It doesn’t take long following in someone else’s footsteps to want to step out on your own again.
Oklahoma’s Beau Jennings literally has been retracing the footsteps of famed Okie humorist Will Rogers over the past few years for his passion project, the film The Verdigris: In Search of Will Rogers, all while writing songs about his boyhood hero.
While it’s been a deeply rewarding endeavor — one nearing completion — Jennings needed to carve out a little “me” time. Enter The Tigers and their new album, Sweet Action.
“I had neglected that part of me,” he said. “I hadn’t done any first-person, self-reflection writing that I used to do all the time. It was good to engage in that again after focusing on another subject for so long.”
Formerly the leader of now-disbanded indie-folk favorite Cheyenne, Jennings recently made the move back to his home state of Oklahoma after an extended period in New York City. A gig at the annual Okie Noodling Tournament last summer prompted him to put together a backing band, whose lineup since has evolved to include friends (pianist Chase Kerby, bassist Michael Trepagnier, guitarist Jeff Richardson and drummer Eric Nauni) both new and old.
Much like Batman, The Tigers are meant more as a symbol than anything.
“It’s mostly an idea, more so than a sound,” Jennings said. “That idea is trying to achieve a big, aggressive sound. It’s still a little nebulous in our minds, but the goal for it is to mean something — mainly, that you are in for a full-on rock show.”
It’s a bit of a departure from his previous work, sharing many sensibilities of his solo output and Cheyenne records, but noticeably wilder.
“It’s a new direction, sonically, for me. It hits the sweet spot,” Jennings said. “I’ve been a little less nervous to embrace the Americana, rootsy motif. I’m not afraid of being labeled a singer-songwriter anymore. That used to carry a negative connotation to me, but it doesn’t anymore.”
The new crew helped Jennings flesh out the songs that would become Sweet Action, inspired equally by rock stalwarts Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, as well as more modern groups like The National.
With the past two years of Jennings’ life being consumed by heady demands and deep study, it’s been nice to let his id take over.
“It’s this chance to be in a rowdy rock ’n’ roll band. Verdigris won’t sound like that at all. It’s going to be more nuanced, sonically and lyrically. It’s not going to be a loud, raucous show,” he said. “The Tigers is, relatively speaking, my rock-out outlet.”