The world is about to hear a brand new side of Jenny Tolman in her stunning new single, “Afraid.” In one of her most vulnerable songs yet, Tolman grapples with both the beauty of falling in love and the paralyzing fear of having to admit it aloud. A six-year love story led up to the song’s official release (February 4), but American Songwriter readers can hear the exclusive premiere of “Afraid” below.
When Tolman’s producer and now-fiancé, Dave Brainard, was attacked by an unknown assailant while crossing the street in Nashville six years ago, the two had avoided confessing their feelings for each other. While she knew they had a genuine connection, she was unsure of what people would think due to their age difference (she’s 25, he’s 46) and professional relationship.
However, after learning of Brainard’s attack, Tolman confronted both her fear of losing him and her fear of admitting her feelings by writing “Afraid.”
“I sat down on my bedroom floor that night—I was still living at my parents’ house—and it just kind of fell out of me,” she explains to American Songwriter. “As a songwriter, that’s what you do when you have these overwhelming emotions and feelings and words. You just have to get them out.”
The song was completed in just 30 minutes. Tolman sent it to Brainard while he was still in the hospital, to which he responded, “This is beautiful. Gosh, you’re beautiful,” she recounts the memory, beaming.
Now, six years later, she and Brainard are busy working on her next album… and planning their wedding.
Finally releasing “Afraid” for the world to hear is a full-circle moment for Tolman. “I wrote this song six years ago, sitting on my bedroom floor, having no idea what would come of it,” she says. “And now, here I am, about to release it to the entire world, and about to marry this man, who I wrote the song about before I even had a clue if he might like me back.” While much has changed for the couple since the song was written, their love for each other has not.
Tolman also revealed an especially sentimental detail that made it into the final track. “Something that’s really special about this particular recording is that [Dave] is playing the gut string guitar, and we recorded it before we were together,” she says. “We thought about re-doing it and making it a crisper sound, but it was so magical that it was the first time we had played the song without us even expressing what that meant to us. To have something from that long ago living in this present moment is really special.”
While Tolman is known for her powerful storytelling through different types of characters, “Afraid” is a truly personal story—one that she knew had to come from her. “I fell in love with role-playing and character songs and storytelling, and that’s kind of my forte now,” she explains. “So getting back to that original Jenny, where I’m talking about myself—I’m afraid,” she laughs. “It’s scary. It fits the title of the song.”
When asked what she wants fans to take from “Afraid,” Tolman hopes it brings them the courage to express their love freely and honestly. “Whether it’s the courage to love their partner that they already have, or to admit their love to someone who they haven’t yet, or just dance to it in the kitchen, I just love love. I want people to enjoy it however they choose” she says.
Check out “Afraid” below and prepare to be swept away by Tolman’s raw and magnificent real-life love story.
“Afraid” is available for pre-save HERE on any streaming platform.
Photo courtesy Adkins Publicity