Erin Enderlin is one of Nashville’s few writers and artists who is obviously influenced by the traditional country music she grew up listening to as a child in Arkansas. Beginning with her 2004 Alan Jackson hit “Monday Morning Church,” she’s gained respect as not only a strong writer, but as a singer that many feel is underrated. She’s continuing the traditional trend with cuts this year on Alecia Nugent’s new country album, The Old Side of Town, and a co-write with Grand Ole Opry star Jeannie Seely on her new album An American Classic. She talked to American Songwriter about her writing and more by phone from her Nashville home.
“I had two cuts on Sunny Sweeney this year,” she said, “and Terri Clark has a Christmas album coming out, and I have a song on there. I’ve been able to write more this year actually because I haven’t been on the road as much, and I have figured out finally how to record from home. I’d been touring over 100 days a year, and last year I did the Sirius XM Outlaw Country tour with Jamey Johnson. This year I did just one date with him, as I was on the road with Sunny Sweeney in January and February. I was supposed to do some dates with Tanya Tucker on the CMT tour in March but they were moved to next year, so I get to look forward to that.”
The folks back home in Arkansas haven’t forgotten about Enderlin, as evidenced by her four wins at this year’s Arkansas Country Music Awards in August, which were held virtually. She received awards for Best Country Artist, Album of the Year for her fourth album Faulkner County, Song of the Year for “Tonight I Don’t Give a Damn,” and Songwriter of the Year.
When Enderlin was interviewed for the first time by American Songwriter in 2012 as part of our “Nashville Songwriter Series,” she was coming off a co-write with hitmaker Shane McAnally on Luke Bryan’s Tailgates & Tanlines album (“You Don’t Know Jack”), as well a slot on the “Country Throwdown” tour with Willie Nelson and Jamey Johnson. She’s a veteran now, but she remembers what it was like to have aspirations for a music career, and she’s not shy about giving advice.
“The music business has changed so much in the past 20 years,” she said. “But I would say to listen, listen to all the music you can and find what moves you, get inspired. Then I’d say practice what you love – write, play shows, find a band and tour – don’t be precious about things. By that I mean don’t be afraid to finish a song because it’s not perfect – sometimes you’re just writing through that one to get to the next.”
“Don’t be afraid to play shows because you don’t feel ‘ready,’” she continued, “‘cause the truth is, I don’t know if you ever feel ready for a lot of things. But I do know that everything you do builds on each other, every song you write, every show you play, they make you better. And try to be yourself as a writer and artist – it sounds simple and like a no-brainer, but it can be hard. Lastly, I’d say do something every day – one email, one call, practice one new song, read a book, go to an event – you’ll be surprised how it adds up and brings opportunities that you might not even think about. Big goals can seem overwhelming, but doing one thing every day gets you closer in a real way, and you look back in six months, a year, and can really be amazed at what you’ve been able to accomplish.”
Unlike most of us in the music industry, Enderlin actually has a college degree in her chosen profession, a degree in Recording Industry with minors in Mass Communications and Entrepreneurship from Middle Tennessee State University. “If I had to do it over again,” she said, “I would definitely spend four years in college. I met so many amazing people, many I still see and work with today, as well as learning so much key information on how the business side of things work, especially contracts. I had a great experience at MTSU.”
Enderlin currently doesn’t have a publishing deal, and she’s fine with that. “I’m on my own right now,” she said. “What I find sometimes with publishers, when I tell them I’m an artist, they don’t necessarily get that, they don’t get that I want to go on the road [instead of staying in Nashville to co-write]. This way, I really feel good about the progress I’ve made, and I’m really enjoying myself.”