Wed, Feb 8, 2017 7:00 pm
With the release of her debut album Black Sheep (October 2, 2015 via Carnival Music), Whitters proves she was well worth the wait. Produced by ace session guitarist Derek Wells, Black Sheep is a soulful collection that turns sad stories into bold celebrations of people society often shames, layered over honky tonk and rootsy rock.
“It’s been really therapeutic for me to put it out,” Whitters says of the album. “Just being able to know what I want to say and get that out to people has been cool on my end.”
Whitters often writes and sings songs that detail the search for acceptance––of self or of others––sometimes dreamily, other times with rollicking irreverence. Features in No Depression and The Bluegrass Situation, a Daytrotter Session, several nods on 2016 artists-to-watch lists, and other praise have introduced her to a larger audience, who has responded with open arms.
Black Sheep’s title track, written with the Wrights’ Adam Wright, moodily canvasses the rewards and frustrations of sticking out, and ultimately offers a defiant resolution keep going her own way. Guitar-soaked stroll “Late Bloomer” is an autobiographical ode to lollygagging in a variety of situations. “I was the oldest of six, so I was very naïve, I felt like,” she says. “But I finally came to accept that it’s actually okay to figure out who you are and what you want later in life.”
Whitters penned live-show standout “One More Hell” alone after her little brother was killed in a car accident. “The first time I ever played it live, this stranger in the front row was bawling,” she says. “It’s a sad song, but it’s kind of a happy song, I always say––people just feel it.”
Whitters takes the only two songs on the album she didn’t write––“City Girl” and “Pocket Change”––and owns them confidently. Her blithe version of “City Girl,” written by the Wrights, was featured in the 2015 season of Nashville, while her interpretation of Mando Saenz’s indignant “Pocket Change” gives the song a droll feminine spin.
Written by Whitters alone, stunner “Low All Afternoon” takes pity on a jilted other woman. Forlorn but commiserative, the song tells a true story Whitters witnessed a friend endure. “I like to write without a hook in mind sometimes––to just let the song move toward what it’s trying to say,” she says. “That’s how I approached this one. For about three months, I’d work on it, leave it, and then come back to it. That was a luxury.” Martina McBride heard “Low All Afternoon” and recorded the song for her upcoming album, gifting Whitters with the first cut of her career.
Lately, Whitters has taken to gigging all over the country. She joined the lineup at the 30A Songwriters Festival for the first time and makes her SXSW debut this spring. She’s opened shows for acts ranging from Randy Houser to Chris Knight, and is sincerely grateful for every opportunity.
“I’m a risk taker,” Whitters says. “My friends always laugh because I’m kind of one extreme or the other. I’m not really a middle ground kind of person. You take these risks, and then the reward is just…” She trails off for a moment. “I feel like the part that feels so awesome about it afterwards is knowing that you were scared to do it, but then you did — and it paid off.”