I sat down with Tenille Townes during her recent trip to New York to chat about her latest EP, the impact of her single Jersey on the Wall, and what it felt like performing with Keith Urban at All for the Hall.
It had been about eighteen months since I first saw Tenille Townes perform when she opened for Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town on the Bandwagon Tour. It was just Townes and her guitar on that tour – in sold out amphitheaters – and I remember watching her captivate the audience with her stunning voice and unmatched lyrics.
“To have that as my first tour ever to get to be part of was just beyond the dream,” she told me. “Just to learn from those women up there – seeing how they just have each other’s backs – I’ll never forget that as long as I live.”
Since then the 26 year-old from Alberta Canada has toured with Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert and Alan Jackson, and will be featured on Sugarland’s tour this summer.
The Lemonade Stand
Townes recently released a new EP, The Road To The Lemonade Stand, a preview of her upcoming full-length album, The Lemonade Stand. The title was inspired by a line in her hit single Somebody’s Daughter:
Bet she was somebody’s best friend laughing, Back when she was somebody’s sister, Countin’ change at the lemonade stand…
For Townes, it serves as the perfect metaphor for her music.
“I love that a lemonade stand is like a gathering place…this spot in a community where people gather around and where strangers meet each other,” she explained. “And to me, that’s what I want this music to be – a gathering place where people feel like they can be themselves and like they’re not alone in their story, and be reminded of their dreams. Like a kid at a little lemonade stand.”
This is the second EP Townes has released since signing with Columbia Nashville (Sony). The first was 2018’s Living Room Worktapes, a four track acoustic EP, which served as an introduction to Townes’ music for many, and also paralleled with her acoustic performances on tour.
“It was really important to us to strip back the songs to the way that they were written,” Townes explained. “The way that I think music brings us together, like we’re in the living room, so I can kind of push the walls down. And especially with some of these more sensitive songs, and to present them in that raw acoustic way was a really exciting way to introduce the new music.”
Jersey On The Wall
With Jersey On The Wall (I’m Just Asking), Townes has created a song which has had a profound impact on so many people. The YouTube video has over a million views, and reading through some of the more than five hundred comments you realize how important this song is:
My daughter committed suicide 5 years ago. I’m the mom that stopped going to church. I’m still asking.
I sang this song at my best friends funeral.
My best friend died in a car accident May 15, 2019. He was 17. Last week of his junior year.
This song has hit every nerve with me and it says everything I’ve ever needed to say . My dad died when I drunk driver hit him head on almost 14 years ago. I struggle every day thinking “ why couldn’t you stop that car from crashing ?!” I struggle during the holidays and this came right in time. Thank you so much Tenille
Jersey was inspired by a community in Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick. During the summer of 2014 a tragic car accident involving five students took the life of Danielle Park, the valedictorian and star basketball player. During a visit to the school, Townes noticed Park’s basketball jersey hanging on the wall in the gym.
Townes wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of emotion from this song. From comments online, to text messages, to people coming up to meet her after a show – so many are finding the courage to tell their own story. “To me, that is exactly what music is for,” she said. “It’s the safe place to let out your feelings, and a lot of times that’s sorrow and grieving and that’s okay.”
The courage she’s seeing from others has inspired Townes to be more brave herself. “It’s like, man, we are not alone in those stories,” she said. “Everybody feels so very much the same way in losing someone they love. And I think we all have a lot of those questions and especially in regards to faith and why do these things happen, you know? And it’s so human to ask that and I think it’s allowed.”
Tackling subjects like this isn’t easy for any songwriter. For Townes, it’s about trusting her feelings.
“I feel like every song to me is so different and unique in the sense where writing to me is very much a spiritual thing where you just kind of get out of the way of yourself and listen to what you feel,” she said. “And you just kind of trust that. Sometimes it takes you down a road you weren’t expecting and sometimes it’s intentional. It’s different every time.”
“My favorite place to write from is the perspective kind of element,” explained Townes. “I like to be the observer and I think I’ve processed how I feel about different things that are going on in the world, through songs and through writing and it’s more just like a personal healing thing for me. And the fact that maybe that song could be that for other people. And especially for those who the community and my friend from home who inspired it. That means the most to me.”
Wild But Innocent
The new EP features a gorgeous cover of Stupid Boy. Originally recorded by Sarah Buxton, the song was later recorded by Keith Urban, earning him a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 2008. Townes recalls being struck by the power of the lyrics when she first heard it.
‘She was precious, like a flower. She grew wild, wild but innocent’
“I feel like every time I sing it, it’s this reminder of the fact that you can’t let people steal our life and that we’ve got to hold onto that, and it makes me stronger,” she explained.
When the opportunity came up last year to record a cover, Townes thought it would be so cool to do Stupid Boy. “I’m a huge Sarah Buxton fan as well,” Townes said. “She’s one of the writers on the song and I love her version very much.”
Keep It Cool
In early February Townes performed at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for Keith Urban’s All For The Hall, a benefit for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The event featured Blake Shelton, Tanya Tucker, Chris Stapleton, Carly Peace, Brothers Osborne, and many more, with Urban playing guitar for all of the artists.
“He was standing right behind me, jamming,” said Townes about getting to perform with Urban. “I was like, You’ve got to keep it cool, keep it together, don’t lose it. I was freaking out.”
Hearing Urban in her in-ear monitors start to sing harmony on Somebody’s Daughter was definitely freak-out-worthy.
“You listen to all of these people’s music and you think of how they might be if you ever get to meet them someday,” she said. “And it’s that thing of meeting your heroes. It’s like you hold them at such a high regard and it’s really something amazing when the person that you meet is even more kind and gracious and wonderful than you would expect them to be. Keith is very much that. His whole team is super welcoming.”
When Townes was 15 she took a trip to Nashville with her mom to do some writing and see the sights. They actually planned the trip around that year’s All for the Hall concert so they could see Urban perform. Eleven years later, she was sharing the stage with him. An incredible full circle moment.
Townes is featured in a new Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit, the Unbroken Circle, which serves to show the connection between today’s artists and those who have influenced them. Just the idea of it still feels surreal to Townes.
“I’ve been visiting the Hall of Fame since I first started making trips as a teenage kid writing songs, and I still go there,” she explained. Townes continues to visit the museum now, finding inspiration from the legends of country music. “I’m going to bawl my face off when I see it in there.”
See Tenille Live
Townes will be back in New York on Thursday, May 7th, at Rockwood Music Hall on her Road To The Lemonade Stand Acoustic Tour. She’ll also have three Tri-State area stops opening for Sugarland this summer: June 6th at Hartford’s Xfinity Theatre, July 12th at Wantagh’s Jones Beach Theater, and July 16th at Holmdel’s PNC Bank Arts Center.
Check out our exclusive pics from Tenille’s performance at The Cutting Room in New York city:
Tenille Townes at The Cutting Room:
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