingstone to Nashville fame, but others such as Sunny Sweeney, Bri Bagwell and Jamie Lin Wilson are finding it hard to climb high on the ladder of Texas country fame.
Tucker, the sixth-place finisher in Season 4 of NBC’s “The Voice” competition in 2013, thinks there’s room in Texas country for performers like her and aims to prove it.
“I knew that going into this and we have to change that,” she said during a recent phone interview when she was in Nashville for the popular Country Music Association Music Fest. “Texas country is known for being rebels and outlaws, but I think it could use a little bit of polish and class, a little bit of sweetness.”
And maybe some womanly steel. Tucker, 22, performs Saturday night at The Backyard, with opener Matt Kimbrow and will use the occasion to debut her new album, “Steel.”
Tucker has worked on the self-released album for the last three years and said the full-length, 13-song CD captures not only her current sound — country “infiltrated” with a little gospel and soul — but the personal growth she’s experienced in that time.
During that time, the singer finished her Baylor University degree and started to build on the national exposure she enjoyed through her success on “The Voice” toward a sustainable, professional career.
She wrote or co-wrote five songs on “Steel,” revealing more of herself in the process.
“You really hear me and my heart in these songs,” she said.
“Since ‘The Voice,’ I’ve gone through a lot, especially in relationships with people, and also a lot of heartbreak, and not just people,” Tucker said. “I’ve learned to go from my head in the clouds to feet on the ground — actually, that sounds like a pretty good song right there.”
The title track of “Steel” captures some of that realness, she said. What seems as a statement of strength on the surface proves tempered by emotion and feeling as the song progresses. The listener’s takeaway is a sense of the singer as a real person, Tucker said.
The album becomes available Saturday on Amazon.com, CD Baby, Spotify and Rhapsody, as well as at Tucker’s performances. “Steel” also will be available on iTunes at a later date.
Saturday’s concert at The Backyard will feature a meet-and-greet with Tucker from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Kimbrow’s show from 8 to 8:45 p.m., then Tucker and her band at 9 p.m. Those unable to see her at Saturday’s show can catch her Aug. 4 at Creekside Amphitheater in Hewitt’s Warren Park, a June concert postponed after heavy rains earlier in the week.
Tucker and her brother, Shane, her tour manager, will visit Texas radio stations and tour in support of “Steel.”
She’s been on the airwaves in recent weeks with her duet with Ray Johnston, “Wax Paper Cups,” and may explore future collaborations with Johnston and Texas singer-songwriter Drew Womack. Last summer, her single “More Than Just a Word (L-O-V-E),” the first single from “Steel,” spent nine weeks on the TRRR Top 100 airplay chart that measures the pulse of Texas country radio.
Not only is the Lone Star State home to the core of her fan base, it’s her home, too.
“Texas is where my heart is and where I’ll always be,” she said.