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First Play: Sam Outlaw, Tenderheart

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Holly Gordon

Dotting a line between the title of Sam Outlaw’s second album, Tenderheart, and the Care Bear of the same name might be too squishy a comparison, but the country singer’s heart-on-sleeve approach to songwriting feels just as healing as any Care Bear countdown.

The followup to his 2015 debut, Angeleno, Tenderheart is 13 songs of Socal country, dipped in mariachi brass and shined with twangy throwbacks. Outlaw — who was born Sam Morgan but uses his mother’s maiden name for his music — is based in L.A., and the distance from Nashville is refreshing.

"You can't underestimate the importance of the aesthetic in which I live," Outlaw told Rolling Stone Country. "There is something special about Los Angeles, a special sadness. There is a faded beauty that is here, that kind of strange following of dreams while dreams are being crushed in a regular [basis]. You can sense that. That's why there's a unique type of country music that comes out of L.A."

Outlaw recorded Tenderheart in the San Fernando Valley with a handful of musicians who were also on his debut effort: Taylor Goldsmith (from Dawes), Bo Koster (from My Morning Jacket), Molly Jenson (vocals), Jeremy Long (pedal steel) and Danny Garcia (guitar). Tenderheart also features Erwin Vasquez an Mariachi Teocuitatlan, a local mariachi group.

Outlaw had a career in advertising in Southern California before he quit at 30 and started making and touring his music full time, and his two releases in as many years prove that we’re lucky he did. Earlier last year, even Ryan Adams tweeted his fandom:


“Well I recall/ a man in search of treasure/ and a kingdom of his own./ But if you find your calling/ and you still feel senseless/ it’s ‘cause everyone’s looking for home,” Outlaw sings on Tenderheart’s opening track, “Everyone’s Looking for Home.” With this second album, it sounds like Outlaw’s found that home.

Tenderheart will be out April 14. Pre-order it here.