Austin Jenckes revisits high school in the reflective video for his new single “Fat Kid,” premiering exclusively on Billboard today (March 18). The nearly four-minute clip stars a group of misfits trespassing at various locations, including their high school football field after hours.
The nostalgic tune features Jenckes’ powerful vocals at the forefront alongside added harmonies by songwriter Lori McKenna (Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” Tim McGraw’s “Humble & Kind.”) “Ain’t life just like high school, sometimes/ Probably sitting in the back of a cafeteria by yourself/ Feeling like a fast girl, the math nerd, the fat kid/ If you grew up in a small town in a big world like I did/ If you grew up like I did,” he sings on the track’s soaring chorus.
“Fat Kid” is the lead track from Jenckes’ forthcoming debut album, If You Grew Up Like I Did. The album’s title borrows a line from his latest single, which was penned by McKenna, Neil Mason of The Cadillac Three and the late Andrew Dorff. Jenckes has lived with the song for several years, instantly gravitating to it after Mason, his roommate at the time, sent it to him shortly after he wrote it. He says the song reminds him of growing up in Duvall, Washington, and the friends and memories he made as a kid there.
“There is an overarching message I wanted the video to tell about being yourself no matter what,” Jenckes tells Billboard. “As an adult, I still feel the same insecurities from being a kid. I look at who I was when I was a kid as an example for what to do and not to do in my day-to-day life as a grown up. Towards the end of the video, I feel a sense of letting go of all the people I may have tried to be, or please, or become, and I feel like I can be myself again…just like I was back then but stronger and more rooted in who I am today.”
McKenna admits that writing the song brought back plenty of nostalgia as she and her co-writers discussed the idea of labels the world often gives us, beginning as early as one’s childhood.
“I love nostalgic songs and writing this one with Neil and Andrew was like going back in time for each of us. Each with our own and different perspective of high school. Those feelings sit just under the skin,” she notes. “I think we dove right back into the idea of the labels life sometimes gives each of us and how easy it is to fall back into them or shed them in the first place. When, in the end, we really all have the same hearts. I was so grateful when I heard that ‘Fat Kid’ meant so much to Austin. We couldn’t ask for a better voice and spirit on this song. This one is special for all of us.”
“Fat Kid” is the first taste of new music ahead of Jenckes’ upcoming album, If You Grew Up Like I Did, out May 31 via red dot. The singer-songwriter co-wrote every song on the project except “Fat Kid.”