Already one of the most sought-after songwriters in modern country music, Natalie Hemby makes her long-anticipated solo debut with Puxico. Releasing January 13, 2017, the album was inspired by the annual homecoming celebrations of her grandfather’s hometown of Puxico, Missouri.
“When you put out your first record, it spells out who you are, both as an artist and as a person,” says Hemby, who grew up in Nashville. “Puxico isn’t my hometown, but it feels like it is. I’ve gone there every year since I was a kid. Musically, my roots are from that place. Puxico is roots-oriented music, from bluegrass to southern gothic to soul to old-school country.”
Hemby co-wrote all nine of Puxico‘s tracks, flexing the writing muscles that have already yielded blockbuster hits like Little Big Town’s “Pontoon,” Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic” and Justin Moore’s “You Look Like I Need a Drink.” Six of Hemby’s compositions have topped the country charts during the past decade, with dozens more appearing on Top 40 albums by country, pop, rock, Americana and Christian artists. Puxico turns over a new leaf, though, presenting Hemby not only as a songwriter, but as a strong vocalist, bandleader, and frontwoman.
She’s no longer the woman behind the artist, in other words. She is the artist.
“I spent my 20s trying to land a record deal, and most of my 30s writing for other people,” she says. “It’s time to put out my own record. Maybe I’m a late bloomer, or maybe it’s just finally the right time to bloom.”
Recorded in Nashville, Puxico is a family affair. GetWrucke Productions, a joint venture between Hemby and her husband – award-winning producer Mike Wrucke – will release the album. Wrucke oversaw the recording sessions, too, playing multiple instruments and handling all of the male harmonies along the way. Meanwhile, a handful of close friends and collaborators chipped in, including drummer Fred Eltringham, pedal steel virtuoso Greg Leisz, and co-writers Trent Dabbs and Lindsay Chapman.
Hemby wrote the album’s songs during a creative period that also found her creating a feature-length documentary. Starring her grandfather and other members of the Hemby family, the Puxico film shines a light on the music-filled homecoming event that brings Hemby back to Puxico, Missouri, every year. It’s a tribute not only to one of America’s archetypal small towns, but also to the inspirational grandfather who helped encourage Hemby’s passion for music-making. Both the documentary and the album share some of the same core ingredients: an emphasis on storytelling, a love for southern roots music, and a reminder of the deep roots that connect each of us to our homeland.
“I want people to hear the record and get nostalgic about how they grew up,” she says. “I wrote this album about my life, and when people hear these songs, I want them to return to where they grew up. I want them to think about how they grew up and who they grew up with. It’s very family-oriented.”
After spending a decade shaping the direction of modern country music as a hit songwriter, Hemby is now gearing up to do the same as a solo artist. Melodic and moving, Puxico unleashes the power of her voice – an instrument that’s as strong as the mainstream singers who’ve covered her songs in years past – while offering further proof that Hemby continues to be one of the decade’s strongest writers.