Tenille Townes: “It’s such a wonderful thing to see people singing along.” (11/4 at WCL)

Canadian country singer/songwriter Tenille Townes’ upcoming show at the Music Hall at World Café Live this Friday, November 4th, is at least the third scheduled date for the emerging...

Canadian country singer/songwriter Tenille Townes’ upcoming show at the Music Hall at World Café Live this Friday, November 4th, is at least the third scheduled date for the emerging star’s headlining show at the legendary venue.  This January’s date was rescheduled for June, due to the latest strand of COVID, while this June’s date was put on hold after she got booked to open mega-sheds for Brad Paisley, which included a June 3rd date in Camden (We certainly don’t blame her for taking the country superstar up on this offer…  However, we are more than excited to have her finally grace the stage of the 650-capacity University City venue.)

This April the two-time ACM winner dropped the Masquerades EP, the follow-up to her critically acclaimed third LP, The Lemonade Stand, which hit shelves in June of 2020.  The EP features seven tracks, including “Shared Walls,” a collaboration with PHILTHY-favorite BRELAND.  Townes has spent much of the year taking her latest sounds on the road.  In addition to the dates opening for Paisley, she also played a number of headlining dates, in addition to some major country music festivals.  Most recently, she completed about two weeks’ worth of dates in Europe.  Upon returning to this side of the pond, she took some time to chat with me about her latest EP, her favorite sounds of 2022, and just what you can expect of the World Café Live show.

Izzy Cihak: Your Masquerades EP has been out for about six months now.  Have you had any favorite reactions to it?

Tenille Townes: I just got back from tour in the UK and it honestly blew me away hearing everybody singing along to the new songs from Masquerades.  It’s such a wonderful thing to see people singing along.  I shared a clip online of a song called “Villain in Me” during the pandemic, and hearing people respond to that video, saying they felt the same way, gave me the courage to put that song out, and to eventually share the entire EP of songs.  I love that about music.  We can find so much comfort knowing that someone else feels the same way that we do.

Izzy: How do you feel like the EP compares to previous releases, in terms of inspiration, sound, and even the process of making it?

Tenille: I love to be the storyteller, the bird’s eye view observer in my songwriting, but this EP came out of songs I wrote during the shutdown and I couldn’t help the way these songs were coming out more personally.  It was terrifying to share that side of myself, but it also gave me so much courage to see people relating to the same emotions I had.  I wrote all of these songs over Zoom while we were all stuck at home, and recorded the vocals for a lot of these songs at my house, and sent them to producers all over the place.  The heart of this music was me missing being out on the road and sharing the sacred experience of live music with a room full of people.  I thought of that through the journey of making it.  The whole process of creating this EP showed me that the music will prevail and find a way into the world.  I’m so glad to be playing these songs live and singing them with everybody now!

Izzy: I really like “Shared Walls,” your collaboration with BRELAND, who I’m also a fan of.  How did the two of you get hooked up, and how was it working with him?

Tenille: BRELAND is amazing.  I’ve been a fan of his for so long, and admire his perspective in his music, and the path he is paving in country music.  I reached out to him as a fan and asked if he’d be up for singing on a song about being neighbors and was so excited he said yes.  He sent over his vocals, and it gave me goosebumps hearing him sing on this song.  It’s been so wonderful getting to know him through this process, and it’s been amazing getting to play this song in the different cities we’ve crossed paths on the road!  We recently played this song together in Australia and in Ireland!

Izzy: You’ve actually collaborated with a lot of really noteworthy people, like Wrabel and John Landry.  Is there anyone that you dream of getting to work with one day?

Tenille: I’d love to sing with Ed Sheeran someday.  I’m such a fan of his music!

Izzy: You’ve been on tour for much of the year.  What have been some of the highlights of that time?

Tenille: I’m so happy to be back on the road.  My band and I have a blast in the van riding around to so many awesome cities this year.  I think hearing people singing the songs is my highlight.  And hearing people’s stories.  I get to talk to people by the merch stand after the show, or even in an Instagram message, and hearing them tell me about something they’ve been through in their life that one of my songs has brought them comfort getting through, that means the world to me.  It really does feel like a community of people gathering around those songs, and I love coming together with everyone.

Izzy: Have you developed any particular touring rituals, whether it be certain kinds of places you make a point to stop or things you like to do on the long drives throughout the days?

Tanille: We always love checking out local coffee shops!  I love a good chai, and am always excited to try them in new places!  And we jam to a lot of music on the long drives which I love.  And sometimes play a game of catch phrase too.  Or we’ve been tossing around a nerf football at the gas stations too, ha.  I’m not so great at the catching, but I’m coming along!

Izzy: You’re going to be playing here at World Café Live in the very near future, which I believe has been rescheduled at least twice.  What can be expected of the live experience?

Tenille: I can’t believe how many times we’ve had to reschedule this show.  I’m so grateful for everyone who has stuck with us through that and couldn’t be happier to be coming!  I love to craft a show that shows both sides of who I am in the music.  There’s a lot of songs that reflect the acoustic songwriter telling intimate stories, and then I also have a rock and roll edge that comes out with the band too.  I look forward to bringing everybody with me on the journey between the two sides.

Izzy: Do you currently have a favorite track to play live, whether it be something off of Masquerades that you especially love, or an older track that still feels really special or always gets a great reaction?

Tenille: I always love playing “Jersey on the Wall” because of how many stories I’ve heard from people about what that song means to them.  It feels like an emotional moment we can all stand together in that I’m always grateful for.  I also love the energy of “Sound of Being Alone,” that we love to play on the road.

Izzy: You’ve also played a lot of very different types of live settings throughout the year.  Do you have a particular setting that you most enjoy playing, or feels most conducive to your live show?

Tenille: Any room that has an audience leaned into the music is my favorite kind to play.  I love it to feel like a living room we are all hanging in or rocking out in together.  I love any kind of stage we get to walk on, and we’ve had a blast playing some really awesome outdoor festivals and big arenas this year, but the ones that feel more connected in a room are probably my favorites.

Izzy: Considering that the year is coming to an end, have you had any favorite music of 2022?  Any albums or songs that dropped that you found to be especially inspiring, or even just especially cool?

Tenille: I really love the music that Zach Bryan has been releasing.  I’m a big fan of his art.  And as a band we drive and listen to a lot of soul music, which always makes me happy.  And we’ve been jamming to a lot of Paramore too.

Izzy: Finally, and I realize this is kind of a cheesy question, but you have a really amazing sense of fashion, so I’m curious what that draws inspiration from?  Do you have any particularly significant “style icons?”

Tenille: Ha, thank you for saying that!!  Picking outfits often stresses me out, so this is encouraging, ha.  I love to wear things that make me feel like the most fierce version of myself.  I love any kind of power pants.  I’ve lately been inspired looking at icons like Joan Jett and Linda Ronstadt and Janis Joplin… strong women doing their thing in whatever makes them feel good and gives them a little edge.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.