Ever since Jennifer Nettles announced that she was recording her first-ever solo album, anticipation has been building. But this past Monday the Sugarland singer finally previewed five of the songs during a listening session in Nashville.
Nettles attended the session and talked about the songs, and her experience recording them at Shangri-La Studio in Malibu, California with super producer Rick Rubin, who she said was “super-active in the recording.”
The Nashville Tennessean described the songs as “minimally produced” and often possessing a “’70s vibe.” Nettles’ comments echoed that as well. “I wanted this record to breathe and be sparse and not be a wall of sound,” she said. “I wanted it to be emotional and raw.”
According to the Tennessean, the tracklist includes material co-written by pop artists Butch Walker and Richard Marx as well as country hitmakers Tim Owens (a co-writer on Sugarland’s hit “Settlin'”) and Derek George.
“I think this album plays to my roots,” Nettles said during the preview session. “There’s country, gospel, ’70s music, singer-songwriter stuff, as well. It has been a joy to get to explore those parts of myself. I’m excited and nervous at the same time – all of those things you are when something is important to you.”
Among the songs on the album–which does not yet have a title or release date–is a cover of Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock,” which she said came at the suggestion of Rubin.
Nettles said the album’s first single,”That Girl,” which she wrote with Walker, “kind of ended up being ‘The Ballad of Jolene,'” a reference to one of Dolly Parton’s most famous songs, in which she pleads with Jolene to keep her paws off her guy, singing, “I”m begging of you please don’t take my man.”
“[The] idea presented itself,” Nettles continued, “of ‘What if it was Jolene calling and saying ‘I really don’t want your man. This is not who I want to be. I want to let you know I’m not that girl, but he’s being that guy.’ It was really fun, and I love the rhythm track. The claps you hear on it, we were listening to references of ‘Cecilia’ by Simon & Garfunkel and have that clap with a delay on there. It was fun and rhythmic, but you also hear that Johnny Cash pickin’ style. That track was super Rick Rubin.”
Nettles plans to release “That Girl” on August 19.