It’s no secret that we’ve long been fans of Tenille Townes here at EF Country – and since she last visited the UK to perform as part of Country Music Week 2019, her star has continued to rise.
As well as releasing her album ‘The Lemonade Stand’ back in 2020 and opening for artists including Brothers Osborne, Reba McEntire and the legendary George Strait in recent months – not to mention making her main stage debut at C2C earlier this month – Tenille has been hard at work on new music, recently releasing ‘Villain In Me’ and ‘When It’s Gonna Happen’ ahead of her new EP ‘Masquerades’ – the first half of a two-part project, which comes out next month. She’s also announced that she’ll be touring the UK later this year.
I spoke to Tenille ahead of her appearance at C2C to discuss the EP, the tour, how her approach to her music has changed, being back on the road and much more besides.
Welcome back to the UK!
Thank you! I can’t even believe I’m here, I’m so excited to be back. It feels so good.
This is your third or fourth trip over to the UK – what is it that keeps you coming back?
Ah, I just love it over here. I love the way that everyone listens and appreciates music. It’s very… I think different from other places. I mean the way that everyone here knows the words to the second verses is just incredible to me [laughs]. I love being in a new part of the world and just getting to kind of adventure around. But it’s definitely my love for the way that everyone loves music here. That’s my favourite part about it. So I’ve had the most wonderful experiences here. I mean, any of the shows that I’ve played in London or travelling around here have just all been so special to me. I hold them in a very special place in my memory.
You’ve just announced you’ll be playing your first UK headlining tour in October…
Yes! I’m so excited. Whoo!
Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing as part of that?
Every show. I mean, the fact we get to do a headlining run here, it’s incredible to me. We just started doing those. My very first headlining show that I ever did was in London, and that was just a night to remember. I will never forget that as long as I live. So I’ve been looking forward to going, “OK, how could we do a whole string of those shows here?” and with the pandemic and everything it’s taken a lot longer than I’d like to, but I’m so glad we’re turning that corner. My heart’s so ready for those shows.
We did a small run of those headlining shows in Canada this past winter, we’ve done a handful in the States up to this point and those have all just been so special to me. It feels like the beginning of gathering a community of friends, of people who have heard these songs and made them become a part of their life and to all stand together and sing these songs at the top of our lungs, it’s such a dream come true to me. And it’s beautiful evidence I think of what music can do. So to me these shows I think will be particularly special to me holding onto that London memory. The way that night felt, to be able to replicate that on a tour this fall is just… oh, I can’t wait. Is it October yet?! [laughs]
You’ve also recently announced your new EP ‘Masquerades’ which is coming out next month. What can we expect from that?
You know these songs came – I could not help the way that they came from a much more personal place. I was experiencing so much, I think, capacity to process more of my vulnerable and maybe more uncomfortable emotions and thoughts because the whole world was forced to stay inside and in a lot of ways be stuck with those feelings. And I really didn’t know where else to put them other than inside songs. And it was so healing for me to be able to pick up a guitar and just… I don’t know, express what was going on in my head.
My favourite place to write from is the observer, the storyteller perspective, so it’s definitely more terrifying to me to write a song that’s actually something that’s personal or on my own heart. But I’m really excited to share these songs that very much came from a new frontier for me of figuring out how to put down the mask in my life. I definitely sort of have this bright and sunny part of me that sometimes can be useful to hide behind. So I’m learning how to hold that in one hand and also hold what it looks like to put that to the side and just be completely honest. It feels good to be figuring that out. And scary at the same time [laughs].
I think that’s been a lot of people’s experience with the pandemic – talking about their mental health more and things like that. All your music is really relatable, but these new songs feel like they’re really something people are connecting with. Are you finding that’s something people are saying to you on social media or when you’re out on the road?
Yes. That has given me so much courage to go, “OK yes, I wanna do a whole project of these scary songs”. Because hearing from people has just meant the world to me. To go, “oh I’m so glad we feel the same and also that we aren’t alone in those feelings”. You know, putting out Villain In Me or When’s It Gonna Happen, hearing people say “this is my anthem, I feel this, this is my emotion too” and it’s “OK, thank goodness, we can stand together in that”. I do think you’re right. I think as dark and hard as the past couple of years have been, I do think there is always something beautiful that can be taken from it. And the conversation about mental health or people being more brave to just be who they are and go, “no, life’s too short and the things that are important to me are what I’m gonna stand up for”. That’s something really powerful I think to come out of this time in our history. So I’m glad to witness that and feel a part of that.
Are there any of the new songs you’re particularly looking forward to playing live?
Yes. There’s a few. All of them, honestly! There’s one song called The Sound Of Being Alone that is really fun. We’ve just put a couple of random clips up but it’s got a very kind of funky cool bassline and it’s got a lot of angst and emotion to stomp around on stage with, and it feels so good to sing that song. So I’m looking forward to that one on stage. And every time we play When’s It Gonna Happen and I see people singing along, it just makes my heart burst. So I love getting to play that one live.
But there’s a few new ones on there too. There’s a song called Shared Walls that was written about being in the apartment building that I was and literally feeling like I was getting to know my neighbours more as we were all locked down, and wow. And then I was thinking about neighbours around the whole world who were experiencing so many of the same feelings. I felt closer, I think, to the neighbour feeling. So that song I’m really excited to be able to share as well. But yeah, there’s a song called Light In Your Eyes that’s the last song on the EP, the kind of message I wanna close the project with. It’s got… I don’t know, some kind of ‘please let the spirit of the Eagles be with us as we sing it’ [laughs] vibe. But yeah, I’m excited to play a lot of these new songs live.
You’ve got a follow up EP coming out later in the year as well. Was it quite an easy process to decide which songs would go where in this project?
There were definitely a few songs that raised their hand where it was, “this is Masquerades, this has to be on the introduction to this whole project”. But there’s also this sort of living, breathing feeling about this new music where to be honest I have the anchors of the songs for the next EP, but I’m also still writing. And feeling like… I think the point of being able to release collections of songs, to me, is to not wait until it’s fully finished, to take a few more years before we can share something. I want to kind of share where I’m at in the process as we go and invite everybody on the adventure of sharing these new songs with me. So it feels exciting to be, “yes, we’re at the first place, this feels right”. And then we’ll just kind of keep evolving, kind of growing as we get there, is my plan.
How do you feel your writing process has evolved with this project compared to ‘The Lemonade Stand’?
I do think that this wave of new music feels a lot more personal, and I do think that’s the anchor at this new frontier of songwriting for me. A lot of these songs, actually I think all of them on the first EP were created over Zoom. Which is insane to me to think about. Because it is not my favourite way to create through a screen or to talk to somebody. It’s so good to be in person today!
But I feel that way about songwriting sessions, like I was not in the same room as these people. And a lot of these songs I wrote with people that I’d never met in person before. They were complete strangers. And we just got to know each other and there’s one friend, my friend Stephen Wrabel, that we wrote maybe 15 songs over the pandemic together. We just became such close friends and were like “alright, how you doing this week?” Just connecting and asking about how each other’s lives are and what’s happening in his apartment building and what’s happening in mine. He’s in LA, I’m in Nashville, and it felt like that was such a beautiful silver lining to me in that whole process, of being able to make some new friends and meet some new people around the world that I maybe wouldn’t have gotten in the room together with.
So I feel like this project and this sort of style of writing has such a perserverance underneath it. The music will find a way. Like, the song will prevail and will come into the world however it needs to find a way to. Because if I’ve learned anything in the process of writing this project and also recording it – I had no idea what I was doing recording. I literally had a friend help set me up on Logic and I was sending vocal passes to a few of these different producers through the distance, and we created these songs together in a way that I never would have dreamed this project would have, could have come together. So I definitely think the writing and the recording process is like, wow, we will find a way! [laughs]
Is there anything you’ll take from the experience of making music in the last couple of years and apply to future projects?
I think so. I mean, even the idea of being able to start a song together in a room and go, “OK, let’s finish this over Zoom”. I was writing with a few friends even over here – they’re in Wales or whatever place and I was like, “OK”. It’s not impossible to be able to write through the distance, so that’s exciting.
And the recording process to me too is really fun to get to explore and learn more about production in this way. It kind of forced me to and I do think I’ll carry those tools with me to be able to go, “I wanna be more a part of the recording process” and recording and being there for the vocal passes. I was forced to this time but I’d love to carry that through everything that I think I’ve learned in this process.
You’ve mentioned that you recently had a headline tour in Canada and the US, and you’ve also recently opened for the likes of Reba McEntire, George Strait and Brothers Osborne. How are you finding being back on the road again?
Oh, it’s the best. It still feels surreal but I do feel back. I’m really grateful we got to do the Brothers Osborne tour in the later part of last year. That was a wave of emotion returning. It was like, “oh my goodness”. That was also – I will say this, I might have missed this in your question before, but I think the writing process was very anchored in missing being on the road. And like going, “OK, I feel so lost, like this piece of myself is [missing]”. It’s really hard to express that without being able to connect with people in person and being on stage and that collective live music feeling. I think the heart and the longing for that was very much in the fabric of writing this new music and how it could feel for all of us to be singing these songs together at some point.
But coming back to the road and getting to be a part of those tours was just like so overwhelming and emotional to begin with. It was like, “wow, I have just missed this so much, it feels so good!” And you know, in lots of ways, it was like, “this is overwhelming, oh my gosh, I’m around people again, this is kind of weird”, and then it was like, “oh OK, I’m good, I’m feeling good”. So there were a lot of ups and downs with the return of that. And an adjustment of sorts. But I definitely feel back now. It’s been such a dream.
Opening up for Reba and George Strait this past month has just been blowing my mind. What legends. Their legacy of music, and also just the culture that they have on the road. You can just tell on all angles of their tour that they’ve been doing this for so long, they know how to take care of people in the best way. Watching them on stage, you know, Reba’s way of entertaining people just blows my mind. She’s like shrunk that whole arena and just made them feel like she loves them so much. Everybody that I’ve opened for I’ve learned so much from. But yeah, it’s great to be back on the road.
You were also named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list recently – what was it like when you found that out?
Yeah, it was crazy! I was like, “Is this for real?” I’m just so honoured to be on that list and was completely shocked and surprised and grateful to feel that sense of belief from such an incredible organisation. And among a list of people doing really cool things in the music industry and beyond. So that was such a dream. So cool.
You’ve got a pretty jam-packed year from the sound of things, but what does the rest of 2022 look like for you at the moment? Are the EPs and touring going to be your main focus?
Those are the anchors, yeah. The new music is one I’m really looking forward to and being able to share that new music on the road. We’re really excited for the tour over here, in the works of another Canadian tour kind of continuing, some of the headline shows over in the States as well. Trying to kind of travel around to all of my favourite places as much as we can to be able to keep sharing this new music.
The last time you were here you mentioned you wanted to visit Harry Potter World – have you managed to make it there yet?
Oh! No! I’m so sad! I wanted to go to the studio tour so bad but we don’t have an extra day in London. I am here for two extra days at the end of the trip but we’re doing cool things. But next time when we come back in October I’m really gonna try to get here a week early. I wanna be able to spend some time to do some writing and just see more things and I would love to take a day to go there! [laughs] I’ll be like, “we cannot put anything here, I’m going to see Harry Potter World!” I will go! [laughs] But thank you for remembering that, that’s awesome. We were kind of walking around – I don’t even remember where, maybe Soho? And the theatre with the Harry Potter play was set up there and I was like, “oh, be still my heart!” I hope maybe next time there’ll be time to see some cool things.
Tenille Townes’ new EP ‘Masquerades’ is out on 22nd April 2022 on Columbia Nashville.
See Tenille on tour in the UK this October:
Monday 17 October – Oran Mor, Glasgow
Tuesday 18 October – The Fleece, Bristol
Wednesday 19 October – Scala, London
Thursday 20 October – Gorilla, Manchester