Emerging country artist Layla Tucker, CMT Music’s NEXT UP NOW Artist of the Month for March, recently shared the video for her striking cover of Merle Haggard’s classic ballad “Misery and Gin.” Produced by country music veteran Keith Thomas, “Misery and Gin” showcases the rising 22-year-old singer-songwriter’s exquisite vocal ability and remarkable interpretation skills. Indeed, as the daughter of legendary country music icon Tanya Tucker and renowned songwriter Jerry Lasseter, Layla’s connection to Merle Haggard is a deeply personal one. The country music giant was a close family friend who inspired Layla to work hard, find her voice and blaze her own musical trail.
“It’s shocking how many people I’ve met throughout the years who don’t know who Merle Haggard is,” Layla said. “It’s been a really cool experience getting to record this song, like so many others, his music changed my life.”
“Misery and Gin” is a stunning introduction for the Tennessee native. Layla’s gorgeous bourbon ‘n honey vocals inform Haggard’s melancholy 1980 hit with equal parts reverence and attitude, a restrained, entrancing performance that reveals an artistic sophistication well beyond her years. The accompanying music video, directed by Casey Pierce and shot at The Underdog bar in Nashville beautifully captures the song’s essential loneliness as the camera encircles Layla at the same table, singing the song night after night.
Memories and drinks don’t mix too well / Jukebox records don’t play those wedding bells / Looking at the world through the bottom of a glass / All I see is a man who’s fading fast
Expressing conviction and heartache, Layla’s performance flips the song’s narrative from the rugged, western male archetype to a women’s perspective. As a teenager, Layla remembers how she rebelled against country music and pushed it out of her life. But when she was around 15 years old, the family moved to a new house in tiny Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, and country music served as a solace for her loneliness.
“I didn’t have any friends because we just moved out there, so all I really had was my dog, my record player and my guitar,” she remembers. “I could hook my phone up and I would sit in my room next to my window with my ear up to the speaker. That’s where I fell in love with country music again because it was kind of my only friend at the time. One of the first songs that really changed how I felt about country music was one of Merle’s.”
Layla promises to carry on his story while forging her own. Look for more music from Layla later this year; her journey is just beginning.