How Erin Enderlin became a household name through lyrics
Nashville is a town full of dreams and heartache. Thanks to singer-songwriters like Erin Enderlin, soundtrack of our lives is put into lyrics and instrumentation. You may recognize her songs “Sunday Morning Church” or “Last Call” as performed by Alan Jackson and Lee Ann Womack. However, Erin Enderlin is one name that you want to mark down as one to watch with her musical talents.
Come September 1st, Erin Enderlin will be releasing her new album, “Whiskeytown Crier.” The album is a collection of stories of characters that have entered into Erin’s life. Some of the songs have true stories, while others are left for the imagination. The album was produced by Jim “Moose” Brown as well as Jamey Johnson. As a team, the trio have released a product that is timeless and one for the traditional country music fan. The sound of the steel guitar rolls gracefully around the vocals of Erin Enderlin as she tells the stories of heartache, loss, and hope with this new album.
I recently sat down one afternoon and discussed the album with Erin Enderlin during a visit to Nashville. The funny thing is that we both didn’t realize the amount of connections we had – from Conway Twitty to our love for Little Jimmy Dickens. Below is that interview:
Kentucky Country Music: I have heard from others that we have a connection with a love of Little Jimmy Dickens.
Erin Enderlin: You know I named my guitar Little Jimmy? He signed it for me when I got to play the Opry and it’s the most perfect signature I’ve ever seen. I got a crack in the side of it yesterday and I took it over to Glaser, who works on guitars. He told me that it’s not going to look the prettiest, but he can work on it.
There is something about Little Jimmy Dickens. I’ve always been a fan of his and finally got to meet him in 2011 thanks to Sunny Sweeney. He was the first person besides Dolly Parton that I was star struck and barely spoke. He was super kind and I’ve been an even bigger fan since meeting him. I’ve collected several items over the years of his.
Erin: I use to work out there. He’s such a kind person. He was always inspiring and when he came out, he always gave 150%. He was never jaded and was always so nice to everybody.
Erin and I ended up sharing our photos with Little Jimmy Dickens, only to find out he was wearing the same suit in both photos.
Two times I heard of Conway, Arkansas, was via Conway Twitty (his stage name came from the town), and your hometown. How would you describe growing up in your hometown?
Erin: It was a small town when I grew up, but it has gotten larger as a college town just outside of Little Rock. There were about 18,000 people when I was there. I lived right down from downtown and could ride my bike to Mr. Simon’s grocery store. We’d go to church with him. There was a hardware store, ice cream store, and all that kind of stuff. It really felt like that small-town feel.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career as a singer or songwriter?
Erin: For a long time, I don’t think I understood that was something that people do like an option to work. I was listening to country music for a long time, practically when I could walk. I took a Conway Twitty album to show and tell when I was a kid.
That sounds like something I would have done! My parents raised me listening to Conway Twitty.
Erin: I would go to the video store and be renting Patsy Cline’s biography, or K.T. Oslin’s video collection. I grew up going to my grandparents’ house. My grandma watched a lot of TNN and was into music. My grandpa had a record collection and he worked at the VA. I wasn’t allowed to touch any of the records until he came home. It was a whole process. He would let me go and get the album out and prepare it to listen.
Kids don’t get that today. Even with vehicles today, they don’t come with cd players. I remember having 8 track player in my parent’s truck listening to Conway. The whole process of listening to an album on vinyl for the first time has become a rarity.
Do you remember your first concert?
Erin: It was Reba. I’ve been to Branson and seen music shows there, but not really a concert. Conway Twitty was doing a run there and I begged my parents to go see him. We got there and my mom said we were not going to see him. I was not having it and I was upset.
When you first moved to Tennessee, what was the first lesson that you learned in the music business?
Erin: How to change a flat tire! (laughing) My dad made sure that I knew how to do that before I left. I do remember going out to the Bluebird Café one of the first nights I was here. I realized that I was not going to play out for at least a year. I was pretty pumped about stuff, but then I thought maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. I remember seeing Walt Wilkins there and it was awesome.
Do you remember the first song that you wrote?
Erin: I haven’t forgotten the lyric. I was in the fourth grade and I wrote a song called “Where the Bluegrass Grows.” I started writing all these songs and going to music class. I don’t know why I started doing that, but even then, for years I didn’t understand that there were songwriters. My aunt brought me to Nashville for Fan Fair when I was 16. I brought a Trapper Keeper that I had full of lyrics. I carried it in my backpack in case I found anybody that needed a song. That trip was the first time I got to go to the Ryman, the Opry, etc. When we got to town, we didn’t go straight to the hotel. We went to Starstruck and I still have photos from the trip.
That sounds like my cousins that came along for this trip. They want to take everything in. We visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and they were excited to see Chris Stapleton’s outfit.
Erin: Chris Stapleton was my first roommate. He is on my new album too. I lived in this house with other songwriters. There was like four or five of us that lived in there. He lived in the basement. I could sit and listen to him coming through the air conditioning vents at night. I would lay there in bed thinking someday I’m going to tell this to people and they are not going to believe it.
It floors me whenever people throw out there that he is traditional country music. He is much more than that when you see his track record of songs he’s written, sang lead vocals, or even background vocals.
Erin: Him and Morgane together are unbelievable stupid good.
They are the modern-day George and Tammy, or Conway and Loretta.
Erin: Morgane is one of my very favorite female country vocalists ever.
Speaking of duets, Alan Jackson and Patty Loveless performed “Monday Morning Church” on one of the award shows. That was your first song cut by someone else and it had success from the beginning. What ran through your mind when you saw them perform a song that you had written?
Erin: I have to say that there’s part of my brain that cannot wrap around that kind of stuff. It’s like it thinks it is all computer generated. The first time they played that song for me, I kept thinking that it isn’t real. It is like they have ran my song through some sort of computer program.
You have been fortunate to have several songs that others have recorded. Has there been a time that someone picked your song, but you thought someone else would fit better?
Erin: Well Reba can just cut anything of mine.
Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?
Erin: I may write two or three about the things you’ve said today. I’m super nosey and I’ll listen to people’s conversations. I’ll sit and listen when people are talking. With the song, “You Don’t Know Jack,” that hook came from a billboard sign that was advertising Jack FM. It was a combination of things. I had met this homeless man after a show I was playing. Some friends went out for a smoke break and he wanted money for a drink. It really struck me about what was his story. I didn’t ask, but it made me wonder what brings you to that place. I was thinking about that and when I saw that billboard, I began thinking, ‘wait, why is this not a country song?’ Somehow my brain put that together.
The good thing about a co-write, they have good ideas too. I get inspiration from movies, books, and stuff like that. It is interesting because I get a lot of inspiration by going out and seeing live music. Not specifically for lyrics or melody, but it gets my brain going.
Has there been any songs that you wish you had written?
Erin: Oh yes quite a few. There are even songs that I wish I had written that haven’t been recorded.
Let’s talk about the new album, “Whiskeytown Crier.” How did you come up with that title?
Erin: Jamey Johnson did actually and thought my album was too depressing. Coming from him was funny. He said, ‘what if all of the songs on the album were like a newspaper in this small town. You have all of these stories of these people there and stuff that was happening being reported there.’ Moose thought it was a good idea and started working on a concept album. There is an introduction with a little reading. There are city sounds throughout the album.
You did a duet with Randy Houser called “Coldest in Town.”
Erin: I got the idea for that song at a bar in Canada. It had a sign that said, “coldest in town” meaning beer. But I thought, wait, what if it was love?
You concluded the album with the Tammy Wynette hit song, “Til I Can Make it On My Own.” Songs from Tammy and Loretta Lynn are always interesting because they dealt with the series of cheating and heartbreak.
Erin: Tammy had the vocals that showed vulnerability that’s for sure.
There are quite a few stories in the songs throughout the album. Are any of them based on real life events in your life?
Erin: There are pieces of me in each of the songs. That’s the fun thing about writing. It helps you process things, but you can weave things in and out to protect the guilty.
Who would be on your music playlist that may surprise people?
Erin: Tina Turner. That was the second concert I had ever been to. It felt like it was 150 degrees down in Little Rock down by the lake. It was so hot, I threw up that night. She was up there killing it. I’ve never seen legs like that. They were bringing her towels left and right and she would towel off and throw it down in the audience. People probably collected those and made perfume called Tina Turner Sweat (laughing).
What can fans expect with your performances outside of listening rooms such as Bluebird Café?
Erin: I’m going to get up there, tell stories, playing some songs off the new album. There will be elements of those rounds, but I get to be a little better into the groove. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited about it. I love Mo Pitney and I cannot wait to see him again.
Be sure to check out Erin Enderlin online at www.erinenderlin.com, as well as on I-tu
nes. Her newest single, “Ain’t It Just Like a Cowboy,” has just been released and provides a sneak preview with the rest of her album. Listeners will be able to pick up a copy of the new album on September 1st, or during the Froggy Field Party on Saturday, August 12, 2017. For details on the Froggy Field Party, be sure to check out www.froggykycountry.com.
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.