I chatted with Kelleigh Bannen just over a year ago about her fantastic single “Church Clothes” and it remains one of my most honest interviews to date. One of the most vulnerable country songs I’ve ever heard, Bannen first stumbled across “Church Clothes” in 2013 while working on a demo session with songwriter Nicolle Galyon, who wrote the track with Liz Rose. Bannen shared the song with her manager and says they “were losing our minds.”
“Church Clothes” paints a vivid picture of a struggling marriage where both sides want out. All the while, the couple keep up appearances while their problems remain hidden from those around them. It was a theme that struck a chord for Bannen as her parents had separated after 40 years of marriage and later divorced.
“It was so exactly what I was going through with my own family at the time when I first heard it. It was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is my world,’ at the time we recorded this because I was on the road a lot and was trying to figure out how to make my marriage work in that setting too,” she confesses. “We started to share it out and play it out [and] so many people can connect with it. Whether it’s a family that went through a divorce – even if they’re not churchgoing – but if they feel that pressure to clean up for the world or to put on the smiling face or to not be real about the stuff that’s going on in their lives.”
Bannen told me that she hopes the song’s vulnerability gives people permission to not be perfect. Instead of looking at the world through social media’s glossy filters of each other, she urges people to own their “messy glory.”
“People have to see your mess. You have to see theirs to really see each other and be with each other,” she advises. “The invitation of ‘Church Clothes’ is to let people see the real you and to trust that in doing that, you may actually have more love or you may be more accepted. You open yourself up to connection in a totally different way instead of covering it up and hiding and all those things that we do so that nobody knows who we really are and what we’re really going through.”
For the rest of my interview with Kelleigh Bannen, visit Sounds Like Nashville.