Tenille Townes’ name first rose to light within the country music world following her poignant March 2019 single “Somebody’s Daughter” – stemming from a drive she took with her mother, during which she saw a stranger holding a cardboard sign on the street. This sight stirred unnerving questions with Tenille: Who was she? What was her story? Sharing her insightful, inquisitive perspective radiated through her songwriting, and has since spread to country music fans like wildfire.
Townes shares with heirwaves that she has always been drawn to stories, dating back to english class in school growing up. “I loved reading all through my childhood and country music’s anchor of storytelling always spoke to me. I’m fascinated by the stories I hear or notice in what is going on around me,” she reveals. Townes notes that many of the songs she writes are based on the stories of people she meets or observes.
“Writing is a very spiritual experience for me. I love the writing process so much, and finding a home for these stories in a song is very much like a vessel feeling process to me. It is an honour to carry them,” she explains, adding that headspace and environment are key for her when it comes to writing, and transitioning to being a busy touring musician has challenged her to figure out what works best for her. “I think the road, for now, for me is more of a place to collect ideas, so that I can sit with them in that creative environment when I’m off the road and really be able to focus in,” she adds.
One of those ideas collected on the road transpired into her moving August single: “Jersey on the Wall (I’m Just Asking).” Written with Gordie Sampson and Tina Parol, Townes was inspired by a group of people she met in Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada. She recalls a horrible tragedy where 5 students from the high school has been in a car accident and one of the students, Danielle, had passed away.
“I kept in touch with the community and went back for high school graduation the following year. I sat in the gym and watched Danielle’s parents award her honorarium scholarship to her best friend, Zoe. On the wall of the gym behind them was Danielle’s jersey,” Townes says. She remembers staring at the jersey thinking that she had questions for God.
Shortly after her trip there, two more devastatingly similar events occurred: her best friend’s little brother passed away and after that, her high school classmate was also killed in an accident. The culmination of these tragedies and the questions they left her with inspire the song. “It means so much to me when people share the jersey number or stories of the people the song makes them think of. I love that music can make us all feel a little bit less alone in what we’re going through,” Townes shares.
Townes counts Patti Griffin, Tom Douglas, and Lori Mckenna was some of the songwriters she admires the most. “All of the writers I look up to have an incredible sense of empathy and a way of making a listener feel so much less alone in their experience. That’s always the goal in writing for me,” she says.
Thinking back to when she was writing and performing in Alberta, Canada, Townes says that the amazing experiences she had left her hungry for more – eventually leading her to Nashville, which she calls “a city where I can constantly be surrounded by lots of fellow creative souls in one place.” Townes says that Nashville is an inspiring, creative atmosphere and shares that she loves watching and learning from her heroes, seeing them play rounds in town, and constantly learning when she walks into a write.
“I’ll never forget the feeling of showing up in this new city, so far from home. I loved diving in getting to sit down with so many people who became close friends. So many of them were, and still are, heroes of mine, and I’ve learned so much from seeing how they fearlessly tackle the creative process. I think the more you love it, the more time you want to spend in it and the more creative you feel. It’s a lot more fun to take on this long haul ride making friends and cheering each other on,” Townes concludes.
“Jersey on the Wall (I’m Just Asking)” is available for streaming and download on all platforms now.
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