Interview: Tenille Townes on the Trust Falls That Shaped ‘The Lemonade Stand’
Go ahead and skip to the end of Tenille Townes' American debut album, The Lemonade Stand. Like so many artists do, she tucked a personal gem there — one unlikely to be considered for radio airplay, but one that will bring chills when you hear it.
"The Most Beautiful Things" tells her story, but really that could describe so many songs on the 12-track album, released June 26. It's a piano-led ballad filled with explosions of color and beauty that seem tangible. It's as if a palette of paints is going to come pouring from your car stereo, but that's not the reasons she (and perhaps you, too) holds her breath.
Producer Jay Joyce (Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, Little Big Town) had the idea of bringing in a little kid to help close the album. Engineer Jason Hall's daughter got the gig, singing "Pray, cry, kiss, dream" on repeat. It's angelic.
"Her name is Amelia and she’s seven years old," Townes tells Taste of Country. "I watched her step into the vocal booth and put those big headphones on and sing her heart out and I was just weeping.”
Growing up, Townes was that little girl, singing and dreaming of a moment like this in the back of her family's car as they drove around Grande Prairie, Alberta. Nashville was 45 hours away by car, and she didn't rush to get there, instead impressing in her homeland and leaving a legacy of generosity by tying her music to charitable endeavors whenever possible. That carries over to 2020.
On Sunday (June 28), Townes will take over Taste of Country's Facebook page for a few songs and some fun with fans, and in doing so she'll be supporting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"This record is the dream that I had as that kid," she says, reliving that moment in Joyce's studio, a converted church in East Nashville.
In some ways, Townes is the antithesis of the commercial artist. She leans into heartwarming, emotional ballads that tell true-to-her life stories of sacrifice and loss in a way that invite us all to do better. "Somebody's Daughter" (a Top 40 hit from 2018) wonders how a homeless woman got to that street corner. Who let her down?
The follow-up offering to radio, "Jersey on the Wall," asks hard questions of God through a story about a car crash that killed a teenager in New Brunswick. Fans use the singer's text line to share their own version of that tragedy, something she appreciates and thinks of as courageous.
“That’s what I love about music," she says. "It kind of pushes down the walls and makes those conversations possible."
Who Is Tenille Townes? 5 Things You Need to Know
There are trust falls across The Lemonade Stand, but her vulnerability doesn't come with hesitation. "The Most Beautiful Thing" is asking people to explore her world view. The album's opener, "Holding Out for the One," is an uptempo anthem that defies the idea that quantity is more important than quality when it comes to dating. Here, she's a quiet voice of reason amid a noisy, provocative conversation holding court on social media.
"'When I Meet My Maker' feels like a trust fall, as well," Townes shares. "That song is something I sat and wrote thinking about my great-grandmother and how much I miss her and that is a very much personal pull for me."
Again, Townes is asking hard questions about faith during this acoustic ballad. Again, Joyce dialed up something special for the recording. For most of the seven-week recording process, she'd held down a little corner of the room for her vocals. For this song, he wanted something that felt live.
'I showed up and all the mics had been moved up to the alter of the church and we just sat in this semi-circle," she recalls, putting Joyce and guitarist Jaxon Hargrove across from her. "The three of us just took a breath and played the song."
The version that made the record was their first pass, a hair-raising authentic expression that nearly breaks as she sings, "He’ll tell me that it’s alright / I’ll tell him how I miss you / He’ll show me how to watch over / From the front row with the perfect view."
When Townes was sent physical copies of her new album, she took one to her truck, the same 2010 Toyota Tacoma that carried her to Nashville nearly a decade ago. There she spun around town, soaking in a dream come true. The Lemonade Stand was the dream, after all. Some artists dream of a No. 1 hit or headlining stadiums, and those would suit the 26-year-old just fine. But this project is why she's here.
“It’s more about the journey through music for me, and knowing that people could find maybe pieces of themselves or pieces of something that they needed," Townes insists. "That for me means so much more than the No. 1 song moment.”
Watch Tenille Townes Cover "At Last"
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