Country duo Sugarland may be on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, but lead vocalist Jennifer Nettles is setting about launching her solo career. On Monday (July 21), the singer previewed five tracks from her forthcoming project (set to hit retail in the fall), including the record’s lead single “That Girl,” a song co-written with Butch Walker. The track is expected to drop August 5, as previously reported.
“I wrote that with Butch Walker,” she tells Billboard. “He’s out of Atlanta, and used to be in a band called Marvelous 3. He’s such a talented musician, and we’ve known each other for years – since I started out in the Atlanta scene. Everybody kind of runs the same circuit, so there’s definitely a songwriting community there like there is in Nashville. But, we had never worked together, so I reached out to him and said ‘Hey, I’m doing this new record. Do you want to get together and try to write?”
Unintentionally, Nettles admits that the song became something she didn’t quite expect, channeling the likes of Dolly Parton‘s iconic song “Jolene.” She explains, “This song has kind of ended up being ‘The Ballad of Jolene.’ It wasn’t intended that way, as the concept was saying ‘I don’t want to end up being that girl.’ This woman has obviously been bamboozled, and it wasn’t her plan going in. When she found out there was somebody else, she called and told her that it wasn’t really her fault.”
She continues, noting the song’s evolution throughout the creative process, “That idea presented itself of ‘What if it was Jolene calling and saying ‘I really don’t want your man. This is not who I want to be. I want to let you know I’m not that girl, but he’s being that guy.’ It was really fun, and I love the rhythm track. The claps you hear on it, we were listening to references of ‘Cecilia’ by Simon & Garfunkel and have that clap with a delay on there. It was fun and rhythmic, but you also hear that Johnny Cash pickin’ style. That track was super Rick Rubin.”
On the album as a whole, she says, “I think this album plays to my roots. There’s country, gospel, 70s music, singer-songwriter stuff, as well. It has been a joy to get to explore those parts of myself. I’m excited and nervous at the same time – all of those things you are when something is important to you.”
Nettles enlisted the producing talents of one, Rick Rubin, to bring to the table his knack from rhythm-driven tracks. “He was super-active in the recording. He’s very much a rhythm track guy, and I think that’s a big part of his background. Frankly, one of the two most important major elements of music is the rhythm and the melody. He’s really focused on all these things.”
“When we first started our dialogue, I sent him over some songs – really sparse, just one accompaniment instrument and the vocals. He likes to hear it that way, and he wanted to hear it that way too. He could get attached to the song that way in those elements, and not have thoughts about how someone else might think they should be produced.”
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