This article is part of Wide Open Country's ongoing series Where I Come From, which explores how artists' hometowns have shaped them.
Since the release of her debut album Heartbreaker's Hall of Fame, Sunny Sweeney has established herself as one of the best singer-songwriters to come out of the Lone Star State -- no small feat, but one Sweeney has earned through standout country heartbreakers such as "From a Table Away" and "Staying's Worse Than Leaving."
Now, Sweeney returns with her first new album in five years, Married Alone, the follow-up to her acclaimed 2017 album Trophy.
Recorded in Dallas, Texas with fellow Texans Paul Cauthen and The Texas Gentlemen's Beau Bedford, the album finds Sweeney exploring heartbreak, healing and beginning again on songs such as the stunning title track, a collaboration with Vince Gill, "A Song Can't Fix Everything," featuring Paul Cauthen and co-written with Lori McKenna, and the Brennen Leigh co-write "Someday You'll Call My Name."
Below, Sweeney shares how the Lone Star State's vast musical heritage shaped her as an artist, how small towns can lead to great country storytelling and why Madonna's future guitarist was an early inspiration.
Texas is known for its rich musical history -- did growing up in Texas help shape you as an artist?
Absolutely. No place is like Texas, musically speaking. It's got a little of everything -- country, blues, rock, Tejano, and everything in between. I leaned towards country first when I started in the business, mostly because of my accent.... but pretty quickly started drawing influences from the country scene, then it branched out from there.
What do you find most inspiring about your hometown?
I feel like where I grew up, Longview, Texas, was a very safe, quaint town and a great place for my parents to raise me. Coming from such a small place gives me a first hand point of view of what are a lot of the subject matters that country music tends to cover.
So many artists are influenced by the local artists in their hometown. Who are the local artists and performers you grew up listening to?
My uncle Mike and my step dad Paul were two of the first guitar players I had ever met. They often tried to get me to learn so I could jam with them. I thought it was for "old people," ha! So after college when I was looking for a way to be my own boss and start my own business, I quickly went back to them for a crash course.
Also, in high school there was a band called Myra Mains -- a group of kids that started this band. Monte Pittman was the lead guitar player and I remember thinking how cool it was to be on a stage in front of people he knew playing his heart out. His ambition showed me it was possible to do something like that "even coming from a small town." He went on to move to Los Angeles and is Madonna's guitar player now.
As far as ones I listened to, I didn't really have that option until I moved to Austin, Texas, where there was live music every night of the week and I became a sponge and started soaking up all I could... started really getting into blues at that point and adding that to my country beginning.
Tell us about working alongside Paul Cauthen and Beau Bedford to create your new album Married Alone.
Paul Cauthen and Beau Bedford are a complete force to be reckoned with between their intense humor, wild streaks and creative flow. They seem to work very well with each other and are very fun to be around. They add Jeffrey Saenz in the mix (they call him the Tone God), and we are moving on down the track. A great, great experience top to bottom.
Married Alone is available for purchase or to stream here.
READ MORE: El Paso Made Valerie Ponzio Who She is Today. Now She's Singing its Praises
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