Sunny Sweeney’s Married Alone fortifies heartache (the title track) and healing (“Someday You’ll Call My Name”) with effortless elegance (“Tie Me Up”). We recently spoke with the Texas native about her seamless new collection.
“Some songs are new and some are really old,” Sweeney says. “Brennen [Leigh] and I wrote ‘Someday You’ll Call My Name’ probably fifteen, eighteen years ago. We rewrote it during the pandemic because it was a cool song that needed new verses.”
Alt-Country Specialty Chart: Explain what drew you to the title track.
Sunny Sweeney: “Married Alone” came around in 2019. My old manager called me and said, “I have a song, but you need to be by yourself to listen.” “Dude, stop being dramatic,” I said. “Just send me the song.” “No, you really need to be by yourself.” I went home and listened through a verse and a chorus and called him. “Who’s song is this and how do I get it for my record?”
‘Married Alone’ really sounds like a song you would have written.
Honestly, that’s the biggest compliment. It means I’m good at picking out cover songs when someone thinks I wrote a song that I didn’t. I’m very proud of that. The two I didn’t write on the album are “Married Alone” and “Fool Like Me.” Josh Morningstar, Hannah Blaylock and Autumn McEntire wrote “Married Alone” and “Fool Like Me” was written by Kendell Marvel and Waylon Payne. I co-wrote all the erst.
Describe working with Vince Gill on ‘Married Alone.’
I had gone on tour with Hannah when we were both on Big Machine (Records). She’s an amazing singer. It was just her singing on the work tape I got (of “Married Alone”) and I was dropped to my knees. “Holy shit, this song is heavy.” I never imagined the song being anything but a female vocal. I didn’t even want harmonies, but then we recorded it and I literally heard Vince singing on it (in my head). I jokingly said to the guys, “I could ask to see if Vince would do the harmonies, but I’m not gonna get my hopes up.”
They laughed and said, “Do you, Sunny.” I went outside and called Vince and asked if he would be into it. “Yeah,” he said. “Sure.” We sent the song to him and I started sobbing when I heard his voice on it. His voice was everything I could have wanted and more. First hearing it in my head and then hearing it in person was pretty wild. I made it the title track because it encompassed the songs. I (had gotten) divorced again and realized that these songs were in one way or another about my relationship that fell apart.
Country music and heartbreak, man.
(Laughs) You know what my therapist told me one time? “Do you put yourself in these situations to have writing material?” “No, but thank you for your observation.” (Laughs).
So, do you prefer co-writing now?
I never used to co-write, but now I don’t like writing by myself. I like having that person to bounce stuff off. The one good thing about writing alone is that you can do whatever you want and don’t have someone else’s opinion, but the good thing about co-writing is that there’s a safety net. You can say something that might be stupid and if you’re writing by yourself you might talk yourself into thinking it’s good. Having trusted co-writers is important and why I write with the same people over and over. Trusted co-writers will say, “No, we’re not doing that.”
Tell the story behind writing ‘A Song Can’t Fix Everything.’
I wrote that with Lori McKenna. She’s so great. I had the idea because I’ve always used music as an escape for everything. You’re probably like that. Most music people are. I realized that I never had any problems while I was listening to music because my heart goes toward the music. Then as soon the music stops, and, “Oh, shit. I am having problems right now.” I started thinking about that and also about our fans. You don’t know what they’re doing through, but five bucks says some are going through something and they decided to spend twenty bucks to come cut loose for ninety minutes. I told Lori about the idea and she was so great to write with. Lori’s a genius.
- Brian T. Atkinson
Artist: Billy Strings
Hometown: Lansing, Michigan
Album: Me & Dad
Release Date: November 18, 2022
Record Label: Rounder Records
On songwriting: “I’ve learned that you just got to let the song do its thing, so that’s what I try to do – write songs and let them come out however they do.” – Miko Marks
- Brian T. Atkinson
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