Singer-songwriter Monica is known for a string of pop and R&B hits including “Angel of Mine,” and “The Boy is Mine” (alongside Brandy), and will soon release a new album, Trenches, led by the title track, which features Lil Baby. Even though that project hasn’t yet been released, Monica is already thinking ahead to her next project–an album she tells Billboard will be a country album.
Monica has been in Nashville collaborating with Brandi Carlile on the project, and says she grew up inspired by the music of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, thanks to the influence of her stepfather.
“I grew up loving country music and my stepfather, who raised me, is a Methodist minister, but he also drove buses and he would take us to Nashville, Gatlinburg and Dollywood in Tennessee. I became a really big fan of Dolly Parton, at about 8 or 9 years old. That was my real introduction to country music. Shortly after, it was Kenny Rogers. I started listening to the depth of the songs and the fact that they were unafraid to say whatever it was they felt. I felt like this was a great time for me to really step into an area that I’ve always admired and loved. We’re just getting started, but I have so enjoyed it and been welcomed with open arms.”
The upcoming project isn’t her first foray into the country music genre. Earlier this year, she also collaborated with Jimmie Allen and Little Big Town on the song “Pray” from Allen’s Bettie James Gold Edition project. Monica told Billboard the song “explains why I live the way I do — and why I love God as much as I do.”
“Jimmie Allen is an incredible guy who loves his family and knows they’ve brought him through a tremendous amount of things,” she told Billboard. “That’s what we related most about…I met Little Big Town when Brandi Carlile and I were in the studio working on my country album — it may be out before the end of the year — and I heard harmonies up the hallway. That turned into them participating on ’Pray,’ so it was one of those real organic situations after Jimmie called me about doing the record.”
In March, Carlile welcomed Monica as a surprise guest during Carlile’s Ryman Auditorium show, where the two collaborated on The Highwomen song “Crowded Table.” The song earned a Grammy this year for Best Country Song. Carlile penned the track alongside Natalie Hemby and Lori McKenna and the song is from the debut album from The Highwomen, featuring Carlile, Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires.