Pull Over for Tenille Townes’ Lemonade Stand

"Creativity Has Such a Way of Knocking Down the Doors of the Things That Scare Us"

You know that feeling you get when you drive by a lemonade stand, when you aren’t technically thirsty but you still know you should pull over and you’re always glad you did? That’s exactly how you’ll feel when you listen to Tenille Townes’ debut album The Lemonade Stand, due out Friday (June 26).

It’s the kind of refreshing country music you didn’t even know your life was thirsty for. (The name comes not from a song title but from a lyric within her debut single “Somebody’s Daughter.”)

Townes — who was born and raised in Alberta, Canada — listened to all kinds of music to prepare for this album. Because in her mind, it wasn’t a matter of if she’d move to Nashville but when. I asked Townes if there was some kind of pivotal moment in her life when she knew she had to make that bold, scary leap of faith, and she told me it was more like a gradual turn of events.

“For me, it was like an internal compass that was screaming so loudly at you to follow what you’re being called to,” Townes told me of her move to Nashville in 2013 at just 19 years old. “You can’t ignore it. So it wasn’t one moment, but more of an accumulation of a lot of little moments. I was playing in Canada, but I just felt like I had to take the next step.

“And Nashville was that for me.”

Townes and I went on to talk about the music scene in Nashville, the lack of touring right now, the songs she grew up on, and especially about the lyrics. Because she’s always said that she was that girl who would listen to music and read along with every lyric in the CD booklet.

CMT.com: Let’s talk about how you would read along with the lyrics. For me, it was a cassette’s J-card, but I can still relate. I’d read everything: the lyrics, the songwriter credits, the band members’ names. So when you were a girl, which songs/albums/lyrics were most memorable to you as you were reading along?

Townes: Shania Twain’s The Woman in Me and Come on Over are paper-thin lyric booklets by now. Also Carolyn Dawn Johnson’s Room with a View. I obsessed over that record. And while I obsessed over her lyrics, I also noticed on that album that she was a writer on every single one of her songs. I just thought that was so cool. I also had the early Keith Urban records, and all the Eric Church projects. But at the time, I was also listening to The Joshua Tree all the time with my dad because he’s a big U2 fan. Plus there was Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors. Just some of the ones that set the bar so high, and became the music that showed me pieces of myself.

Is that kind of what you tried to do with these 12 songs: be that artist for anyone like-minded enough to be obsessed with lyrics?

It’s always on my mind, but especially when I’m writing songs, the only thing on my mind is telling the story of that song. And then I think about that awareness and make sure it’s worthy of being turned up and has someone singing along in the back seat. It’s important to me to think about that. The voice that comes in at the end of “The Most Beautiful Things” is this little girl named Amelia, who is only 7 years old. And hearing that feels like such a special full-circle moment, and a reminder of all of those young girls turning up these songs like I used to when I would dream of making a record like this. Amelia is the daughter of our engineer, Jason Hall. I immediately started weeping just thinking about being able to close out the record with that.

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