Stirred by the notes coming from her brother’s keyboard, six-year-old Tanner Adell shot out of bed. It obviously wasn’t the first time she had heard music, but something clicked within her that had never clicked before. Hearing the melodic notes fill her childhood bedroom, she was overcome with emotion: she was crying her eyes out; chills and goosebumps ran rampant through her body, her heart pounding. This first very visceral reaction to music has led Tanner down a path that she has yet to stray from. “I don’t know if I heard a voice,” the musician considers. “I don’t know if it was a feeling. But it was just like, ‘This is why you’re here. This is what you are made to do. This is you.’’’
Tanner is pursuing everything she has dreamt of as that young child who was brought to tears. With Buckle Bunny, her debut mixtape, and a long list of TikTok hits, Tanner is making noise within the realm of country music. Whether perched atop a mechanical bull in a hot pink bodysuit, or spotted fishing in her bedazzled visor and sunglasses, it’s clear that she isn’t your classic denim and plaid-clad folk star. “It’s a risk,” Tanner says resolutely. “What I’m doing is absolutely a risk in the country world. And [my producer] was willing to kind of take that leap with me. We just never looked back.” With a country discography that embraces the rhythm and glam of pop music, she is here to change people’s first impressions of the country genre.
Born and bred on artists like Britney Spears and Josh Turner, this fusion of country and pop wasn’t always a clear choice for the singer. It took some time for Tanner to truly reconcile with not only her identity, but the kind of music she wanted to make. Growing up, she would spend the school year in Southern California and devote her summers to Star Valley, Wyoming, where her mom was from. Wyoming became a place of refuge for her. The rolling fields of the countryside allowed her to be a free spirit, but as a child with a background in dancing, modeling, and acting, Los Angeles was a place where she could pursue her dreams. This constant push and pull of loving the peace of the countryside and glitz and glamor of LA put pressure on Tanner to choose one side over the other. Being caught in the middle of two very different realities, she settles on a compromise within her music.
As Tanner belts the lyrics of her most popular songs, “Love You a Little Bit,” and “I Hate Texas,” her Southern charm and West Coast devotion become one with lyrics like At the third red light on La Cienega, you stole my heart right off of lips and Every Sunday was the same, God bless the Cowboys game. The juxtaposition of a pop-engineered beat, a guitar with a certain Southern twang, and lyrics that tell a story of heartbreak come together to give Tanner her signature sound.
“I finally tried to fuse both sides of myself, and I’ve always been half and half. I’m half Black and half white,” Tanner explains. “I was adopted, so it’s like I have half of my biological family and half of my adoptive family. I’ve always been right in the middle, back and forth between California and Wyoming. I finally just kind of accepted that in myself. And I think you can hear that in my music.”
Tanner ignited her flame and passion for music as a child and never let go. This has been kept alive by her drive and her support network. From hearing crowds sing back her lyrics to receiving countless messages, Tanner has immense gratitude for every one of her listeners. And in the end, it is what keeps her going.
But some days can be hard. There can be moments of fatigue where it can be hard to keep writing the melody that won’t work itself out or put on a full face of makeup and make another TikTok. Tanner describes moments where symptoms of imposter syndrome can kick in. “As a woman of color in a genre where I am the representation, it can feel like, ‘Why was I put in this situation? Why am I the one who has to deal with this mess?’ The support that I get always reaffirms the why—why I want to do this and why I am the one who’s doing it. I am the one making this kind of music and bringing this new life to country music.”
With the success of singles like “See You in Church” and “FU-150,” the country star brings a new sense of honesty and glam to country music, weaving Tanner’s impassioned storytelling and talent for performing. “My mission statement is: if you don’t like country, you haven’t heard of me yet. Wait till you hear it because you’re about to like it. Don’t worry.”
Photographed by Leonardo Volcy
Styled by Michy Millions
Written by Cerys Davies
Creative Director: Yazz Alali
Hair: Asia Trebian
Makeup: Shannon Pezzetta
Flaunt Film: Mynxii White
Production Assistant: Sofia Ziman
Location: Desert 5 Spot