The Nashville songwriter talks about her new LP, "Whiskeytown Crier."
Erin Enderlin paved her way in the country music industry as a prominent songwriter whose songs have been recorded by country superstars Alan Jackson, Luke Bryan, Lee Ann Womack, Randy Travis, and Terri Clark. In 2013, Enderlin ventured solo with her debut album, I Let Her Talk, which was filled with talented songwriting delivered in Enderlin’s distinctive classic-country voice.
Now, fresh off the release of her second album, Whiskeytown Crier, Enderlin is ready to show the world more of her talent. The record revolves around a fictional place called Whiskeytown. With a little musical inspiration from William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, the record delves into the experiences of small-town women.
Recently, Enderlin talked with C&I about her inspiration for her new album, songwriting, touring, and some of her favorite Nashville hotspots.
Cowboys & Indians: What do you hope your fans will get from your new album, Whiskeytown Crier?
Erin Enderlin: I hope fans are able to escape their lives for a few minutes and get lost in these characters and their stories. I hope they connect to my love for the record, that they’re entertained and find connection through the music to know that we’re all in this crazy life together, through the ups and the downs.
C&I: Whiskeytown Crier is basically an album dedicated to women’s experiences in small towns. Were there any specific women in mind or specific stories in mind that you drew from?
Enderlin: I think just being a woman I’m drawn to that perspective. It’s not something I really set out intentionally to do — it just happened organically. I’m a watcher and a listener. I collect people’s stories, even my own; then I weave the pieces and parts into songs. Works well to protect the innocent and the guilty. For example, my sister Amy has never shot a mutual love interest, but she sure has some of the sass of the character in “Baby Sister”!
C&I: What else inspired this album’s lyrics, sounds, and stories?
Enderlin: As for the sounds, I can’t tell you how exciting it was to go into the studio with some of the most talented musicians you could hope to meet. That was a big part of the process — picking out what musicians, their signature styles, fit what I wanted to bring to life. My producers, Jim “Moose” Brown and Jamey Johnson, were very influential also. I love traditional country — can’t get enough fiddle and steel — but I don’t want to just copy something that’s been done. I want to bring my own new spin on it. I found lyrics and stories so many places — from books and movies, to marquee signs off the front of a bar, to overhearing some of the most profound stories from a stranger’s life.
C&I: You have songwriting credits on a lot of country hits, like Alan Jackson’s “Monday Morning Church” and Lee Ann Womack’s “Last Call.” What is the difference between writing songs for others and writing songs for a personal album?
Enderlin: I really just try to write what I love, try to find a great idea and stay out of its way. I’m not really sure where the song fits till it’s done. Unless now and then I’m writing with another artist that has a specific idea/type of song they want to tackle; then I just try to bring what I do to the process and assist their vision.
C&I: How do you go about songwriting? Do you start with the melody or the lyrics first?
Enderlin: It really depends. Sometimes I hear a story or a word or phrase that I love and I start chewing on that. Sometimes I’m messing around on guitar and something interesting falls out. For the most part once the real meat of the writing starts it’s melody and lyrics together.
C&I: You got to work with a lot of big names. The album is produced by Jamey Johnson and Jim “Moose” Brown and features artists like Chris Stapleton, Randy Houser, Ricky Skaggs, and Jon Randall. In what ways do you think they added to your album as a whole?
Enderlin: One of the things I love most about country music is seeing different artists collaborate and how they complement each other. For example, some of my favorite albums are Marty Stuart’s Pilgrim and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken. I think everybody on the album each added a nice little musical spice — enhanced the sound and album as a whole. Like Jamey really helped me have the guts to do exactly the songs I wanted, and music, too, just how I wanted. Moose helped me bring to life what I heard in my head and really always takes what I do to the next level musically — he’s a genius. Chris, Randy, Ricky, and Jon all just added such beautiful foils to my voice. I was really thrilled to have all of them be a part of it.
C&I: Is there a song on Whiskeytown Crier that you are most proud of?
Enderlin: I think “Broken” is the song I’m most proud of on Whiskeytown Crier. I wrote it by myself — which is always scary, to be the only one flying the plane — and it deals with some real-life gritty feelings, but I hope that I was able to tell the story with the respect, grace, and reverence that it deserves.
C&I: Are there any songs that didn’t make the album that we can expect sometime in the near future?
Enderlin: I actually basically cut two albums. I am really excited about some of the songs that will be out on a next project, some really special moments in store!
C&I: What can we expect in terms of touring? Any places you’re particularly excited to play?
Enderlin: I’m looking forward to hitting the road a lot in the new year. I can’t announce plans yet, but I really want to make it to some areas I haven’t been much, maybe even Europe!
C&I: Lastly, as a musician living in Nashville, what are some of your favorite Music City hot spots?
Enderlin: I love the Opry and the Ryman. I know those are more “big event” type places, but just had to say! I’m a big coffee-house person. I love Dose and The Jam. [For tacos] nothing better than Mas Tacos. Love the Station Inn, the Basement, and 3rd & Lindsley. And my favorite bar in town is Betty’s off Charlotte — it’s a must-visit.
For more information on Erin Enderlin, visit her website.