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Interview: Brett Eldredge opens up about getting his spark back while making new album Sunday Drive

The Country star goes deep about the inspiration behind his new album.

Brett Eldredge
Credit: Greg Noire

Brett Eldredge was in the UK at the beginning of the year for a headline tour where he played some songs from his new album Sunday Drive (read our review) for the first time.

The album, released today, has been a long time coming and is the follow-up to Brett’s 2017 self-titled record. A deeply personal album that sees Brett at his most honest and sonically adventurous, Sunday Drive is the album he’s wanted to make for a long time.

I spoke to him earlier this week to discuss the inspiration behind the record, talk about the journey he’s been on to find the spark he lost, and to find out what it was like to step out of his comfort zone…

It’s good to talk to you again. You were here at the beginning of the year, which seems like a lifetime ago now, and the new album, Sunday Drive, is finally coming this week. The record is such a stunning piece of work. What inspired it?

Well Pip, I would say first and foremost that I got to take some time on this record. I really got to give myself the space to really figure out what was important to me in life and figure out what was important for me to say in my music. I think that was really, really huge for me. Just being able to step away and say, ‘alright, I’ve had this great career up to this point but there’s so much more that I have in the tank. There’s so much more that I haven’t even come close to showing yet and I think I gotta peel back the layers’. I got to peel back all the things that hold me back, and not worry about listening to the radio for a little while or hearing what other people are doing or saying, and really say what I feel is important to me and in my life. This became a huge, huge deal for me to be able to do that. Now looking back I can’t believe I did it. Here I am at release week of the album and it’s just been a life changer for me.

I feel like Sunday Drive is the album you’ve always wanted to make. It’s the most authentic I’ve ever heard you and you deal with topics such as love, loss and acceptance. Your voice sounds different across the record and you can hear you’re singing from a place of contentment. Was it hard to allow yourself to be this honest?

You know, I had to get honest with myself first. Before I was gonna write a single lyric or play a single note I said, ‘OK, I gotta get honest with myself’. I’ve always had, I felt, a good knack for writing songs that can relate to a lot of people but I felt like I wasn’t getting fully vulnerable with myself on a lot of things. For me to be able to do that and say, ‘I gotta honest’ – not like I wasn’t honest in my other songs or anything – but I’ve never really been in true love. The love songs on this album are glimpses of things I’ve seen but more realistic to what my life is with the anxiety and losing the spark in life, like in Where The Heart Is, and the life contemplation of Sunday Drive. I’ve gotten very self aware and I tried to find compassion for myself and really be vulnerable, and not be afraid to just let that be me. I think that made the record so much more raw and organic. The approach of how we went to record it, I wanted to embrace those imperfections and I wanted to set myself free in the way I spoke to my fans and to myself. I think was really able to do that with this record. It’s definitely, the way you put it, that I really believe it’s the record that I’ve been trying to make for so long and not allowing myself to make. I finally gave myself the freedom to make a really special album that I think will be a huge part of my life for many years to come I hope.

Brett Eldredge

Credit: Greg Noire

Stylistically Sunday Drive is so different from what your fans have heard from you before. Was there any worry that fans may not get it or are you just excited to show off this side of yourself?

Both. The way I was writing the songs was in more of an organic way. I started writing with Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian. I knew Ian, he played on some of my other records in sessions. He’s a great drummer, piano player and everything but I heard that he was starting to write and was really producing and making really great music with Daniel Tashian, who was another great writer, but I’d never written with either one of them. I decided if I wanted to take my music to the next level, and really show the true full version of myself and get some of those deeper influences in there, I gotta step away and disrupt all the usual ways that went to create a record and get in the room with some new people. I had to take myself out of my comfort zone, which I think this album is a lot about, getting out of that zone and allowing yourself to experience life in a whole other way. Ian and Daniel, we were writing songs and we were recording them right after we wrote them. They were both playing a couple of instruments and it was just a piano and a guitar and me.

It was just so raw. I was recording in this garage live. I was singing live in the room with them. It was just so honest. I had to step back and I just couldn’t stop listening to the work tapes and the demos from his little garage studio. That’s when I realised, ‘okay, creating this way is what I need to do. I need to get that that rawness out there’ and that’s what started to drive all that. It ultimately led us to all going, just the three of us, to Chicago, to my home state, to make a record. The three of us, we brought another buddy in Josh Moore to play on some of the record, but that was it. It was just raw and honest and I think that’s what brought out the different sounds because it was allowing my heart and soul to speak a little more. You’re not leaning on any kind of tracks. You’re not leaning on any kind of overload or filling in spaces, and taking out the soul and heart of the music. I think that’s where it really came into play for this record.

There’s so much soul in this record and so much soul in your voice. I keep being drawn to When I Die. That song seems to have come from a place of acceptance where you’ve made peace with where you are and you want to just live a good life. Where did the inspiration for that song come from?

There’s a couple different inspiration for that song. I wrote the first verse and chorus of the song on my own one day. I was gonna finish it by myself and but I was so just overtaken by the melody in these lyrics. I was meditating one morning, I’ve got really into meditation to get my my life in balance and it’s a good way to start today, and the meditation was talking about imagine today was the last day of your life. All the worries that you’ve carried on your shoulders, all the things that you carry on your shoulders every single day of your life and you worry about when you wake up or as you go throughout the day. Imagine today was the last day of your life. How would you live it? What would you want to go do? And who would you want to spend the time with and how would you want to spend the time? That’s where the inspiration came from. It’s called When I Die and I love that title. I started singing ‘when I die, don’t lay down in a bed of dirt. Shoot me off in a bottle rocket in the sky’. It was just so infectious. It’s a song that says When I Die in the title, and it’s really more about living than any song I’ve ever written. That’s why I love a title like that because it grabs and you’re like, ‘what’s that about?’ It’s about living and it’s about allowing those worries to be there and the things that have caused you trouble, without letting that hold you back. You don’t want to look back one day on your final days and think, ‘man, I spent a lot more time worrying than I did living’ and I don’t want to live that that way so when I die there won’t be no second guessing about the damn good life I lived when I die. I know I did it right and other people would say ‘hey, that was a guy that I felt really gave, whatever years he had on this earth, everything he had and he really did live it’. That’s where that where that came from.

The other part of it is when it comes to going to the cemetery, I always think, ‘you know what I don’t know if I want to be buried’. I would want to go out in different way. We’re all gonna die and it’s not that morbid, it’s just reality. I had heard somewhere that you can actually have your ashes shot off in a bottle rocket or in fireworks (laughs) so that’s where that part of the chorus comes from. Let me go out with a bang. I thought that was pretty unique. You hear people having their ashes spread all over their favourite places in the world, but I thought it was cool that line and it just had more meaning to it once I put it in the song. It’s a song about living and I hope it really inspires a lot of people. It’s got a lot of soul and just feels really good when you hear it. It makes you want to live.

Brett Eldredge

Credit: Greg Noire

This album is such a huge leap forward for you and it’s so powerful. I hope that people embrace it and enjoy it in the way that you intended them to. I know we’re running to time and that you have other places to be…

Well, thanks Pip. It’s OK if we go a couple of minutes over because I always like talking to you. I would say this record starts out with Where The Heart Is and it really starts out with a journey of how I lost the spark in my life a little bit at a point. I went on the desperate search to find myself again and find that spark and find that magic in the world and find the actual feelings and the things that make you who you are. Feel the rain fall down and skin and remember what that feels like that, just to be here and that’s where it started. That was the journey and the search. With The One You Need, I’m open to the idea now that I can actually be that foundation for somebody, I can be the rock for somebody and I’m able to accept myself for that. It’s a really special love song but nothing’s guaranteed so I love that aspect of that song. You go through the album and it goes through these rides.

Magnolia has a lot of nostalgia and looks back at an innocent love about a time where you were discovering life and the feeling of it. The bridge goes to a place where it says, ‘it’s a shame that you grow up when you do, because all the miles and all the years take a piece of you. I know everything gets cut down over time, but that don’t mean I can’t go back there in my mind’. The message is ‘I can always go back there’. Then it goes on this journey where you start looking for yourself and you find out on the last song the whole you’re looking for that kid from Paris, Illinois. You start on a search and you find it was right there at home and that home is right there in your heart whether you go there or not. That’s the kid that had that spark and nothing was gonna hold him back in life because you were just care for and real. That’s something we’re all searching for. I think this album is really, really special

It’s been a pleasure chatting to you again Brett and I hope we see you back in the UK when it’s safe for you to come over…

I thank you for always believing in me and my music and I’m excited to get this out there to all my fans over there in the UK. I’m so glad that my first, and really only shows this year, I got to at least be over there with you all and I got to play a few of these new songs and really feel the best energy I’ve ever felt on stage and the excitement of what this album is gonna hold. The crowds were incredible and (I’ve got) a new passion for when I get to get back on that stage. I know that I have that and that was some of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time and many more to come whenever we get to go back.

Brett Eldredge’s new album Sunday Drive is out now. Watch the video for Gabrielle below:

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