“You failed to protect me / instead boy you wrecked me,” Kendal Conrad belts in her new single, “Bodyguard,” which premieres today on American Songwriter. But the next line is the song’s emotional crux: “How could you break my heart?”
“‘Bodyguard’ is about being disappointed in someone you love,” the Pottstown, PA-born artist tells American Songwriter. “The person who promised to protect you and take the bullet winds up being the bullet instead.”
Overall the track is a heart-wrenching country pop number driven by Conrad’s impassioned vocals. Her voice effortlessly shifts from soft and smooth to bold and booming between verses and choruses: “Never ever watched over me / while you were out it was killing me / never ever thought you’d be the bullet / and I’d be the one who took the hit.”
Conrad credits producer Matt McVaney with helping bring the song to life. “I feel like Matt and I caught lightning in a bottle with this one,” she says. “I wanted ‘Bodyguard’ to be a love letter to the ‘90’s divas who inspired me to sing, and Matt really hit the nail on the head. It’s great to work with someone as talented as Matt who also listens to what you have to say.”
“Bodyguard” is Conrad’s first single of 2020, following 2019’s “Leader of the Pack” and “Come to Your Senses.” “The inspiration for ‘Come To Your Senses’ comes from my frustrations with dating,” Conrad has said of the latter, adding that “[it’s] about seeing potential and having the courage to act on it.” Of the former, meanwhile, she’s said “This song not only carries a powerful message but screams it from the depths of my being: if you think you’re going to count me out or knock me down, think again.” All three tracks will appear on her forthcoming debut EP.
Conrad—who first gained national attention when she performed alongside Keith Urban in 2014—cites Whitney Houston and Taylor Swift as two major influences. “I always say Whitney taught me how to sing and Taylor taught me how to write songs,” she said in a recent interview. “Right now, my influences range from Ariana Grande to Carrie Underwood to Imagine Dragons to Halsey. All of these artists know who they are and have a sound all their own, which inspires me to stay true to myself and my music.”
For Conrad, songwriting is an exercise in building out individual hooks and lines that she finds compelling.
“I’m a hook girl, so I always like starting with that,” she explained in January. “I text myself titles or full hooks that I think might be cool. Then when I actually sit down to write, I pick an idea that I’ve archived and write the entire song around that hook or title. What is the full story behind that line or title? How do I flesh that out? How do I get there? How does the story end? It’s like a puzzle. If I can fit all the pieces together, I’ve got a great picture to show someone. That’s songwriting.”
Check out Conrad’s new track below
“Bodyguard” is out May 22.