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31 Days of Women: The Reckless Electric

Reckless Electric

Credit: Kyle Dean Reinford

The Reckless Electric dropped their debut album, Comeback, earlier this month and they’ll celebrate today in Nashville with a release party at 6 p.m. at the 5 Spot. Made up of Mary Bragg and Becky Warren, the duo have already received rave reviews from Rolling Stone and The Bluegrass Situation.

Both solo artists and songwriters, the two friends joined forces for a fun release that showcases their standout songwriting and plenty of electric guitar features.

“With their new joint project, they wanted to get a little less serious and have a plain old good time – all while proving that they’re a force to be reckoned with,” Rolling Stone writes.

This fun side can be heard on the infectious “Ice Cream and Liquor.” As Bragg tells The Bluegrass Situation, the song came from a comment Warren made during a co-write.

“We wrote this song just after we declared ourselves a band whose motto would be to do fun things and nothing else,” Bragg tells the publication. “After finishing a different, much less fun song we’d been working on for weeks, Becky said, ‘Didn’t you say you had some ice cream?’ ‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘and liquor to go with it.’ She said we should write that song; I thought she was kidding. This was the start to a new way of us writing together — fast, hilarious, at times ridiculous.”

 

 

Other songs, like the title track, highlight Bragg’s breathy vocals and some rollicking guitar parts while the gritty “Straight A Girls” puts an edgy and unique spin on being a good girl. I’ve interviewed Bragg several times over the years and during a chat for Nash Country Daily, she told me the importance of honesty in songwriting.

“When I first came to Nashville, I just wanted to write great songs,” she told me. “In pinpointing sadness, which can often feel isolating, we’re telling that listener out there, ‘Hey, you’re not alone. You’re not the only person who’s felt invisible in a sea of 8 million people in New York City. You’re not the only person who’s lost a parent.’ That’s the beauty of music—that people can feel comforted by hearing someone else’s pain, which might be much like their own. Every now and then, somebody’s listening close enough where they’re like, ‘Oh, man. That really got me just then,’ and that’s the moment that I’m always looking for.”

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31 Days of Women: Hayley McKay

Hayley McKay

Credit: Wendy Carrig

Being a freelance music journalist, I receive numerous pitches on new artists each day. While I try my best to listen to each act’s music, it’s sometimes easier said than done. Today I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked on a link to Hayley McKay’s music video for her latest single, “Chance to Change.” The UK artist’s striking vocals and honest lyrics instantly drew me in and I couldn’t help but become entranced in the storyline within the video and the song itself.

“Chance to Change” has a women realizing that the end is near with her boyfriend. As the video plays out, it seems McKay is being ignored by her beau. While she gives him another chance at the bar, the scene becomes increasingly uncomfortable as he chooses to sit in silence on his phone instead of pay attention to her.

“I think you know you’ve gone too far / And now we’re here, here alone in silence / Cursed with the feeling that we’re through / Nowhere to run / So maybe all that I ever gave you was a chance to change,” she sings.

Penned by Irish writers Aoibheann Carey Philpott and Joe Carey Jnr, “Chance to Change” showcases haunting vocals from McKay. The song is one of 10 tracks that will be featured on her self-titled debut album, due out in April.

“Every song shows off a different element of my voice and my producer, Matt Parisi, has really delivered an amazing sound with Geoff Pesche at Abbey Road adding his own special magic,” McKay says in a press release. “I’m so proud of this album and I really hope everyone will love it as much as I do”.

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31 Days of Women: Kelsea Ballerini

Kelsea Ballerini

Courtesy: Sweet Talk Publicity

Kelsea Ballerini took the country world by storm in 2014 when she released her first single, “Love Me Like You Mean It.” The song would spark a series of No. 1 hits for Ballerini with the success of “Dibs” and “Peter Pan,” eventually making her the only female artist in country music history, including female duos and groups, to go No. 1 with her first three consecutive singles from a debut album.

 

 

While Ballerini continues that chart success with “Legends,” the lead single off her sophomore album Unapologetically, she told me in an interview last year that what’s most important is creating a support system for the women in the industry. As a result, Ballerini frequently hosts girls’ nights with several of country music’s female artists.

“There’s a lot of emotions that you go through when you’re putting your first single out to radio, especially going on radio tour and making your first record. There’s pressure and there’s insecurities,” she says, speaking softly. “It’s definitely exciting and it’s definitely a beautiful time, but you get lonely sometimes. You get stressed and no one really tells you that. I wanted to have this bonding moment with everyone that’s walking through the same thing and be like, ‘Let’s celebrate together, because we have a lot to celebrate. But let’s also be there for each other when we’re lonely, or when we’re tired, or when we’re confused. Let’s be able to talk about that.’”

While Ballerini hopes to leave a legacy with her music, she says she wants to be remembered most for being a nice person. “I just want people to walk away and be like, ‘Aw, she’s nice.’ That’s what matters most to me,” she confesses. “Having a song on the radio, being in a tour bus and playing shows whether I’m opening or not, that’s success. That to me is everything I’ve ever wanted to do.”

 

 

For more on my interview with Kelsea Ballerini, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

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31 Days of Women: Miranda Lambert

I had the pleasure of sitting down and interviewing Miranda Lambert once, years ago while living in New York City. We chatted a few days before her album Platinum was released in 2014 and although our interview was barely 10 minutes long, she revealed a lot about herself, her songwriting, aging gracefully and the importance of female artists to uplift each other. You can view the interview above and read my article on Radio.com.

Watching the interview back nearly four years later, the part that struck me most was when she mentioned her duet “Somethin’ Bad” with Carrie Underwood and how it’s important for females in country to collaborate.

“When I heard ‘Somethin’ Bad’ the song just popped,” she told me. “It really struck a chord. I wanted to collaborate with Carrie because we need to and there’s not that many females in country that do collaborate. We’ve known each other for a really long time but I needed it to be the right song. I thought that one could be cool. It was a female-male duet so we asked the writers to re-write it for two girls and make it sort of Thelma & Louise themed and they did and it’s so perfect for us.”

Lambert went on to rave about Underwood, saying that she pushes her to be a better vocalist.

“It’s really cool to collaborate with her. She’s such a great vocalist and artist and really pushes me as a singer to be better,” she added.

For more from my interview, visit Radio.com.

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31 Days of Women: Caitlyn Smith

Caitlyn-Smith

Caitlyn Smith has written hits for numerous artists including Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” Cassadee Pope’s “Wasting All These Tears,” Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “You Can’t Make Old Friends” and Garth Brooks’ “Tacoma,” among others. After years of writing for other acts, Smith released her excellent debut album, Starfire, in January.

I’ve interviewed her several times over the years and Smith’s energy is contagious. Additionally, her star power is evident in the live setting where her voice soars majestically. Take a listen to “Tacoma” below for further proof.

 

 

“I’ve been writing in Nashville for probably 12 years,” she told me back in 2015. “I tell people it’s 90% disappointing. A lot of times you’ll write a song and be like, ‘Yay! This a masterpiece.’ And maybe you’ll show it to somebody, and maybe it’ll get put on hold, and then it won’t get cut. Or, maybe it will get cut, but it won’t make the record. Or, maybe it will make the record but it won’t be a single. There’s a lot of disappointment.”

This disappointment can be heard on her standout track, “This Town is Killing Me,” which you can hear below. Despite the struggles songwriting can often bring, Smith has learned to celebrate every small success.

“I remember that first couple years that I moved to town. Anytime something awesome would happen I would go and buy a bottle of champagne and we would celebrate, because it’s really an exciting journey. Celebrate the little things,” she adds.

 

 

Smith will be celebrating a new album and headlining tour this week at SXSW. If you’re in Austin, be sure to catch one of her showcases.

https://twitter.com/caitlynsmith/status/971460518828494849

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31 Days of Women: Angaleena Presley

Angaleena Presley

Courtesy: Marushka Media

While I’ve already highlighted Ashley Monroe and the Pistol Annies as part of my 31 Days of Women feature, I figured it might be best to showcase each member of the trio individually. Angaleena Presley has remained one of my favorite interviews because of the honesty she shared in our chat nearly four years ago. I sat down with the singer in a cafe in New York City to discuss her debut solo album, American Middle Class, and throughout our lengthy chat there were tears, laughter and many life realizations.

“I got introduced to the world as Holler Annie with these two blondes beside me,” she tells me of her bandmates Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe. “I feel like I had to get in a band, make history and kick down a door so I could walk through it as a solo artist…I’m an older artist and I could sit there and be like, ‘Oh this should have happened.’ No. If it didn’t happen like this, you wouldn’t have had this story to write or this song that so many people connect with. I feel like everything happened the way it was supposed to happen for me.”

Many people resonated with her critically acclaimed debut, where on each of the 12 tracks she gives an honest portrayal of her life covering the moments that others may want to forget. On “Drunk,” she details the hurdles she faced during the “most horrific, tumultuous, part of my marriage” and likens writing the song to therapy.

 

 

Meanwhile, previous single “Ain’t No Man” best describes Presley’s perseverance and perhaps her feminist leanings.

“I just think women are amazing creatures and I’m so glad that I am a woman. I just want to empower women,” she says. “We still have to fight for equality. I think we’re a group of people who have been discriminated against, probably more than any other group on the planet. I just feel like we need to stick together. We need to love our men, but we need to make sure that they don’t take advantage.”

She adds, “Ain’t no man gonna tell me to put a bikini on and wallow around on the hood of a truck. I’m going to sing songs about real things and real problems and real joy and real grief. This is the only thing I know how to do. I can’t fit into the model. I guess I broke the mold and I’m not going away.”

 

 

For more of my interview with Angaleena Presley, visit Radio.com.

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31 Days of Women: Pistol Annies

Pistol Annies ride again…

A post shared by Angaleena Presley (@guitarleena) on

Country fans hoping for a reunion from female trio the Pistol Annies are in luck as Miranda Lambert has surprised several cities during her Livin’ Like Hippies Tour with a special performance by her bandmates Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley.

New music may even be on the way as several weeks ago, Lambert teased a new song that she admits might be a good fit for the band.

If this new music sees the light of day, it will mark the first album for the group since 2013’s sophomore project Annies Up. Each member of the trio is a solo artist and often Pistol Annies takes a backseat to their careers as individual artists. Longtime friends, Pistol Annies made their debut performance in 2011 during CBS’ Girls Night Out: Superstar Women of Country. Several months later they released their critically acclaimed debut album, Hell on Heels.

I covered their tour kickoff in 2012 for Billboard and the concert was a memorable one. The three artists combined sass, wit and talent for a stand-out show, I wrote at the time.

“Sharing drinks onstage, constantly complimenting each other and sharing hugs, it’s easy to see the Pistol Annies are real friends on and off the stage. ‘As you can see, we’re in slumber party mode all the time, Lambert said.”

Their songwriting talent is also showcased in much of their material as is their ability to discuss often taboo topics as can be heard on “Talkin’ Pills” and “Hush, Hush,” which you can listen to below.

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31 Days of Women: Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood

Courtesy: Universal Music Group Nashville

Carrie Underwood has reigned on the country charts for over a decade following her 2005 American Idol  win. With seven GRAMMY Awards under her belt and 26 No. 1 singles, Underwood is one of very few female contemporary country artists receiving steady airplay.

Her pristine vocals are unmatched by any female singer today and her most recent headlining tour, The Storyteller Tour, displayed her vocal talent night after night. The tour was also recognized by Pollstar, who named Underwood as the top female country touring artist.

Underwood has released numerous songs over the years that touch upon female empowerment and embody strong female characters. On “Church Bells,” a married woman cleverly breaks free from her abusive husband and “Dirty Laundry” has Underwood singing of how she refuses to put up with an unfaithful man. Meanwhile, the memorable murder ballad “Two Black Cadillacs” has two women teaming up to seek revenge on a cheating spouse.

 

 

On each track, Underwood’s powerful vocals are at the forefront. The song that perhaps best showcases this is the poignant “Something In the Water,” which you can listen to below.

 

 

Today marks the singer’s 35th birthday so here’s to hoping at least 35 more chart toppers are in her future!

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31 Days of Women: Erin Enderlin

Erin Enderlin

I recently began freelancing for 650 AM WSM, radio home of the Grand Ole Opry, and was lucky enough to spend some time visiting the station’s afternoon show, Nashville Today. One of the guests on the show today was singer-songwriter Erin Enderlin and I was blown away at her lyrics and the powerful storytelling within her music. She performed the poignant “Till It’s Gone” featured on her latest album, Whiskeytown Crier, which you can hear below.

While Enderlin is an engaging solo artist, she has also penned songs for the likes of Terri Clark, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack, and Luke Bryan, among others. Produced by Jamey Johnson and Jim “Moose” Brown, her 2017 release embodies plenty of heartache, murder ballads and classic country songs that will stop listeners in their tracks. Well aware that she pens her fair share of sad songs, Enderlin told host Devon O’Day that writing is often therapy for her.

“I have chronic depression and I think for a long time maybe I didn’t understand how sad my songs were,” she admits. “For me, music is therapy.”

Enderlin will perform on the Grand Ole Opry for the second time on Saturday (March 10) and an afternoon show at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley on Tuesday (March 13). For more of her tour dates, visit her website.

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31 Days of Women: Margo Price

Margo Price

Courtesy: Shore Fire

Margo Price isn’t afraid to speak out about injustice and on “Pay Gap” she sings about the need for equality in the work force. She performed the song last night (March 7) on Conan, a fitting choice ahead of International Women’s Day. Backed by the all-female mariachi band Las Mariachi Lindas Mexicanas, and with “Inclusion Rider” taped across her guitar, she adequately got her point across.

“It’s not that I’m asking for more than I’m owed / And I don’t think I’m better than you / They say that we live in the land of the free / But sometimes that bell don’t ring true . . . Women do work and get treated like slaves since 1776,” she sings on “Pay Gap.”

“When I decided I was gonna put ‘Pay Gap’ on my album, I kind of knew it wouldn’t be a radio hit but really nothing I do is and I’m just trying to make good music — I’m not concerned with the mainstream perception of it,” she said in a recent interview with CBC Music. “I think down the road it will be looked at as one of those moments because it’s insane that in 2018 people still think the pay gap is a myth. It’s pretty mind-blowing.”

She adds, “I think it’s just a very slow, long burn trying to get equal rights. And we go back to the ’60s and the ’70s and we’re thinking that we’re making progress and it’s just very tedious work. Maybe after I’m dead in a hundred years they say the pay gap might be closed. I’m not holding my breath.”

A song about equality, watch Price’s performance of “Pay Gap” below.