#LetTheGirlsPlay: Tenille Arts Is a Serious Dreamer
Tenille Arts is literally making her dreams come true. The singer and November's #LetTheGirlsPlay artist of the month has songs called "Dash Light" and "You Can't Steal a Heart" that were culled from an imaginative, if overactive, subconscious.
"So I had this dream that I had lassoed the moon," Arts says, sipping hot tea at a Nashville coffee shop, "and I was hanging on the moon and then I just woke up and wrote down 'hanging on the moonlight.'"
The 22-year-old's co-writing team thought that idea was too similar to Randy Houser's "Runnin' Outta Moonlight," so they tweaked and snipped and bent the imagery until they came up with "Dash Light," the final song on Arts' recently released self-titled EP. It's a love song that finds a couple enjoying romance in the front seat of a car.
The Canadian-born and raised country singer hasn't recorded "You Can't Steal a Heart" yet. This song came from a dream in which she and a guitar-playing boyfriend were walking down a hallway signing autographs together.
“He wouldn’t put his arm around me or something," she says, "and I just said, ‘Can’t you just pretend that you love me?'" She remembers these middle-of-the-night inspirations, like the one in which a non-singing or songwriting friend started playing her a song. Yep, that song is coming soon, too.
“I don’t know if that’s a common thing for songwriters, but it’s been helping me,” she says laughing.
It's been one year since Arts moved from Weyburn, Saskatchewan, to Nashville. She had a publishing deal lined up, so she felt good about her chances. Still, things have moved much quicker than she anticipated. One year ago she had no plans to be releasing new music. Writing and learning from Nashville's best songwriters were her humble goals, but one recording became two, and two became five. Pandora noticed, choosing her as one of their 2017 Country Artists to Watch. Now she's preparing a music video and trying to figure out how to take advantage of sudden publicity.
“I just didn’t realize how many things could happen so quickly with me being here," Arts says. "You can set up that meeting tomorrow and just everything can happen a lot faster. I wasn’t prepared for that.”
Memories of her first trip to Nashville still haunt Arts' dreams. She was 15 years old, discovered on YouTube and asked to be a part of a country duo. It was a poor fit musically, though, and she says the people she was working with beat her down, telling her she wasn't good enough and needed to change. The dream didn't die, but her ego was definitely bruised. Recent accolades haven't totally wiped away those memories.
Her mother helped keep the fire burning inside. She's a stay-at-home mom, and her dad works for the local power company. No one has a musical background, so no one was there to empathize. Still, a dream that was born learning Taylor Swift songs was never pushed to the rearview mirror. Arts played a few sports in school, but it was always about the music and the songwriting.
And as it turns out, a rural Canadian town of 10,000 can provide pretty good fodder for a creative songwriter. During a recent #LetTheGirlsPlay show Arts performed "I Can Do the Leaving," a breakup song that finds the girl telling her boyfriend she can dump him if that's what's best. Many of the songs on the Tenille Arts EP are songs of female empowerment — Shania Twain was a big influence — but this track was inspired by family.
“My sister is … she’s just strong and she knows what she wants,” Arts says, referring to her younger sister, whom she calls everyday. “She’s the one saying she’s gonna leave.” Adam Wheeler helped Arts write "I Can Do the Leaving," a pop-friendly ballad that spotlights the singer's vocal capabilities.
“I think she really likes it," she adds, laughing. "I don’t usually tell my siblings when I write songs about them, so she might not even know.”
With a major and unexpected endorsement from Pandora behind her, Arts is indeed trying to find where to go next. She's flirted with record labels and admits she's found some do indeed have a quota for how many women they'll sign. Focusing on a Canadian record label is also a possibility. The dark-eyed beauty understands the importance of seizing the moment, but doesn't seem to be panicking.
Good things tend to happen when she sleeps on it for a few days.