Spencer Crandall shares his vulnerability with listeners throughout his 20-track album Western, available now. The project includes tales of love and loss, anxiety and healing, and juggling one’s professional and personal life. Crandall’s honesty is nothing new to fans, as the singer has disclosed his life on social media for years.
An independent artist with more than 2.6 million TikTok followers, Crandall has made a name for himself in the country community as an in-demand headliner who puts his fans first. The singer, who joined TikTok in 2019, says he saw the Internet as “undervalued real estate” and pivoted his focus to making three to seven videos each day. Along the way, his interactions on TikTok helped him amass a text list of more than 35,000 fans.
“I went after TikTok hard and through that built a real fan base that nobody could take away from me,” Crandall tells me. “As an independent artist, I get to go on a headlining tour, I get to play the Grand Ole Opry. I get to do these things independently and own my masters, and that’s really special and it’s because of the fans. … I don’t have a career or get to do what I love without our people so I’m so thankful for that.”
At the end of each video posted to social media, Crandall adds a text number so he can communicate with his fans. He says his texts have a larger open rate than his email list.
“The text list is a way better way to connect to the fans,” he says. “I can text them a selfie and just ask them what’s up. I can respond to them directly. I have really been able to tour off of that. I can text people on the album. I can text people about how I’m doing, mental health check-ins. It’s such a special way to really talk to our fans.”
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Crandall is open about his mental health journey with fans and within his music. On “K[no]w Better” he sings of meeting with his therapist, who is “trying to talk me off a ledge,” while “Get Away From Me” has Crandall confessing all the ways he avoids his own thoughts and feelings.
Crandall says it was his challenge to himself to share all the sides of him – the good and the bad – throughout Western’s 20 songs.
“If I’m going to write an album about the hero’s journey and chasing your dream, I don’t want to do the Disney version where you cut out all the bad stuff,” he says. “I want to be an artist who is a part of the conversation, especially mental health and men’s mental health. I don’t feel like there’s a lot of guys who are willing to speak up even though I talked to all my friends and we’re all going through the same stuff. … I knew by telling my story I could give people permission to not feel alone and to tell their story.”
By opening himself up through his songs and TikTok videos, Crandall’s fans responded. He says people were openly sharing their own stories of sobriety, love and sex addiction.
“They were pouring their heart into the comment section into the text community number,” he says. “I was getting so many good messages and so immediately I knew we did the right thing. I think by telling this story in the real way, in the vulnerable way, we have such a better chance of actually impacting people’s lives and I’m really proud that we chose to tell the story in an authentic way.”
Crandall likens Western to everyone’s story. For him, it also pays homage to his ancestors as his great grandparents from the coal mines of West Virginia and the hollers of Kentucky picked up and moved West to Colorado to build a better life and to chase their own dreams.
“We all have a version of a western where we need to pick up and go to the place that we know that we’re being called to,” he says. “This album answers a couple of important questions to me: where do I come from, who am I now, and where am I going?”
Along the way, Crandall shares a piece of himself in every song. From the confessional “Side of the Stage,” where he questions, “am I trading my dream of a family trying to fill every one of them stadium seats,” to “Made,” a reflective love song where he sings “soulmates aren’t found they’re made,” he leaves a mark on the listener. Covers of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” and Justin Bieber’s “Anyone” are additional highlights on the project.
“I hope that people see the vulnerability and the authenticity [and] it invites people to do the same,” he says. “I’m always asking myself, ‘How do I add the most value possible in my fans’ life?’ … I think how you build an actual fan base without a label is to add more value than you take.”