It was 2017, and the angelic singer/songwriter known as Rumer found herself in a swirling well of despair while hiding amongst the deep South.
“Emotionally and physically, I was out to sea,” the respected British vocalist also known as Sarah Joyce admits to American Songwriter about the debilitating affects of postpartum blues following the birth of her now three-year-old son. “Motherhood changes everything. Add that to the fact that creativity is delicate and mysterious at the very best of times, and yeah, it was really hard.”
But deep in her heart, Rumer knew that getting back to songwriting and music and the things that had kept her creative heart beating throughout a career that began with her top-charting debut 2010 album, Seasons of My Soul, was of vital importance, both personally and professionally.
“I wanted to get back to my songwriting, but once I had my baby, my process of songwriting was so out of whack,” she admits. “I couldn’t follow the same path, and I just didn’t have the headspace to see what else is out there.”
Granted, Rumer’s star power had been rising partly thanks to tributes to her fellow songwriters, such as 2012’s Boys Don’t Cry (songs by male songwriters of the ‘70s) and 2016’s This Girl’s in Love (Rumer’s songbook of Burt Bacharach & Hal David.) Yet, the last thing she wanted to do was another songbook.
Or so she thought.
“I had this idea for a project that would be called ‘Nashville Tears,’ that would focus in on songs that didn’t get the credit they deserved,” Rumer explains. “I wanted to find these gems and celebrate these songwriters that deserved more love, because I understand the misery of the songwriter. It’s so hard to be a songwriter. Songwriters are valuable but undervalued.”
As she was on this lyrical and musical search, album producer Fred Mollin sent her a Hugh Prestwood song called “Oklahoma Stray.”
“I immediately went online to look up Hugh Prestwood, because he honestly hadn’t made my radar,” Rumer remembers of the prolific and often somewhat mysterious songwriter whose material has been recorded by the likes of Judy Collins, Trisha Yearwood, and Alison Krauss. “I was so excited and thrilled and I felt like we were going to discover something special.”
Using the word ‘special’ to describe Nashville Tears just might be one of 2020’s biggest understatements. Set for release August 14 and recorded entirely at Starstruck Studios in Nashville, Nashville Tears not only pays homage to the Texas raised, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, but also delivers a soothing and healing salve of sorts to a hurting world.
It served as a salve for Rumer too.
“Creating this album was the beginning of a joyful time in my life,” she explains. “I was listening to Hugh Prestwood’s catalog all day and doing the dishes and walking the dog and taking care of my baby. It was a wonderful time.”
Was it always wonderful?
“Well, to be honest, doing this project makes you want to quit,” she laughs heartily. “I think a lot of songwriters feel that way about Hugh Prestwood. (Laughs.) But seriously, as I got to know him, I began to understand him more. He doesn’t compromise. He doesn’t like co-writing. He takes his time. I take time too and that’s ok. It’s ok to take time to write.”
From the gorgeous, yet playful lyrics of “June Its Going to Happen” to the magical and spiritual nature of songs such as “Heart Full of Rain” and “The Fate of Fireflies” to the album’s final recorded song “Deep Summer in the Deep South,” the healing quality of Nashville Tears cannot be understated.
“With this record, through Hugh Prestwood’s words, I wanted to create a piece of work that would, to me be like a tapestry of America how I felt it and saw it,” Rumer concludes. “And I feel like I did just that.”