Tenille Townes first came to the attention of fans in the UK when she made her maiden voyage across the pond as part of the CMA Songwriters Series in October 2018 shortly after the release of “Somebody’s Daughter” which was her first radio single. She returned to these shores a year later for a string of dates with Striking Matches and also appearing during Country Music Week but is about to make her third visit when she will perform on the main stage at Country to Country in early March. Since her last visit, the Grande Prairie native released her acclaimed major label debut album; “The Lemonade Stand” which was recognised as the album of the year in 2021 by both the Canadian Country Music Association and the Juno Awards. Townes has recently shared “When’s It Gonna Happen” which is her third single post “The Lemonade Stand” and is available HERE. Ahead of her appearance at C2C we hung out with Tenille over Zoom to catch up on the last two years and what we can expect from her sets in London, Glasgow and Dublin. Since the back end of last year when touring became more accessible once again, she really has been pretty much non-stop on the road with her own headlining tours in Canada and the US along with spending some time opening up for Brothers Osborne and George Strait where social posts have shown that she is really enjoying making up for lost time and getting back on stage once again. “It’s been too long! It’s time, it’s definitely time! I’m so grateful for the return of live music. I feel like my soul is coming back to life with these shows and I’m so excited to pack my suitcase and see you guys. It’s long overdue and I can’t wait. I’m opening up for Reba tomorrow which will be a total dream come true and I can’t wait to watch her show. Getting back out has been so much fun. That tour with John and T.J. was really the first tour coming back and I couldn’t have dreamed of something more incredible to be a part of. Just watching their musicianship and they are remarkable human beings who are ridiculously talented artists, so I loved getting to watch their show every night and we had a blast with them. Then getting to play some of my first headlining shows which other than last time in London, I had never done that before and it was really cool to go back to the homeland, kicking off in Canada and seeing people sing along meant the world to me. We’ve just been starting the US headlining tour where we have done a few of them after a couple of covid delays and winter weather delays, which has been so much fun, and I can’t wait for the rest. The George Strait shows! That was such a dream too and I mean how many songs does he have?”
Following on from the dates with Reba, the next thing on the horizon is her return to this side of the Atlantic for Country to Country in two weeks’ time. When I had last spoken to Tenille back in 2019 during Country Music week, she was hoping to be able to come back here more often and properly spend some time as a tourist with Warner Bros. Studio for the Harry Potter tour being right at the top of that list. Due to Covid and some weather cancellations back in the States, this trip once again will likely to be brief and sadly once again looks like a heavily work driven visit. “Every time I come back, I want to add a little more time. This trip will be particularly fast especially with the way that C2C works where a lot of our time is spent on travel but I’m hoping to spend a few more days in London on the back end but still not enough time for the Harry Potter adventure this time and I really want to do that. I have been to Glasgow before on the CMA Songwriters tour and I think on the Striking Matches tour too, but Dublin will be my first time there and it looks like such a magical place.”
This will be her first time back since the release of The Lemonade Stand and now, she is in the process of building towards her next project with new music so are we likely to expect a blend of both of these from her main stage appearances? “That’s what I’m hoping. We have some ground to cover celebrating The Lemonade Stand so will definitely playing songs from that and hope to be able to trickle in a couple of new ones too so a balance of that is definitely my goal.” With regard to new music, Tenille recently shared “When’s It Gonna Happen” which is the third single post The Lemonade Stand so is it forming the start of the next chapter and a bigger musical picture? “I have so much music that I’m excited to get out there and I’m really looking forward to the adventure to releasing these collections. We’ve got a few songs out so far and have been testing the water on a few other new ones that we’re definitely looking to land together on a group of songs. The first group will be very soon. I’ve got the theme and all of that mapped out in my head to carry us to the next collection so there is lots more exciting in the works that I can’t wait to tell you more about real soon.”
Is this next musical chapter going to have a different feel and perspective to her last album and how much impact has the state of the world and the pandemic had on this? “I think this new music is very much a reflection of the season in my life where like most people in the world, we were spending more time alone and more time at home than ever before. My favourite place to write from is the observer perspective and be the storyteller. In the process of writing this new music I really couldn’t help the way that these songs were coming out a lot more personal and the way that I was sitting with these vulnerable or sometimes uncomfortable thoughts and thinking I don’t know what to do with these feelings. Music is my place to put them and picking up my guitar has been a very therapeutic thing for me, and I think the entire collection of these songs is very much under the theme of taking off a bit of the mask and diving into new depths of what that truth and honesty looks like in my music.”
Tenille is very much a people person and as she had said her perspective as a songwriter was typically from the observer perspective in the past. Given that stories carry meaning and emotion, we talked about how writing songs virtually rather than being in a room with people presented both positives and negatives. “I feel so torn about Zoom. For me, you can’t replace being in the same room as it’s so difficult to pick up on those energies. There is something that will be forever sacred and special about creating music in the same room, I don’t think you can replace that but what I learnt was that the music will find a way. The song will prevail and if that means trying to figure it out transferring through a screen, it will find a way and it will get there. It was such a helpful process for me, and I think for my mental health, to be able to focus on creating new music and I think I would have gone completely crazy without that as we weren’t able to be on the road. Being able to work on new songs and record things in my house was something that I really loved getting to spend time doing. The screen can be an interesting filter too, sometimes it feels easier to say something crazy or truthful to your computer than a human being so it’s an interesting combination in the creative process, but I hope to be entirely in the room again going forward.” Whilst there is a lot of focus on new music, her previous album “The Lemonade Stand” was highly acclaimed which last year won Country Album of the Year at the Juno Awards and Album of the Year at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards where she also received Female Vocalist of the Year for the third year running. “That was so overwhelming truly. It means so much to feel like this music was loved and accepted by the community that I grew up in. To go back and celebrate that and in person at the CCMA’s was so fun to see everybody and it meant the world to me feeling that people have really wrapped their arms around my music, my songs and my window that I see the world through. As a female artist that was incredibly cool and for me to see that The Lemonade Stand was celebrated as it will forever mark the beginning of things. It came out in the middle of a pandemic and the release looked entirely different to what I thought it would be so to feel that kind of love around it meant so much.”
For the festival, Tenille is the sole Canadian and only non-American playing the main stage so I painted this in an Olympic context where she would be the flag bearer for Team Canada. “Team Canada” at C2C is looking really strong with: Jess Moskaluke, Robyn Ottolini, Tim Hicks, Tebey and Tenille Arts also being a part of the event. The growth of Canadian artists right now who are having great success in the Nashville community is really exciting right now, particularly amongst female artists like Lindsay Ell, MacKenzie Porter, Meghan Patrick, Madison Kozak and Madeline Merlo in addition to Tenille and the rest of the Canadian contingent heading over for C2C, who are all making huge strides in Music City. “It’s so true and it’s such an exciting time. I loved getting to see everybody at the CCMA’s. We all listened to each other’s music and high fiving through Instagram but to hear each other play at the show. I think it’s a very exciting time for music in general and for music coming out of Canada, I’m just so proud to be a part of it!”
Tenille has obviously been heavily celebrated by her peers and the industry in Canada with recognition from the CCMA’s and her Juno Award so I asked her how now that she is living in Nashville whether she sees a big difference to how things work north of the border? “I would say yes and no. I think Nashville is unique because it is a community that is one city whilst Canada has got pockets through a bunch of different cities so it’s a little more spread out that way. Touring and getting music recorded can be a little bit different up there but in the biggest sense of it, music is just music and I think the way that people are streaming things and so much is being recorded at home these days so it’s changing the borders of genre and borders of countries so all of that is a little less significant than it used to be. I love that music can just be music.” Then one final note on Country to Country to end our chat was where I pointed out that in the arena in London when you also include the Spotlight stage, there are 23 acts playing and 13 of them are women! Seeing a bill where over half of the line-up is female must be something really fresh to see compared to events in the States. “It’s so exciting. Sometimes I forget and although it’s something that we talk about a lot, but you get in your lane then do what you can do, focus on what you can bring to the table instead of just staring at the hill or the next step up it. It’s really encouraging to know that you guys are so welcoming to all of the voices, I’ve felt that every time that I’ve come over and shared that experience with you guys. Your arms are so wide open in so many ways and I think the female representation on this festival is another example of that.”
The latest single “When’s It Gonna Happen” from Tenille Townes is out now through Sony Nashville which you can listen to HERE. Tenille makes her anticipated return to the UK at Country to Country in London, Glasgow and Dublin on March 11th, 12th and 13th.