It's been a slow ascent for Gwen Sebastian since she first grabbed the public's attention on The Voice. In 2012's second season, she turned three chairs with her rendition of Sugarland's "Stay."
The 43-year-old North Dakota native captivated the crowd with her effortlessly country drawl and bubbly Midwest personality. But a decade before she appeared on the show, Sebastian dropped out of nursing school, moved to Nashville and toured around.
Sebastian even signed a record deal and earned press as one of the most promising new artists in 2009, a full three years before appearing on the reality singing show. Then, after she chose Blake Shelton as a mentor on The Voice, things really perked up.
Notably, she met Miranda Lambert, who mentored Shelton's team. And though Sebastian never made it past the battle rounds, her relationship with Lambert developed into a bonafide friendship.
She scored a No. 1 as a featured singer on Shelton's "My Eyes" in 2013, and then opened for Lambert on tour, promoting her self-titled album. Miranda Lambert even appeared on a song on that record called "Annie's New Gun."
Eventually, Sebastian co-wrote three songs on Lambert's career-defining The Weight Of These Wings, including album opener "Runnin' Just In Case." She also tours with Lambert as a member of her singing ensemble.
"I've learned so much from Miranda as far as how she entertains people, but I've learned even more from her as a writer," Sebastian tells Wide Open Country. "She's kind of an alien when it comes to songwriting. It's jaw-dropping, honestly."
Sebastian's friendship with Lambert turned into the first new music from her in years.
Gwen Sebastian just released "Cadillac," the first new song off a forthcoming album. She wrote it with Miranda Lambert and their friend April Lewis. Amazingly, it's the first time Lambert had a cut with another artist, and it's the first song for Lewis altogether. And it's phenomenal.
The dreamy, melancholy tune grabs hold with a gorgeous understated melody and doesn't let go. "We went to California to see Anderson East open for Chris Stapleton," Sebastian says. "We ended up writing a few songs together and it totally wasn't on purpose."
They sat on the back porch of the hotel and Miranda started picking out some chords. Lewis came up with the "tear-drop trailer" line. "Miranda and I just looked at each other and almost started crying," Sebastian says. "We were like, 'Oh my God, that's amazing."
The song artfully reveals more and more layers as it moves along. As you'd expect with a group as deft as those three, when Sebastian sings "I've been thinking 'bout a Cadillac," she means much more.
Now Sebastian is excited for her first new record since 2013. Produced by her husband (and sometimes drummer, and sometimes tour manager) Louis Newman, the as-of-yet untitled album has an estimated Fall release. It's also a concept album she based off a song she co-wrote called "Once Upon A Time In The West."
Sebastian co-wrote all of the album alongside several others. Ashley Monroe appears as a writer, as well as Randall Clay. "I joke it's my friend Terri Jo Box's album too because she's got like six cuts on there," Sebastian laughs. But up to this point, Lambert has been by far one of Sebastian's biggest influences.
Most of all, Sebastian is excited to show the continuing growth of her career, even after her TV days, her song with Blake Shelton and her previous tour with Lambert.
"I think I'm a couple years wiser and more experienced," Sebastian says. "Not being afraid to talk about things people don't necessarily talk about and put a different vibe to it that may not be straight down the middle. It was just going with my gut and writing songs that either have really deep meaning for me or make me feel something."
So far, she's off to a good start. "Cadillac" just debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes singer-songwriter chart.