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31 Days of Women: Dolly Parton

Credit: Rob Hoffman

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Who better to close out Women’s History Month than Dolly Parton? An American treasure, Parton has served as a constant ray of light at a difficult time. My personal highlight of 2020 was interviewing the singer. A larger than life figure, Parton was never someone I considered interviewing — it just didn’t seem possible. My 20-minute phone interview proved that maybe it’s time to dream a little bigger. Below is an excerpt of my chat with the legend from a cover story for Sounds Like Nashville.

Parton gets personal in her latest book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in LyricsWithin the pages Parton tells the stories behind some of her biggest hits as well as shares never-before-seen photos, memorabilia, and handwritten lyrics to her songs including one of the receipts from Porter Wagoner’s dry-cleaning which she wrote “Coat of Many Colors” on. The songwriter has penned nearly 3,000 songs and estimates around 450 have been recorded by her or other artists.

Throughout her seven-decade career, Parton has amassed 25 No. 1s on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and 10 GRAMMY Awards. In Songteller, Parton tells the stories behind one of her biggest hits – “I Will Always Love You.” She released the song twice in two separate decades with both versions (in 1974 and 1982, respectively) becoming a No. 1 hit, making her the only person to have two different chart-topping recordings of the same song. When Whitney Houston recorded the track for the 1992 film The Bodyguard, her version spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Originally written by Parton for Wagoner to tell her longtime collaborator that she needed to leave The Porter Wagoner Show, “I Will Always Love You” has been deemed one of the greatest love songs ever written.

“That’s just the gift that keeps on giving, that song. Elvis [Presley] almost recorded it. I kept hold of my publishing and I cried my eyes out ’cause Elvis didn’t get to do it. It was his manager that said he had to publish it if he did it and I wouldn’t let him have publishing,” Parton explains. “That one has so many stories and so many heart wrenching things, and so many memories. I have to say that revisiting that was more moving to me.”

In Songteller, Parton reveals that she learned Presley was such a big fan of the song even though he never got to record it himself. While she was working with Priscilla Presley, the late singer’s ex-wife shared with her Elvis’ love of the powerful ballad.

“We were thinking about writing a musical about her story. I think that may still be in the works somewhere, but she had been interested in maybe me writing the music for it, so I had gone to meet her,” Parton recalls. “In that process of us talking I said, ‘One of my greatest disappointments is that I didn’t get to hear Elvis sing ‘I Will Always Love You,’ but I couldn’t give up my publishing.’ She said, ‘Oh, he loved that song. When we divorced, when we were coming down the steps from the courthouse, he was singing ‘I Will Always Love You.’ That made me chill all over, that was so sweet. I was so happy she told me that.”

While Parton shares that “Coat of Many Colors” is her favorite of all her songs as it means so much to her personally, she also confesses that she loves to search for song ideas in the graveyard. She assures she’s not morbid, it’s simply a very peaceful place for her to gather her thoughts.

“I write a lot of songs in the graveyard because it’s peaceful and quiet. I love to go there and read. I love to picnic; take a blanket and go take a book or take my writing pad and sit and just think. It’s just so peaceful. It’s not morbid to me because they’re in peace. Like I’ve said before, it’s not the dead that scare me, it’s the living,” she jokes.

“Years ago, I visited this graveyard and there was a little oil lamp, an eternal flame, and it was still burning, and I was so fascinated. Somebody said, ‘That’s called an eternal flame.’ It was a child’s grave,” she recalls. “I was always afraid of the dark myself, so I wrote a song called ‘Jeannie’s Afraid of the Dark.’ Her parents knew she was afraid of the dark and when she died, they put an eternal flame on her grave.” 

Parton says she’s gotten character names for her songs from the tombstones in graveyards. “I really think that some thoughts just come to me that maybe were floating around out there, not knowing exactly which grave it came from. Floating on the wind, some thoughts and some ideas and feelings,” she adds.

For more of my interview with Dolly Parton, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

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31 Days of Women: Miko Marks

Credit: Beto Lopez, Mooncricket Films

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Miko Marks never intended to record another album. After facing unsurmountable roadblocks as a Black singer navigating the Nashville country music scene in the early 2000s, Marks gave up her dream of recording. Instead, she focused on performing and her residency in Oakland, California at Overland. Thirteen years since releasing her last album, It Feels Good, Marks returns with Our Country.

The idea of recording new music came to Marks from songwriter and producer Justin Phipps. In 2019, Phipps shared a song he wrote called “Goodnight America.” The stripped down ballad details the idea of freedom in America and how certain freedoms aren’t provided for everyone.

“It was such a special song,” Marks tells me. “I had never done something that was so spot on for where we are in the world. I had to [record] this song.”

Marks recorded the song with Phipps and Steve Wyreman in early 2020. While Marks says she and her collaborators initially began recording on a song by song basis, by the time they completed four tracks they knew an album was in the works.

“It was really that organic,” she says. “It was something I didn’t even think to do.”

Our Country includes inspired covers like “Hard Times” mixed in with Marks’ originals like the deeply autobiographical “We Are Here” about the hardships those face living in her hometown of Flint, Michigan. Mavis Staples’ version of “Hard Times” inspired Marks to record her own interpretation as well as pushed her to finish writing a song about the suffering and marginalization of the people in her home state.

While Marks says she sees changes being made in the country industry today, she admits to being disheartened when she was trying to find her way in her early career.

“No matter what I did, it didn’t really resonate in Nashville. So, I was discouraged,” she says. “That may be part of the reason why I stepped away from recording. … The amount of gatekeeping in Nashville was just astounding to me at that time. I was in my late 20s and I had no idea what I was up against.

“It’s refreshing today to see so many people of color making music and making a way for themselves like Breland, Mickey Guyton, Brittney Spencer, Rissi Palmer, Reyna Roberts. There were not that many when I was trying to make a go at it. There’s a unity and there’s a movement [now]. The listeners are actually using their voice to acknowledge these talented artists and that is a shift that I didn’t think I would see.”

For more of my interview with Miko Marks, visit Forbes.

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31 Days of Women: Callista Clark

Courtesy: Big Machine Label Group

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Callista Clark has been singing since she could talk. The 17-year-old Georgia native began performing at her grandfather’s church as a child before she started posting performance videos online. A cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” that amassed more than 27 million views caught the attention of Scooter Braun, who signed the teenager to his SB Projects management company then introduced her to Big Machine Label Group Founder and CEO Scott Borchetta. Clark’s debut Big Machine Records single, “It’s ’Cause I Am,” is at country radio today.

“I didn’t know what was happening, it was just the craziest thing,” Clark tells me. “I still don’t know to this day what it is about that video that made it do what it did, but it changed my life.”

Clark, who also plays eight instruments, has been co-writing in Nashville since she was 15. Her earliest songs, including “It’s ’Cause I Am,” are featured on her Real to Me EP, released in February.

Clark penned “It’s ’Cause I Am” with Laura Veltz and Cameron Jaymes in late 2019. It was one of the last in-person writing sessions she had before lockdown. The song idea came to Clark after witnessing a snide remark from an older gentleman who saw her carrying a guitar into Starbucks.

“I was trying to get back out the door and this random guy sees that I’m a young girl with a guitar in Nashville and he just goes, ‘Good luck,’” she says. “I turned around and I said, ‘Thank you very much!’ I was so angry that people judge me before they knew who I was or what I was capable of. I had a really fun time ranting to Laura Veltz and Cameron Jaymes about that situation and that feeling.”

The song has Clark sharing that she’s a complicated woman and not one-dimensional. “You want a one-dimensional woman/ It’s OK I understand/ If I seem too complicated for ya/ It’s ‘cause I am,” she sings on the chorus.

“I really like the one-dimensional woman line because no one’s ever one-dimensional,” she says. “Everyone is unique and everyone is special in their own way, and that’s what that [line] means to me. No one’s ever that easy to figure out by one glance.”

“The biggest thing I can hope for being a songwriter and being an artist is just using my voice and hoping that someone relates to it,” she says. “That’s all I can ask for.”

For more of my interview with Callista Clark, visit Country Insider.

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31 Days of Women: Reba McEntire

Courtesy: Universal Music Group Nashville

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

In honor of Reba McEntire’s 66th birthday today, I look back on my last interview with the singer for Billboard in 2019. Because of her boundless creative spirit, overwhelming success and outspoken support for other women in the genre, McEntire was named the 2019 recipient of Billboard’s Trailblazer Award. Calling from her Nashville office, the superstar talked about the values that have shaped her career. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.

What does being a trailblazer mean to you?

Hopefully I have done some things that have strengthened the country music business. I love country music: what it stands for, how it relates to people of every walk of life — male, female, all ages.

Earlier this year, you expressed dismay that no women were nominated for entertainer of the year at the ACM Awards. Why was it important to speak out?

Because I am a woman, I know how important it was for me to get encouragement and an occasional pat on the back and [hear], “You can do it.” That goes a long way. My mama was always saying, “Reba, you can do this.” And I said, “Oh, but it’s going to be so hard. I’m dreading this.” She said, “Reba, it’ll be over in 24 hours. You can do anything for 24 hours.” That’s a good way to look at it. So I quit worrying.

Your songs often feature powerful female characters. Was there ever a time when you passed on a song because it lacked that perspective?

Oh, lots of times. It doesn’t have to be a strong female voice necessarily, but it has to have a message. If a song has touched my heart, hopefully it’ll touch your heart when I sing it. I’m the conduit. I’m the one that delivers the message. When I go looking for songs, I ask God, “Please send me the songs that will help people, that will touch their hearts.” It might solve a problem for them, it might entertain them, it might get them away from what they’re going through. That’s my job on earth. I feel very strongly about that.

You seem to have a strong sense of what rings true for you artistically. When was the last time you made a misstep?

There was a time that I [covered Beyoncé’s] “If I Were a Boy.” We had done that for [Unplugged on CMT in 2010], and the record label really wanted me to record it and put it out as a single. I didn’t feel real good about it. It wasn’t that successful. The people in the music industry, they’re professionals, and sometimes you have to go with the team. It just didn’t work out.

What do you still hope to accomplish at this point in your career?

I love [performing], whether it’s for movies, television, concerts, recording — whatever it is. I’d love to get back into television, maybe some more movies. I love to travel, so I’m trying to check off some time to see more of this beautiful world that God has made.

For more of my feature with Reba, which appeared in the June 1, 2019 issue of the magazine, visit Billboard.

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31 Days of Women: Runaway June

Courtesy: BBR Music Group

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Last year I spoke with country trio Runaway June, who announced the addition of Natalie Stovall to the band following Hannah Mulholland’s departure in May. Below is an excerpt of my Zoom chat with the trio for Sounds Like Nashville.

Runaway June have been working on their sophomore album and Stovall promises there will be much more fiddle on the songs. Meanwhile, Naomi Cooke and Jennifer Wayne say Stovall has elevated the musicianship of the band.

“She’s brought so much spirit and so much positivity. She’s such a good hang,” Cooke says of Stovall. “She’s such a hard worker. It’s been awesome. It’s been really like all of our energy; all of our hopes and dreams and all of our focus is aligned for the same thing. That’s been really great.”

While most of the band’s co-writes have been over Zoom throughout 2020, Runaway June remain motivated. With more time off the road than they’ve had in years, the women are creating and collaborating at a rapid pace. “I think we’re finding the joy in this moment. This is all that matters,” Cooke says. Additionally, Wayne says Stovall bringing the fiddle into the writers room has been inspiring.

“It really is like taking us back to our roots. We had a lot of fiddle and we actually took it out of our music because we couldn’t afford a fiddle player live,” Wayne admits. “It’s been awesome having Natalie come back in, because we can go back to how Runaway June was formed, and bringing that organic country sound back.”

The women joke that since their second album will be the first project Stovall will be working on with them, there will be no curse of the sophomore record.

“It is kind of like a new band all of a sudden while still being an established band,” Stovall says. “For me personally, it’s opened up a world of creativity in my writing where I’ve never thought about writing music for three girls singing harmony. I’ve always thought about a solo voice. So it has completely opened up a whole new world and a little compartment that I didn’t even know existed.”

Runaway June’s latest single is “We Were Rich,” featured on the band’s 2019 debut album Blue Roses and updated to include Stovall’s vocals and fiddle. “We Were Rich” was written by Ashley Gorley, Ross Copperman and Nicolle Galyon. The nostalgic and sweeping ballad takes the listener back to an easier time with descriptive lyrics that connected with Runaway June the first time they heard the song.

“It’s nostalgic, but it also reminds you of the simple and really beautiful times of your childhood and we all need that right now. We can all get in that time machine, even if it’s only for three-and-a-half minutes, and go back to a place where you’re not worried about anything and there isn’t any fear,” Stovall says. “That was actually my favorite Runaway June song, so it was really cool to come into the project and then the first order of business was to release ‘We Were Rich.’”

Adds Cooke, “The first thing that grabbed me was the line, ‘One bathroom sink/ We’d all take turns.’ It reminded me of my childhood. I have 10 brothers and sisters. We always had one bathroom growing up. That line, I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s my life!’ That was a really special moment … I think it sparks different memories. People are telling us the sweetest stories, which makes us know that they are also being transported to a simpler, better time. And that’s all we could hope for.”

For more of my interview with Runaway June, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

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31 Days of Women: Carrie Underwood

Credit: Jeremy Cowart

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Carrie Underwood released her first gospel album, My Savior, today. The singer celebrated the release with a Q&A with fans and performance on Instagram. On Easter Sunday, she’ll return to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for “My Savior: Live From The Ryman.” The virtual live concert will stream globally on her Facebook page at 11am Central with donations benefiting Save the Children.

I’ve been lucky enough to witness Underwood several times in concert as well as interview her. Below is an excerpt of my chat with Underwood following her two wins at the 2019 CMT Awards for Female Video of the Year for “Love Wins” and Video of the Year for “Cry Pretty.”

Following her performance at Nashville’s The Parthenon, Underwood returned to the Bridgestone Arena to speak with me and shared her gratitude for her fans backstage after the fan-voted awards show.

“I love what I do, and my fans have always been super supportive,” she says. “It means a lot that they take the time — their time is precious — and they take their time and they vote and they spread the word and they show up at the Parthenon.”

A month into her Cry Pretty Tour 360 the country super star says the trek, which includes openers Maddie & Tae and Runaway June, is going well and the venues are full of energy each night.

“Maddie and Tae and Runaway June are a pleasure to be around and so talented, so professional. I love listening to them every night. They get me fired up to go on stage,” she says. “I definitely have favorite parts [of the show] but all for different reasons, like interacting with different band members at different times. I love when we do ‘The Champion’ because I get to encourage somebody else when they’re on stage and I see somebody who has never done anything like that before get up on stage and conquer a fear and the crowd’s going crazy.”

She adds, “The women’s medley is such a fun moment in the show not only because I get to sing with the other ladies, but we get to honor people that we genuinely admire. It just makes me sad I couldn’t make that an hour medley. It was really hard whittling it down to a few songs.”

For more of my interview with Carrie Underwood, visit Billboard. My recap of her Birmingham, Alabama performance at Legacy Arena at the BJCC tour stop of the Cry Pretty Tour 360 is here.

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31 Days of Women: Kalie Shorr

Credit: Catherine Powell

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Kalie Shorr’s 2019 self-financed debut album Open Book landed on countless year-end lists and was named The New York Times’ No. 7 best album of the year. On Dec. 4, she released the deluxe version, Open Book: Unabridged, which includes four new tracks. The project marks a new chapter for the longtime independent artist as it’s her first album release since signing with New York-based label TMWRK Records in October.

“From the minute I picked the songs for Open Book I was like, ‘I really want to do a deluxe version,’” she says. “I wanted to make the album successful enough that I could justify doing that and putting extra songs on it because, in a way, it is a concept album: It’s written chronologically, it’s all autobiographical, they’re all real stories, there’s no embellishments. It’s my perspective on people and events so I wanted to live in that world a little bit more because I don’t think my next album is going to be nearly as conceptual.”

The project’s first single is the bold “My Voice” where Shorr calls out country radio for not playing enough women. “If you want the radio to play ya/ Make it sweet like a cherry Life Saver/ But they’ll probably never play me cause I’m not a boy/ And guess what I can’t change the sound of my voice,” she sings in the first verse. Shorr admits she almost didn’t send the song to her new label for inclusion on the record.

“That song was so much more of a cathartic thing than it was me writing with the intent to cut it. I wrote it the week before we went into record Open Book April of 2019,” she says. “I’d already picked the songs for Open Book so I was just writing. We weren’t thinking about what other people were going to think … the mindset of that song and having written it, it gave me more confidence going into record Open Book because when I went to record I hadn’t had any of the validation for it yet. Now, in retrospect, I’m so proud of it. I sing the songs differently. That song was a huge part of me getting that first wave of confidence to go record the record.”

An outspoken advocate for equal representation within country music, Shorr has been sharing her perspective on the matter since she released “Fight Like a Girl” in 2015. While Shorr says the genre has had big moments recently with the success of Gabby Barrett’s No. 1 single “I Hope” and Ingrid Andress’ GRAMMY-nominated “More Hearts Than Mine,” there is still more to be done.

“I don’t think we’ve had a complete overturn of the system that’s been oppressing women and especially Black artists. I always want to mention that these days because of the facts and figures surrounding that are 10 times worse than anything having to do with white women,” she says. “I think that probably one of the places that has really, really improved is artists being able to talk about it. That is probably the biggest area of improvement I see when it comes to advocating for women in Nashville.”

For more of my interview with Kalie Shorr, visit Forbes. Her new single, “Amy,” is out now.

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31 Days of Women: Gabby Barrett

Credit: Robby Klein

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Gabby Barrett’s debut single “I Hope” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart last April. On the publication’s Hot Country Songs Chart, “I Hope” continues its reign, charting for 98 weeks and earning the top spot for 27 weeks. 

The singer’s second single “The Good Ones,” currently Top 5 at country radio, is poised to do the same. I spoke with Barrett last summer for Forbes ahead of the release of her her debut album Goldmine. Below is an excerpt of our chat.

In 2020, Barrett made history as “I Hope” became the first debut single by a woman to top Billboard’s Country Streaming chart since the chart’s April 2013 inception. “I Hope” continued to break records last May when it became the first song by a female country artist to garner more than 10 million on-demand streams in one week. At a time when female artists are struggling at country radio, Barrett is breaking through.

“I cannot believe what this song has done,” Barrett tells me. “As a songwriter writing songs, even if you think that they’re good, you never know how others are going to perceive the song. I feel very blessed and very grateful because there’s so many wonderful things happening in my life, especially the past two years. The record that it recently broke was that it went over 11.3 million streams in one week. I was the first ever female to do that which is crazy to me.

“I grew up with some great women on the radio and great songs. I think that there’s room for both boys and girls,” the ACM Awards New Female Artist of the Year nominee adds. “I’m just glad to be making country music in this generation right now and I’m thankful that everybody’s been very supportive towards me.”

While “I Hope” has seen success at country radio, the song has been introduced to a new audience thanks to the help of Charlie Puth. Last year, Barrett noticed that the pop singer shared the song on his Instagram Stories saying it was “amazing.” When Barrett reached out to thank Puth, he asked if he could remix the song.

“I thought he would do it and make it into a club remix type of thing,” Barrett says of Puth’s version, also included on the album. “He ended up sending me a version with vocals on it three days later and he was singing on the second verse. Our teams got together, and now we have a new version of the song that’ll reach an even broader audience.”

Album highlights include heartfelt single “The Good Ones” — an ode to Barrett’s husband, the clever pop tune “Rose Needs a Jack” inspired by the main characters in James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic, and the swampy “Jesus and My Mama.” Throughout the 13 tracks — 12 of which Barrett co-wrote — Goldmine highlights the singer-songwriter’s wide-ranging influences and she hopes the listener finds her music relatable.

“You can’t redo your debut album, so I wanted to make sure this album was very me,” Barrett says. “It has a large variety of music: you get a little bit of pop, some country, R&B, a Christian song. It shows people that I grew up being influenced by all of these different types of music and they’ve made me the person I am today. I wanted it to be something that I’d be proud of looking back on and I think I will be.”

For more of my interview with Gabby Barrett, visit Forbes.

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31 Days of Women: Tigirlily

Credit: Jared Olson

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

I’ve been lucky enough to volunteer with Tigirlily at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as part of Musicians On Call, which brings live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities. As a musician guide to the duo, I witnessed the power of their sibling harmonies live as they sang to children and parents at the Nashville hospital.

Last month Monument Records announced Tigirlily’s record deal, one day after the duo released their new song, “Somebody Does.” Sisters Krista and Kendra Slaubaugh shared the news on their socials with a video of a FaceTime conversation with Monument GM Katie McCartney.

“We’ve been dreaming of this moment for so many years,” Tigirlily writes. “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but dreams DO come true.”

Tigerlily began touring through their home state of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota as teenagers before moving to Nashville in 2017. They wrote the uplifting “Somebody Does” with Zarni DeVette. The song is produced by GRAMMY winner Shane McAnally and Louis Newman.

“With the heaviness of the world, we wanted to write something that changed the course of someone’s day for the better,” Kendra said in a release about the song. “We all have days when we don’t feel good enough, and this song is a reminder that every single person on this earth matters deeply and is enough exactly how they are.”

Adds Krista: “As humans, we are all extremely different, but the one thing that connects us all is the desire to love & be loved by others. ‘Somebody Does’ was written to convey that every person is worthy of love beyond what they can even imagine. It’s a cry while you sing it at the top of your lungs kinda song.”

Tigirlily is expected to release new music in the coming months. An acoustic version of “Somebody Does” is below. To listen to the song on your preferred streaming platform, click here.

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31 Days of Women: Malin Pettersen

Credit: Jonathan Vivaas Kise

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Malin Pettersen grew up in Oslo, Norway, listening to country acts like Dwight Yoakam, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris and George Jones. She says she found these voices mysterious and often connected with the emotions within country songs. Her father was a musician and she began playing country music with his band at an early age. Pettersen soon had her heart set on Austin, Texas after a chance meeting with Brennen Leigh at a music festival in Norway when she was 17. Leigh talked of playing there and Pettersen recalled stories from her father performing in Texas too.

“I was 17 and everything I wanted was to go to the States and play music,” she says. “But my dad was like, ‘You won’t get into any of the shows until you’re 21. So wait to go until you’re 21.’” She eventually did make it to Austin at 21 and found a kinship with the musicians she met, who also knew her favorite country artists. “Coming to Austin where everybody had the same reference that I did times a thousand, it was a very magical time,” she adds.

Wildhorse embraces Pettersen’s love of American country music and America itself. Songs like the sweeping and vivid “California” place the listener in the Golden State with mesmerizing pedal steel and Pettersen’s delicate vocals. The song was written on a road trip with her family there and serves as a reflection on what she was seeing. Having never been to California before, she was in awe of the state’s diverse landscape and likened it to several different countries.

“The beach, but also the mountains and everything in between, it really made an impact,” she says. “There were so many places that we went where I felt like a piece of American history was very present. The nature is so overwhelming and it was very easy to picture the America that was there before America was America. It was very easy to see the wilderness and think what maybe it was like before. It felt like a new world.”

Unbeknownst to her at the time, Pettersen says the album ended up being about journeys. One song in particular, “Let’s Go Out,” has changed in meaning due to the current racial climate around the world.

“The topic of race is getting more and more talked about not just in the States, but in Europe too. It took on a whole new meaning for me. ‘Let’s Go Out’ suddenly was about, ‘Let’s go out into the streets and not stop until things actually change, until people actually listen and actually make these changes to our own lives, but also on a society level,’” she says. “The more literal meaning is a lot clearer to me now.”

Pettersen recorded Wildhorse in February and September 2019, flying from Norway to Nashville on both occasions. She enlisted the help of Nashville’s ace musicians including Aaron Goodrich (Colter Wall), Misa Arriaga (Kacey Musgraves, Lillie Mae), Ryan A. Keith (Rayland Baxter), and Eddy Dunlap (Luke Bryan, the Grand Ole Opry house band), with contributions from Logan Ledger, Dennis Crouch, Ben Sanders, Mike Eli and Emily Keith. Pettersen recorded the album live and Wildhorse currently serves as a time capsule of her trips to Nashville until she can return.

“The people who I made this album with are people who I am so proud and thankful to have worked with and friends for life. I got on that plane and I had sent them songs. We didn’t know if it was going to be an album or a couple of songs,” she continues. “For them to include me in their life those weeks that I was there and take me in the way that they did both creatively and also personally, they’ve given me something that when I put the album on, it takes me straight back to that studio to those days and those weeks of making it.”

For more of my interview with Malin Pettersen, visit Forbes.