Singer-songwriter Chely Wright said that if her last two albums The Metropolitan Hotel and Lifted Off the Ground were taking a few steps in the direction of Americana music, that her latest album, I Am the Rain, which was released in September, is a “marathon sprint” in that direction.
“I really feel like I did a lot of kind of recasting my sails on this record in a very specific direction,” Wright said. “And I’m really happy with it and the people that write about music seem to think [it’s good] and the people that love music and buy music, they seem to be happy with it. So, mission accomplished.”
Wright said that because she started her career in earnest when she was so young – she was signed as a songwriter at 23 and made her first album at 24 – she was emulating a lot of what she heard up to that point in her life. But since the more than two decades that have passed since then she has evolved.
“Over the course of my lifetime – I’m 46 years old – I’ve been able to input a lot more [musical] data and it changes the product that comes out,” she said. “I just feel like the more I look at artists who I admire who have long careers, who are able to be 60 or 70 years old on a stool with a guitar telling stories and singing songs to a few hundred people, that’s what I want to do.”
She named several artists who fit that bill, like Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, Patty Griffin and the late Leon Russell. “We all aspire to be doing something meaningful in our golden age. I’m by no means in my golden age, but I’m middle-aged and I want to be able to do that,” Wright said.
“And I can’t still be making the records that I made when i was 24 or 30 years old. At some point you have to recalibrate and say hey, what am I doing here, what do I want to do and what matters to me. And what matters to me is feeling like my next best song could come out at any given moment.”
With I Am the Rain, she might be doing just that. The record is her second highest debuting album of the year, coming in at number 13 on the Billboard Country Music Chart in September. And it became the highest charting album of her entire career when it reached number 54 on the Billboard Top Album Sales Chart.
The album was compared favorably to Linda Ronstadt’s Heart Like A Wheel and Carole King’s Tapestry, which is high praise to Wright. Upon hearing mention of Tapestry, which is considered by many to be one of the best singer-songwriter albums, if not one of best albums of all time, she exclaimed, “I know! I know!” with jubilation.
“Well, I freaked out. I read the review right before I went on stage in New York City and I’m pretty sure my feet never touched the ground,” Wright said.
“When you think those of pieces of work…when people who write about music say something like that, it’s a pretty big deal. That said, I had a reputable journalist in the late 90s call me ‘Chely Trite’ – so you kind of absorb the things that make you feel good and you kind of have to deflect the ones that don’t. But I have to say that’s a good moment.
“When someone says that this record is worthy of putting the headphones on and laying on the floor and listening to it end to end like Tapestry…I’m not going to lie, it feels really good.” Wright will be taking the stage in Alexandria on Monday, Nov. 28 at The Birchmere.
• For more information about Chely Wright, visit chely.com.