Runaway June Feel Sense of “Rejuvenation” with New Member Stevie Woodward

For Runaway June, welcoming new member Stevie Woodward has given them a sense of rejuvenation. 

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Following the departure of Naomi Cooke in February 2022, bandmates Jennifer Wayne and Natalie Stovall needed a new voice to round out the trio. Wayne initially met Woodward years prior through mutual friend Kip Moore, who raved about her talent. Wayne and Woodward connected in a songwriting session in 2016 and when it was time to find a replacement for Cooke, Wayne passed her Instagram videos around to the team.

“From that point on, everyone just fell in love,” Wayne recalls to American Songwriter of the reaction to Woodward’s work. “It was really a perfect fit.”

Fiddle player and vocalist Stovall agrees, saying that of all the other people they considered for the role, Woodward’s ability as a multi-instrumentalist made her the frontrunner. “There was no one else in my mind,” she asserts. “We all spoke the same musical language and that’s something that you’re really looking for when you’re going to be in a band situation. It’s also that thing when you talk about finding ‘the one,’ it’s hard to describe, but there was this feeling and this essence that we just knew.” 

As for Woodward, she’s been a longtime fan of Runaway June and was “elated” to get the opportunity to write with Wayne. “I felt really honored to even be in the room with her,” Woodward shares, adding that she would often go into a writing session with the intent of writing a song specifically for Runaway June in hopes of pitching it to them. “We had really great musical chemistry, we got along really well and the harmonies were great,” Woodward raves of why the decision to join the group was a “no-brainer.” “It just made sense musically, and we were great friends. It’s an amazing experience.”

Upon joining the trio in April 2022, Woodward was working as a solo artist and in the process of making an album. That’s when she got the invite from Wayne and Stovall, setting the stage for the next phase of her career. “It was kind of like destiny. When the girls and I started talking about joining together, the timing was really great,” she continues. “Taking some of what I do and what I grew up on and bringing it into the group, it’s been a really easy transition.” 

Their first release as the newly formed trio is “Broken Hearts Do Broken Things,” written by Mandi Sagal, Steve Fee and Sarah Lake. The singers knew the track was meant to be theirs, Wayne commenting that the lyrics “hit a nerve.”

Originally, the song was written in the first person. While Wayne was on maternity leave after giving birth to daughter Lily in April 2022, her bandmates decided to switch up the perspective and make it third person instead.

“We’re saying, ‘we’ve all been there, we’ve all been hurt, and when you’re hurt, you do some crazy things,’” Wayne explains of the song’s meaning. “Don’t take yourself too seriously and it’s going to be okay. I thought that was such a cool way to spin it.”

What gives the song a unique twist is that they don’t talk down to the girl they’re singing about, rather assuring listeners that her broken heart is to blame for her questionable behavior. It calls to mind their 2019 top five hit, “Buy My Own Drinks” featuring original members Wayne, Cooke and Hannah Mulholland, where the lead character is comfortable in her own skin without needing the company of a significant other, or even her friends, to mend her broken heart.

“Since we are three women on stage, it’s really important not only with each other but in our music, to lift one another,” Stovall expresses. “That’s what’s so fun about the song is it feels like you’re hanging out with your girlfriends or your sister [saying] ‘you got to get it out of your system, it’s totally fine. We’re here for you.’”

“People going through a breakup sometimes need to hear a fun, happy part of it instead of the sad part of it,” adds Wayne.

From the musicians’ side, Stovall says she and Woodward felt like they were “playing on the playground” passing between guitar, mandolin and fiddle until they found the magic. “When we finally started figuring it out and getting it, that’s when I think we both got these seeds and we’re like, ‘we’re onto something. This is so much fun,’” Stovall notes. “We were playing instruments we had never picked up in our lives, so I think they’ll find that we were able to experiment musically on this,” Woodward observes. “We gave it a life of its own.”

The trio also shares their new flavor on the original Christmas song, “Cowboy for Christmas.” The vintage country bop was co-written by Wayne, Stovall and Woodward with Paul Sikes. The idea sat in Wayne’s head for years before she decided to pitch it to her new bandmates.

“I guess it was waiting for this new version,” she says of the song that was “meant for us.” “It was really cool in the write because all of us girls brought something to that song. You can hear a little bit of all of us in it.”

Using their individual talents to help one another shine is an integral part of the group, as one of their favorite compliments to receive is when fans say how much fun it seems like they’re having onstage at live shows. “We’ve developed a new personality as a unit as we write music together,” Stovall describes. Looking ahead to 2023, Stovall says that Runaway June has a “bank of songs” they recorded in 2022 and are excited to get back in the studio. They also have plans to do a military trip performing for troops in Italy, Germany, Japan and South Korea in March 2023. 

Though founding member Wayne admits it’s been a “rocky road” to get to this point, she couldn’t be happier with where the group is at – and what’s on the horizon. 

“It was all worth it to get to this point because this is the sweet spot and I really have never had so much fun making music in my life,” she professes, calling this new iteration a “rejuvenation of our souls and spirits.” “For me, it was worth every part of the journey to get to where we are now.”

Photo by Acacia Evans

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