Wyatt Flores, a rising country artist with a superpower: Tapping into emotion

In early February, singer-songwriter Wyatt Flores was relaxing on a Nashville lounge couch before headlining the 1,200-seat Brooklyn Bowl for the first time. The show sold out almost immediately, thanks in part to his seven-song EP Life Lessons, which is filled with raw, emotional country songs for “Break Out” – his take on his career and life. ‘s final year argument – adding fuel to the fire.

Flores, now 22, has been playing professionally since he was 16 and has been releasing music since 2021, when his song “Please Don’t Go” went viral on social media in early 2023. Written as a plea to loved ones, Don’t Take Their Lives features Flores’ simple fingerstyle guitar arrangement that focuses the song on his raw voice. His emotions resonated with fans and helped Flores stand out among the young, down-to-earth singer-songwriters that country music was quickly embracing.

“I’ve been talking about mental health, and that’s what that song is about,” Flores said, “so I made a video to explain it — I sat in the studio and made some acoustic music. What’s next for you You know, it just started spinning. I couldn’t believe it at 2 o’clock in the morning, I was live on TikTok and there were 24 people there, and then I had a thousand.

Suddenly, he found himself involved in a discussion about the future of country music. The increase has left Flores, who has struggled with anxiety, in a state of near-panic.

Less than a week after the Nashville show, he broke down during a show in Kansas City, Missouri, telling the audience in a lengthy speech that although his musical dreams had come true, he felt numb. The next day, his manager called him off the road.

“Honestly, I have to focus on being myself, finding things that I love, and getting myself back to who I am,” he said in March, again chatting on a backstage couch — this time at a Wooly’s. In the small green room. Downstairs, fans packed in at the sold-out venue to watch his first club show since his return. During the break, Flores cut off her long hair and now covers her eyes with a mop.

Flores sings with sincerity and his autobiographical songwriting is often emotionally charged. His home is the family ranch in suburban Stillwater, Oklahoma. His father, Noe, was a welder, and Flores said he would have been one if it wasn’t for music. He wrote frequently about Stillwater and the ranch. After a night of drinking, he flipped his truck into a ditch less than a mile from his home and turned the story into the song “3/13,” a cautionary tale.

Stillwater is a college town and the center of a music scene called “Red Dirt,” which showcases candid songwriting and simple musical arrangements reminiscent of one of its inspirations, Woody Gerth. (Woody Guthrie). Drummer Noe introduced his son to The Great Divide, one of the region’s flagship bands. The band’s guitarist, Scotte Lester, became a mentor.

“The thing that touches my heart the most is sitting around a campfire with my dad and Scott and listening to Scott tell a true story or a story he made up quickly and then play a song that he knows or is making up,” Flores said. “That was my childhood. I was always surrounded by music.

Flores tried college, spending two weeks at Oklahoma State University Polytechnic before dropping out to play music full-time—an experience he chronicled in the upbeat song “Life Lessons.”

When Flores was in middle school, he lost one of his closest friends to suicide. “It hurts you because one day, they disappear and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he recalled. “All you have are these leftover conversations.” In August 2023, while he was on tour, his grandfather committed suicide. Flores has since started performing a cover of Frey’s “How to Save a Life” at shows, often using the song as an opportunity to discuss mental health with audiences.

The song is included as the only cover on his new EP, which will be released on April 19th. The devastatingly personal title track was written before his grandfather passed away and contains hauntingly specific lyrics that recall their time together. Its single “Wish I Could Stay” tells the story of a date Flores had – a night driving around looking at Christmas lights – that he didn’t want to end. The song is a waltz, heavy on strings and keyboards, with Flores practically screaming the chorus in his painful twang.

Flores’ music isn’t always dark, but it’s true to his life and driven by a message. “I wanted to create something that said, ‘Go chase your dreams. Understand that there’s always going to be some lows where you hit rock bottom. ‘But that’s part of it.” “

Flores added that Half-Life is about understanding that this will all end one day. He drew inspiration from Jason Isbell’s 2017 song “If We Were Vampires,” which explores the same theme.

“It sounds very emotional, but it really opened my eyes,” he said, admitting that for someone barely a year older than his drinking age, he thought a lot about death. “I hope this is good for other people too. Live your life while you still can.

In late 2023, Flores took advantage of his opportunity, making his debut over two nights at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, sandwiched between headliners Charles Wesley Godwin and Between opener Cole Chaney. Godwin, 30, is a West Virginia native whose personal songwriting style is similar to Flores, whom he considers an up-and-coming superstar.

“I saw the potential for Wyatt to play in the stadium,” Godwin said in a phone interview. “For him to express himself in his own way, with the songs and melodies he writes, to connect with people in his own way, the sky is literally the limit for him.”

Flores knew that in order to realize his future potential, he needed to overcome his past. When he ran off the road after collapsing on stage, the first thing he did was seek counseling. His move from his lifelong home in Oklahoma to Nashville in 2020, combined with the near-constant industry rush to write, record, or perform shows, made him more homesick than he realized. Last summer, his first headlining tour resumed a week after his grandfather’s funeral, leaving Flores little time to grieve. He realized during the sessions that the cumulative effect amounted to years of suppressed pain.

“Oh my gosh, it opened a lot of wounds,” he said. “I didn’t even know what I was going through was trauma until they told me. I thought I had to be abused and it had to get to that point for it to be considered trauma.

Flores spent most of his vacations at his parents’ home in Oklahoma. He plays with his dog. He hangs out with his family. A few weeks later, he found a temporary job at a bar in Stillwater called the Salty Bronc. His father sits on the drum.

When he returned to his own stage in Des Moines, he recharged his batteries. He played for two hours and ended with “West of Tulsa,” a song with a beat from “Life Lessons” about an empty one-night stand that has become his favorite closing song. The packed house sang together: “I just wanna be somebody, oh/We just wanna be somebody, oh.”

Flores walked away first, leaving his band to improvise for the final few minutes before leading his two managers into a group hug.

“I did it!” he shouted. He was back on track.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 or visit TalkingOfSuicide.com/resources Get a list of other resources.

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