Originally from Texas, Abbey Cone began singing when she was six years old and made her first visit to Nashville aged 12.
She moved to the city permanently when she was 16, and since then has written with an array of stellar country songwriters including Lori McKenna, Shane McAnally, Nicolle Gallyon and Jessie Jo Dillon. After joining the CMT Next Women of Country Class of 2020 last year, she’s now released her brand new single ‘Rhinestone Ring’.
I caught up with Abbey recently to talk about the song and video, how she approaches her writing (including working with one of her heroes), her experience of making music during the pandemic, touring with Brittney Spencer and her plans for 2022.
How would you describe your music?
This is funny, I always describe my sound as a feeling. I always say it’s not a sound it’s a feeling, and that feeling would be free, genuine, country, emotional, real, whatever the song is at the time. That’s how I would describe it.
You recently released your single ‘Rhinestone Ring’ – can you tell us more about that?
Yeah, ‘Rhinestone Ring’ came out on October 8th. I’m so excited to have it out. It’s one of my favourite songs I’ve ever been a part of. We’re doing really great. We did over 130,000 streams in the first week on all streaming platforms which is super-exciting.
I feel like ‘Rhinestone Ring’ was the perfect song to put out post-pandemic. Post-pandemic wedding season – just the parallels between not needing as much as you thought you did, coming out of the pandemic felt super right to me and that’s why we decided to put ‘Rhinestone Ring’ out as the first song. I don’t know if it would have been the first song last year. But it feels amazing to have it out.
You also recently made a video for the song. What was that experience like? As I imagine it’s quite a challenging environment for filming at the moment…
Totally. Yeah. So I did a shoot. It was a big shoot, I did four videos in one day – just like content Olympics. Just trying to make the most of it. So that video for ‘Rhinestone Ring’ is not something I would consider the official music video, but it was so fun to make. Just especially after not doing anything. There’s no real storyline behind it, I just liked that that room looked kind of like a dusty church and the outfits went with it. So it was cute inside.
You’ve mentioned the other videos you’ve made and I know you’ve spoken previously about this being part of a wider project. Is ‘Rhinestone Ring’ typical of the sound of that, or will the rest of it be quite different?
No, I think ‘Rhinestone Ring’ from a sonic perspective sets up what to expect from me in general. So I signed my record deal in December of 2019 and I had a six song EP cut that I was gonna release in June of 2020 and that didn’t happen. So yeah, it is part of a larger project. My hope is that I can add to that and eventually release an album next year. That just kind of feels like more of the direction. But ‘Rhinestone Ring’, sonically sets up a listener super-well for what to expect next for me.
I also wanted to ask about your songwriting – I read you’d only written one song completely solo, so I’m interested in learning more about how you approach your songwriting process…
Yes, you are correct. I’ve only written… yeah I think that’s true, one song by myself, when I was like 12. I just came to Nashville really early. I asked my mom to take me when I was 12 and I went to the Grand Ole Opry and I saw Vince Gill. I’m a Vince Gill superfan. And on that trip I went to a venue called the Listening Room here and I just watched songwriters and I was just kind of like, “that is the coolest thing you can ever do. You can sit in a room with other people and come out and have a song, and you don’t have to bear it all by yourself”.
So something in me from a really young age kind of really enjoyed the collaborative nature of co-writing. It kind of comes to bite me sometimes because I wish that I had… I know that I could write by myself, it’s like a muscle that I could exercise for sure. But I love co-writing so much. But it would really save time [laughs] if I could write that many songs by myself. So just the weird fact that I started co-writing so early is the only reason why I don’t write by myself that much. I’m trying to do more now though. Even if it’s just a poem or something, I’m trying to write more by myself to exercise that muscle.
Has there been anyone you’ve particularly enjoyed co-writing with, and is there anyone you’d like to co-write with in the future?
Favourite co-writers, OK: Jessie Jo Dillon, Heather Morgan, Nathan Spicer, Nate Cypher. I mean there’s tons more. Favourite two girls though are Jessie Jo Dillon and Heather Morgan. Those are kind of like my… if I have anything to bring I bring it to them first. I got to write a song with Vince Gill this year so that was amazing. I told you I’m a Vince Gill superfan and I got to write with him this year. That was something super-unexpected, I didn’t even know he wrote with people! [laughs] And it just happened so that was really fun.
You mentioned you came to Nashville when you were quite young and I know you graduated high school early so you could move there. How do you think being in Nashville at such a young age and for so long has influenced your music?
That’s a great question. It’s a hard question to answer because it’s not like an approach, it just is. I started singing when I was six and it feels like it kind of chose me. And I’ve said this before but I kind of feel like I re-chose this for myself last year a little bit. It was really devastating that I couldn’t do anything and I could have not kept going. That could have been a moment where I decided, ‘man, this isn’t what I want’. But it made me think that wasn’t the case and this is really what I want.
So yeah, I don’t know if that answers your question but it feels like it’s the only thing I’ve ever done, it’s the thing I love the most. It feels like it kind of just chose me. It’s obviously been such an experience being in Nashville and being immersed in the songwriter community. It’s a little hard right now because with the pandemic there’s a lot of separation, especially here in town, and it just hurts a little because it doesn’t necessarily feel the same. But I feel really lucky that I have from 16 to 23 really experienced the Nashville songwriting community.
I was going to ask how you found the experience of making music during the pandemic. Especially as someone who co-writes a lot – was doing Zoom writes and things like that quite challenging for you?
It was, and I actually didn’t write that much. Luckily for me I live with a co-writer of mine – Nathan [Spicer] and I live together. He’s my producer and co-writer so we obviously collaborated. But actually I didn’t write very much last year because I really didn’t resonate with Zoom. Looking at it now I could have sucked it up a little bit, but I was just so devastated at the time that I just hated it. I hated that we couldn’t be together.
But I will say, I finished it a couple of weeks ago but we worked on it for like five months – me, Jessie Jo Dillon and Gordy Sampson started a song on Zoom about five months ago when he was in Canada and finished it in person, and it’s probably my favourite song I’ve ever written. And it was the one time I was like, “oh, fine, I’m gonna get on Zoom”. Because I just love Gordy so much and I was like, “I’ll get on Zoom for you Gordy”. And I did and it was one of my favourite songs.
You’re going out on tour with Brittney Spencer early next year. What can audiences at a typical Abbey Cone show expect?
I mean, I’ve sang with live bands since I was a kid but I haven’t played a show in two years. I played in Atlanta the other day, an acoustic thing. But these Brittney Spencer days will just be me and my guitar. Nathan might play for me on the Memphis show just because it’s close to Nashville. But for this it’s just gonna be me and my acoustic guitar. I’m working up some cool covers, just to have in my repertoire that I feel would be cool and unique. I really wanna do a cover of ‘I’m On Fire’ by Bruce Springsteen and just add some fun things in there like that.
I’m really excited to tour with Brittney Spencer because I wanna make those fans. I wanna make the fans that are showing up to a Brittney Spencer show. I feel like this tour’s gonna be perfect because it’s really gonna allow me to play my songs to crowds that I feel respect songwriting, hopefully. So I’m just excited to play. It’s gonna be like practice for me too, just getting back out there and warming back up again.
Speaking of covers – I’ve seen quite a few of the cover versions you’ve posted to your social media. Has there been one of those that’s a particular favourite or standout for you?
I’m trying to look. Which ones have I done? I loved, loved covering Doja Cat, ‘Need To Know’. That was so fun. That’s been my favourite one so far. I’m on TikTok singing random stuff. I sang Whitney Houston the other day. I’m trying to make TikTok like me, trying to make the algorithm my friend. It’s really hard.
I was going to ask how you’ve found TikTok as a channel for yourself as a new artist…
Oh man, I’m really grateful for it. I get so salty that if it were two years ago I don’t know if I would have had to beg the algorithm to like me [laughs]. But my decision to get on TikTok, like five months ago I made a video like ‘2020 was supposed to be it for me, these are all the things that I did and nothing happened’. And that video went viral and I’ve had other ones since then and I’ve got 10,000 followers on there in six months. And that’s almost more than my Instagram. So I see how many people are at your fingertips.
But I’m not willing to not be myself just to be on social media. So the reason it took me a while to get on TikTok and figure it out is because I didn’t know how I could use it in an authentic way. And now I do and I have days where I’m like, “I can’t post on TikTok today, I need to go write a song”. But I am really grateful for it and in all aspects I’m really trying really hard to be my most authentic self no matter where I’m at. That’s like a daily thing for me on social media. But it’s working, it’s going well.
What do the next few months look like for you? You’ve mentioned plans for new music next year and have the tour coming up as well – is that the main focus right now?
Yes, the tour, and releasing another song probably right after Christmas, early next year. I know what song I want it to be, I’ve obviously got to get everyone else on board first. But yeah, in my perfect world and if it were my world and everyone else were living in it I would release two more songs and then I would drop an album. But who knows? But 1000 per cent new music early next year.
And lastly – do you have any plans to come over to the UK when it’s safe to do so?
I just need something to do! I just need somebody to give me something to do and I will book a flight. I’ve never been to Europe but I need to go. So I’m trying to get there next year. I’m vaccinated, I’m boosted, I’m going. I need to go there where I’m safe and loved and they love female songwriters over there.
Abbey Cone’s new single ‘Rhinestone Ring’ is out now via The Valory Music Co.