Music

Song Premiere: Hope Dunbar Sings a Prairie Love Song on 'Sweetheartland'

Karyn Rae Photography

On her joyous new single "Sweetheartland," Hope Dunbar sings of a love rooted in more than yearly Valentine's Day cards and drugstore candy. Dunbar's Sweetheartland, inspired by the sprawling Nebraska plains she calls home, is about a love that blooms where it's planted and the extraordinary beauty of the Heartland, the prairie sky and building a life well-lived side by side with your sweetheart.

"I'm a wildflower, you're a honeydew/ You're the shootin' star I hold on to," Dunbar sings. "I'm goldenrod in your hand/ Here in this sweetheartland."

Dunbar says "Sweetheartland," the title track to her forthcoming album (out April 2), came about as the result of a project with her sister-in-law.

"I had this word, 'Sweetheartland' in my head for a while. I knew it was something, but never actually engaged with it besides thinking it was a cool word. Then, while recording an episode of the podcast I co-hosted with Emily Dunbar, 'Prompt Queens,' we chose the prompt 'sing-along song,' and the word 'Sweetheartland' came to mind as a cool thing to sing together in harmony," Dunbar tells Wide Open Country.  "In short, it's a song set squarely in that feeling of peace, satisfaction, and contentment that comes along on the west wind every now and again, when looking at the big beautiful picture of a life well-lived brings a joy that eclipses the kinds of worries and troubles that normally occupy our days."

Dunbar says the song expresses a central theme she wanted to convey on the record.

"'Sweetheartland' was the last song written for this album and it gives the necessary color and breadth of living that I knew I wanted to express in this project," Dunbar says. "The heartland, where I live, is the space of planting and harvest, it's the seed and the soil, and isn't that the essence of being a sweetheart? It's not a chalky conversation heart candy in February, it's way more than that. The 'Sweetheartland' is way more than you think it is. That's the record."

Listen to "Sweetheartland" below.

Dunbar says she finds daily inspiration in her home state of Nebraska.

"Nebraska is the backdrop to all these songs. Even if it's never named, Nebraska has a role both obvious and hidden in everything I write," Dunbar says. "I've said before how living on the edge of emptiness has granted me a certain freedom to write whatever it is I wish to write. It has also felt invisible, at times, like my words just get taken on the wind never to be heard much beyond my little world. Now, adding to those two things, I think Nebraska has afforded me the space to become the truest version of my artistic self. What would I have written had I lived in Nashville or New York? What would the songs have been had they been born of a heart and soul living a different rhythm of days? No one knows. I'm glad these are the songs I was called to write. I'm glad I have this chapter written from the New American Prairie."

Sweetheartland is the follow-up to Dunbar's 2017 album Three Black Crows. Dunbar co-produced the album with Zack Smith (Smooth Hound Smith) and Jesse Thompson.

For more information on Dunbar, visit her official website.

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Song Premiere: Hope Dunbar Sings a Prairie Love Song on 'Sweetheartland'