Tenille Townes’ debut single “Somebody’s Daughter” embodies elements of the astute storytelling that Bobbie Gentry mastered in her classic “Ode to Billie Joe.”
Both deal with the idea that no one has the ability to fully understand what others go through in life. “Ode to Billie Joe” took place at a family dinner where the daughter finds out for the first time that her boyfriend died, but the family continues the conversation without knowing of the daughter’s private pain.
Townes’ “Somebody’s Daughter” doesn’t take place at a dinner, but it makes the empathy the song’s focus by having its main character wonder about the wellbeing and history of a young girl holding a piece of cardboard on the street.
The first verse was inspired by a real moment Townes shared in with her mom in the car while she was visiting Nashville from their native Canada.
“We were going furniture shopping and took this exit off the interstate and saw this young girl standing there holding onto a cardboard sign,” Townes tells CMT.com. “We had a moment in the car as we were stopped at the red light beside her just wondering what her story might have been and whom she belonged to and just thinking about the fact that everybody’s got a story. That conversation and that young girl’s face stuck with me, and I knew I had to write about it.”
“Somebody’s Daughter” is the first release from an upcoming collection. An acoustic version is available on her Living Room Worktapes EP. She’s in London, England tonight (Oct. 24) opening for Drake White. Performances opening various dates for Bobby Bones’ Red Hoodie Comedy Tour start Nov. 16 in Muskegon, Mich. Get to know Townes in her own words below:
I love talking about vulnerable topics in songs because I think music gives us permission to let the walls down around us and know we aren’t alone walking in those scary places. It might be difficult to write about because sometimes it’s a fragile emotion, but I think it’s important to let a song move us and heal us.
It means the world for others to recognize themselves in my songs. It’s what fuels me and encourages me to keep writing. I think we are all hungry for a sense of belonging and to know we aren’t alone in what we are going through. Music and so many artists and songs have given that gift to me. It’s pretty wild to think that this music could give that to somebody, too.
Being on the road this summer with Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town was such a dream come true. I learned so much from them and loved witnessing the way their art connects to people. It’s powerful. I’ve been such a fan of their music for such a long time, and I look up to all of them so much.
Playing the Grand Ole Opry for the first time was a wild moment. What a sacred place. You can just feel the history in that building and especially in that circle. Imagining all the people who have stepped into that circle and built the foundations of country music we get to stand on today was pretty overwhelming to me. It was such an honor to play songs in the very same spot. And sharing the experience with my family was such a dream.
I love to go listen to songs that inspire me; songs I wish I’d written that just paint all kinds of pictures in your mind that inspire other ideas. Going to live concerts always fill up my tank for creativity, too. And sometimes just diving into a great book helps to carry the imagination to new places.