Natalie Hemby's Puxico is a standout debut from a songwriter who has been behind the scenes for over a decade.
My favorite album so far this year (Run the Jewels 3 dropped in 2016) has been a total left-field selection. Country music doesn’t normally get my attention though the Americana genre being heralded is on my radar. But for whatever reason, when NPR's First Listen hosted Natalie Hemby's Puxico (GetWrucke Productions) I queued it up and found myself hooked. At that time there was little fanfare elsewhere on the web for the singer/songwriter's debut album but since then she's been covered by Rolling Stone, The New York Times and more.
But Hemby isn't an unknown talent for those immersed in country music (unlike me). The Nashville songwriter is behind many hit songs, including ones for artists like Miranda Lambert (like "White Liar"), Little Big Town (e.g. "Pontoon"), Kacey Musgraves, and recent Grammy winner Maren Morris. Hemby has been on the country scene for over a decade. Hemby released her debut Puxico -- an album about the tiny rural town, Puxico, Missouri where her family has roots. Hemby's music has echoes of Alison Krauss, and her lyrics paint an intimate portrait of the town.
PopMatters wanted to broaden our portrait of Hemby herself and asked her to answer our "20 Questions". I'll continue to spin Puxico week in and week out until I can catch Hemby on tour (though one isn't a given).
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg. I've read the book three times.
2. The fictional character most like you?
The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Whiskeytown - Strangers Almanac .
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
5. Your ideal brain food?
Being alone with a pen and paper.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I was the first person to sing and perform on the NEW Ryman stage floor. Since I'm from Nashville, the Ryman is like a church to me and it felt like getting baptized all over again...
7. You want to be remembered for... ?
Kindness and being supportive of others.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
"Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael.
10. Your hidden talents . . .?
I can square-dance, and I'm excellent at telling jokes.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Never take yourself too seriously.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
I bought a bible for from the early 1800's at a yard sale in Chicago that had a handwritten poem/hymn in it. I checked to make sure it wasn't a poem or a hymn that had already been written. I showed it to friend, and we put music to it and made it into a little hymn. It's called "God's Ways are Always Best".
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
My daughter, Sammie Jo. She's five. She would think she was Eloise at the Plaza and would know everyone by name.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Ed Sullivan Show -- front row.
February 9th, 1964.
To see The Beatles perform.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
I'll take a spa vacation any day.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or..?
Depends on where you are in life.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Country, in the middle of nowhere, anywhere.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Please don't mess this up. Oh, wait…
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
My next greatest song, hold...