Credit: John Williams – HD Perfect Video & Photo
Rick Brantley released his new EP Hi-Fi today (April 14) and the six tracks from the project include some of the most descriptive and heartfelt lyrics you’ll hear coming out of Nashville. The South Georgia native recently sat down with The Shotgun Seat as part of their video series The Hang at George Dickel Distillery in Tennessee and You Sing I Write was on hand to ask a couple questions and learn the stories behind some of Brantley’s standout songs.
Brantley brought along frequent collaborators Tia Sillers and Mark Selby, both who co-wrote several of the songs featured on Hi-Fi and his previous release, Lo-Fi. The three songwriters sat together as the Shotgun Seat’s Annie Dineen hosted the livestream chat and performance. While Brantley is well known for his detailed characters and unique themes within his music, frequently drawing comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, both Sillers and Selby raved about writing with Brantley.
“I’ve never met anyone that’s such a method actor,” she says. “If we’re going to write a song about a person we have to go back to birth. We have to know what happened to him in fourth grade and we have to deliberate these things.”
Credit: John Williams
As Brantley explains, their collaboration often includes testing out what will work in his songs and what he feels comfortable singing. A fan favorite is “Claudette,” a song about Brantley’s childhood crush which appeared on his previous release Lo-Fi, and the singer/songwriter admits that he doesn’t remember writing the song.
“To be completely honest, I don’t really recall writing much of that song. That was a lot of Tia just talking to me writing shit down,” he says with a laugh. “Mark wasn’t there that day, he was on tour. It was incumbent on me to be the musical guy and I did that. I was thinking to myself, that’s all I have to do that day. That was a song we wrote and forgot about which is funny now because I can’t think of doing anything and not playing that song.”
Selby applauds the track, calling it “the perfect song.” Meanwhile, Sillers says Brantley’s “Hurt People,” featured on Hi-Fi, is a perfect song to her.
“I get this thing called song envy, incredible envy that I’m not a part of a song, and it’s gotta be ‘Hurt People.’ When he came in and played that I was so mad, I sulked for weeks. ‘Hurt People’ is a song that was so great and empowering to Rick . . . it raised the bar for him with all the other writing relationships too.”
Credit: John Williams
Brantley co-wrote “Hurt People” with Ashley Ray and the song details how often “hurt people, hurt people.” The first verse has Brantley recalling a childhood bully who frequently beat him up. One day he finally had enough and decided to confront him and when he rode his bicycle over to his house he found him, “sitting on his porch with his arm in a sling and a welt on his face in the shape of his daddy’s high-school ring.” As Brantley observes in the song, “Then it hit me. Hurt people, hurt people,” he sings on the haunting piano ballad.
A memorable track on his album, “Hurt People” is a profound one that the listener walks away replaying in his head long after hearing it. While Brantley says there’s a certain level of honesty to all his songs, he stresses there is also joy and hope.
“The thing I love about the new record is there is so much joy and so much hope. ‘Hurt People’ or ‘Enough Rope’ from Lo-Fi, they’re serious songs,” he notes. “I think one thing we’re good at is saying something that’s serious and to the point in a very joyful way. I would say ‘Fine So Fine’ is as honest a song as ‘Hurt People’ just in a different way.”