Hometown: Kennett, Missouri
What’s on her plate: The recent release of her first country album Feels Like Home, which includes the hit single “Easy”
When I started writing songs, my big inspirations were writers. I can remember my dad reading Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain, and I always thought Twain and Steinbeck were writers who could create a character that travels with you from beginning to end. Later I got into Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, all people who know how to tell a story.
If I wasn’t a musician, I would own an antiques store. I love looking for stuff with a story, especially early-American pieces. I like to drive around and find that big sign that says “Antiques” and pull in and see what they’ve got. Most recently I found an old transom, a piece of wood that probably went into a stairwell. God knows where I’m going to put it.
Having Johnny Cash record one of my songs was my biggest compliment as a songwriter. Talk about bringing weight to a song. He owned it. Afterward, he called me and asked if I liked his version and quizzed me about why I wrote “Redemption Day.” But we never got to sing it together. He died three months later.
Loretta Lynn opened the door. She gave permission to us female songwriters to write about what was really going on, to talk about things [in songs] that were uncomfortable or that were taboo.
Feels Like Home is an extension of songs people know me for—”If It Makes You Happy,” “Strong Enough”—and rock songs inspired by country music. It’s just more dedicated to country instrumentation: more pedal steel, more twangy guitars, more fiddles.
Brad Paisley was instrumental in getting this album made. He’s just been a huge support system. He and his wife are my close friends, and our kids play together, so we have a strong bond outside of music. He came up to me and said, “You’ve really got to do this. If your music came out now it would be released in the country format.”
Life is very normal in Nashville. When I moved here, it was the first time I felt like I found my home. I’m surrounded by people in the industry who approach their lives in a way where [the music] is work, it’s a job. It’s something that we love doing, but what comes first is family and community, and that’s what keeps this town feeling real to me.
I want my sons Wyatt (6) and Levi (3) to be philanthropists, to have a strong sense of compassion. And to be environmentalists, to leave their campsite looking nicer than the way they found it.
Twirling is at the top of the list of my hidden talents. Two days ago I went through the broom closet—I was sweeping the back porch because my parents were coming—and my baton was in there. My kids are at this age where everything is a gun. My 3-year-old picked up the baton and went, “Pow, pow, pow.” So I said, “Let me show you what this is really for.” And I did a little twirling.
I’ve always admired my mom. But now that I’m a mom, more than ever I admire how she raised four kids without any help. It’s tiring yet you want your kids to see you as joyful, and my mom was great at that. She was great at making us believe that she had it all together all the time.
As a Southern woman, I’m trying to raise my kids the way my mom brought us up: feeding them healthy food, teaching manners, giving them a connection to the earth, and instilling a sense of what’s right and wrong. I think of all that as Southern tradition, but I hope it’s a tradition all across the board.