Tanner Adell’s Time Has Come

She manifested a Beyoncé collab. The sky’s the limit for what’s next.

by Bianca Alysse
country-pop singer Tanner Adell

Tanner Adell is sitting cross-legged on the floor of a Manhattan photo studio in front of a large mirror, grabbing makeup from the Saint Louis Goyard bag open beside her. She blends her foundation carefully, attempting not to smudge any on her Metallica T-shirt, before turning to the day’s crew and clarifying, “I’m not wearing this.” Her manager points toward a nude bralette adorned with silver chains and dangling crystals. She’ll later wear it with a pair of camouflage cargos — the exact balance of glam and cozy I anticipated from the zillennial country-pop star.

Adell may not yet be a household name, but she’s just experienced the kind of career-shifting moment that could very well catapult her in that direction. The singer-songwriter, who has been building her fan base on TikTok since 2020, was a surprise highlight on Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter album, where she lent her vocals to the tracks “Blackbiird” and “Ameriican Requiem.” The record, the second in a three-part series by the Grammy-winning superstar, honored the contributions of Black artists in country music past and present.

In the weeks since, Adell has gained over 100,000 Instagram followers, attended the CMT Awards in custom Natalia Fedner wearing Bantu knots, released a new single, “Whiskey Blues,” and performed her hit “Buckle Bunny” at Stagecoach. The festival “feels like the first step to the rest of my life,” she says — and it’s all part of a dream she spoke into existence directly last year.

In an Instagram post on March 29 announcing her involvement in Cowboy Carter, Adell detailed how she saw the film Renaissance and said aloud in the theater, “I will work with Beyoncé in 2024.” On Feb. 11, just after the “Texas Hold ’Em” singer dropped the album’s first two singles, Adell posted on X, “As one of the only Black girls in [the] country music scene, I hope Bey decides to sprinkle me with a dash of her magic for a collab.” While she’s not able to tell me exactly how she linked up with the famously NDA-clad icon (“She can’t, I’m sorry,” her manager said when I asked), Adell speaks reverently of Beyoncé and her influence within the country genre.

“I think Beyoncé might be the most patient human being on the planet,” Adell says, referencing Beyoncé’s admission that this album was originally intended to be released before 2022’s Renaissance. “To have waited four years... I think her timing is impeccable.”

We are blessed that Beyoncé has shed this huge light on this part of country music, because we have always been here.

Adell appears on Cowboy Carter twice: She lends vocals to the album’s opener, “Ameriican Requiem,” and the second track, “Blackbiird” — a reimagining of the Beatles classic of the same name. She’s featured on the track alongside fellow Black country artists Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts, and the foursome has since gotten matching blackbird tattoos to honor the moment. The original verses by John Lennon and Paul McCartney were an ode to a more inclusive worldview and respect for the Civil Rights Movement. Among modern supporters, the song is also regarded as a call-out of how Black musicians are treated within the country genre.

Although country music is undoubtedly experiencing a renaissance, Adell’s wish for Black women in the genre goes beyond this moment in time: “I hope it is not [treated as] a trend,” she explains. “There are a lot of Black artists that have been grinding for the last couple of years. And we are blessed that Beyoncé has shed this huge light on this part of country music, because we have always been here.”

The Kentucky-born artist grew up in Los Angeles County and spent summers in Star Valley, Wyoming. She is biracial and sings country songs, some of which blend genres. All the while, she has maintained her authenticity by showing up as she pleases and not getting pigeonholed into anyone else’s idea of who she should be. “It’s exactly what I am, but I don’t think about it,” she says. “I’ve just gone into the studio, and this is what I’ve done.”

Adell rose to prominence during the early days of TikTok with bubbly posts and song covers before she released her debut single, “Honky Tonk Heartbreak,” in 2021. Her pop-tinged follow-up song, “Country Girl Commandments,” detailed the standard she held for her love interests: “Don’t lie, don’t cheat, and don’t be late / Sunday morning we’ve got church with my mama.” The 2022 EP Last Call was a showcase for not only her sweet-sounding vocals but also her skills on the banjo, piano, and guitar. “Those are my three main instruments. I grew up through orchestra,” she says. “So, I played violin for a bit, and I played upright bass as the first chair.”

Her babysitter introduced her to musicals, such as The Phantom of the Opera and Grease, while Adell’s adoptive father placed her in piano lessons at age 6. “I think I started writing maybe into my second or third year of piano lessons,” she says. “And the songs were probably trash!” Laughing, she adds, “I’ve been doing this for a long time.”

Her adoptive mother, a rodeo queen, molded her adoration for horse riding, Western fashion, and instilled time-honored values. “My mom taught me so much about the country, how sacred it is to have those moments — a moment with a horse, a moment by yourself [fishing] before the world is awake,” she says. She also reconnected with her biological father, who made rap music in the early 2000s, and considers his flows part of her musical heritage now, too.

Adell’s long list of musical inspirations includes legends like the Bee Gees, Earth, Wind & Fire, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Etta James, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, and Janet Jackson, along with newer icons like Ariana Grande, Kacey Musgraves, and Taylor Swift that currently feature in her listening rotation.

Upon graduating from Utah Valley University, Adell was determined to have a career in music, even if it meant money was tight. “I’ve had cold water. I’ve had everything you can imagine [take place],” she says. “Lights are turned off when I need to get ready for something, and I go out, and nobody knows what’s happening in my personal life.”

She got a break after moving to Nashville. Her 2022 single “Love You a Little Bit” went viral, garnering 31 million Spotify streams to date with its relatable portrayal of the nerves around dropping the L-word: “Kinda scared to say it, what if you don’t say it back? / Either way, I felt it, can’t un-feel that.”


But things really took off last year when she dropped “Buckle Bunny,” a single she was “fighting” to release after some behind-the-scenes shuffling with her record label at the time. The track triumphantly flips the term’s once-derogatory meaning (buckle bunny meant, as Adell has said, “a country bumpkin ho”) into a badge of pride and an ode to women who love Western style.

Adell cites Dolly Parton’s over-the-top looks as a particular style inspiration. “[She’s] why I play the banjo,” Adell says. “I was watching her be absolutely fabulous. And I was like, ‘I know that — titties, hair, nails, banjo. So hot. Love her.’” “Buckle Bunny” even had a shoutout to Adell’s future collaborator: “Looking like Beyoncé with a lasso.”

To me, [Beyoncé] is the pinnacle of Black beauty.

“I know people think ‘Buckle Bunny’ is just this surface-level song,” Adell explains. “Specifically, I wrote that line because Beyoncé is extremely awarded. To me, she is the pinnacle of Black beauty.” There are two sides to the lyric: “People tell me I look like I could be Beyoncé and Mariah Carey’s baby, so physically looking like Beyoncé,” she says. “But I’m a girl in country music… so the second half of it is just looking like a Black woman in the country world.”

On her Buckle Bunny album that followed, Adell also opened up about her sexuality on the track “Strawberry Crush.” “I thought that I was bisexual for a really long time, but I’m starting to realize I think I’m pansexual,” she says. “When I feel a connection with someone, that’s what I go off of for how attracted I am to them. I don’t think it would matter to me if it was a man or a woman.” She does, however, credit Keith Urban with inspiring her “sexual awakening,” adding, “I think he’s still hot to this day.”

I’m very good friends with lots of these girls in country music who are not of color ... they get asked very different questions than I do.

When we relocate to a nearby conference room, there is a familiar moment I have experienced in separate corporate settings — one where Black and Brown women share a glance and there is an immediate understanding of being perceived differently. “I’m very good friends with lots of these girls in country music who are not of color,” Adell says. “I will say, I don’t hear them getting asked by reporters why they chose country music... they get asked very different questions than I do.”

Thankfully, she is making her way toward bigger stages and better interviews, while continuing to be herself wherever she goes. The vocalist hit the CMT Awards red carpet in Natalia Fedner and Bantu knots, a protective hairstyle choice that was notably celebrated by Black women fans in the comments section of her Instagram recap. She also worked with Levi’s on her Stagecoach outfit, a denim-on-denim set adorned with rhinestones and pink prize ribbons.

Adell’s latest single, “Whiskey Blues,” dropped in time for her festival set. The track, a heartbreak anthem that blends country and pop influences, was born out of a recent breakup — but Adell is more interested in healing and finding community than airing dirty laundry. The music video showcases her and a few friends in a rage room. “A couple of my friends are going through very hard breakups with situations that make you want to beat a ho,” she explains. “It wasn’t just me that needed to go break some sh*t up.”

It’s the kind of sisterhood she got from listening to Beyoncé, and the kind she wants to offer listeners, too. “Tanner Adell is everything, baby,” she says, before quoting another diva inspiration: “I’m every woman — it’s all in me.”

Photographs by César Buitrago

Photo Director: Alex Pollack

Contributing Photo Editor: Jackie Ladner

Editor in Chief: Charlotte Owen

SVP Creative: Karen Hibbert