When fans hear RaeLynn’s full-length debut project for Warner Bros. Records/Warner Music Nashville, WildHorse, which releases on Friday (March 24), they will hear the chronicling of the singer-songwriter’s life as it has unfolded over the past several years, including a move to Nashville after competing on The Voice in 2012, a label change, and getting married.
RaeLynn wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 12 songs on the project, each track revealing another hard-earned bit of wisdom or experience.
“Anytime you are being vulnerable, there is a scary part of it, because you are like, ‘This is me, so if they don’t like it, they don’t like me.’ But I also think you can’t lose because you are being yourself. That’s this record for me. Every lyric and every song, I can tell you where I wrote it and why I wrote it. I think that’s what is special about being an artist. We are all telling the same stories, but from our ways of thinking.”
She penned the album’s emotionally charged, heartbreaking single, “Love Triangle,” with Jimmy Robbins and Nicolle Galyon, at Robbins’ home south of Nashville. Robbins and Galyon also served as producers on the album. The song tackles the subject of divorce, exposing the collateral damage inflicted on children in the process. RaeLynn’s own parents divorced when she was three.
“I didn’t want to go to my writing session that day,” RaeLynn recalls of penning the single. “I was having a bad day. My mom and dad were arguing about the stupidest thing, but I was like, ‘I’m not going to let this get me down.’ I went to the session, and started talking about what happened that day. I was like, ‘I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I want to write a fun song.’ I started reading off titles that I had and ‘Love Triangle’ was one of them. We all just looked at each other and we all had the same idea. It was like a songbird just sat on my shoulder and gave me the idea for this song. You can’t make up magic like that. It just happens sometimes.”
The writing session provided RaeLynn not just with musical magic, but also emboldened her to continue plumbing the depths of her life experiences, translating them into relatable songs.
“When I realized I could write something so vulnerable, it was amazing. It set the path of shaping this music for real music and real lyrics.”
RaeLynn originally recorded “Love Triangle” while still with her former label Big Machine Label Group. The new version features a more stripped-down sound. “I did re-record it because my voice has changed so much and I really wanted this new sound to be part of it.”
For the project, RaeLynn became a labelmate to her The Voice Season 2 mentor Blake Shelton at Warner Music Nashville, a place she refers to as her “second home.”
“I always said if anything ever happened, I would always [to Warner] because I love this place so much. This was the first place I visited and I’m so grateful I did. One thing I love about this whole team is I present the music and they figure out a place for it to go, rather than them telling me what I need to be. I think that’s why this label succeeds so well. They just believe in talent and they want their artists to be themselves and that’s so special.”
“RaeLynn drew me in from the very start with her vivacity and enthusiasm,” Warner Music Nashville CEO John Esposito says. “Her music not only encapsulates this side of her personality but also a unique and undeniable depth that is true to country music. WildHorse is the perfect culmination of it all.”
Given the freedom to explore the nuances of her music and a renewed commitment to authenticity in her writing, RaeLynn crafted songs such as the title track “WildHorse,” which was inspired by a poem her grandmother wrote that bore the same title. “Diamonds” and “Insecure” trace RaeLynn’s own love lessons, and aim to offer listeners a shot of confidence.
“I didn’t set out to write all of these girl anthems, but it just kind of happened,” RaeLynn says. “With ‘Insecure,’ I wanted to show that we are all the same. Every girl has dated a guy and walked into a situation where there is another girl there, and you are like, ‘OMG, is she prettier than me? Is he looking at her?’ You might think, ‘Oh she’s RaeLynn, she never has to worry about that. She doesn’t ever feel that way,’ but no, I’ve felt the exact same way.”
In planning the album, RaeLynn knew she wanted to incorporate a few collaborations. Warner Music Nashville labelmates Dan+Shay join on the intensely personal “Say,” which RaeLynn wrote shortly after meeting her now-husband Josh.
“My husband’s a really quiet guy and there are a lot of things that I can hear, that he can’t say. I knew in two weeks that I loved him, but it took him a second to say that he loved me. I could tell that he loved me by his actions and how he treated me. That’s how I had the idea of ‘I hear everything you can’t say.’ And when I wrote the song, I remember playing it for Dan+Shay. I met them when I was 19. So when I was picking what songs I wanted to do a duet on, I was like, ‘This would be perfect.’”
She turned to her cousin Leeland Mooring, frontman for Christian rock band Leeland, to co-write and provide vocals on the track “Young.”
“I would come back and forth to Nashville when I was 11 or 12 and come here for GMA week with him and work at the merch booth, so it’s really crazy to see him as part of my career and life now. He’s so amazing.”
While WildHorse offers plenty of introspective moments such as “Love Triangle” and “Say,” the 22-year-old’s youthful exuberance and bubbly personality shine on dance-inspired tracks such as “Graveyard,” “Your Heart,” and “Trigger,” a track RaeLynn calls her favorite from the new project.
When RaeLynn launches her headlining RaVe Tour at clubs across the country beginning April 20 in Columbus, Ohio, she will have a solid platform to get fans on their feet, but also reveal her heart in the process.
“I wanted this record to be the most transparent thing I could put out,” RaeLynn says. “If someone says, ‘Who are you?’ I wanted to be able to give them this and say, ‘Here’s my story.’”
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