Bluegrass fans in the 2000s are sure to remember the name Alecia Nugent. Over the course of five years, Nugent released three records that cemented her status as a go-to source for Bluegrass music of the highest quality.
Fast forward to 2020, eleven years since the release of her last album, Nugent is making her return with The Old Side of Town, and album that serves as her first foray into the classic country sound. Recruiting the talents of producer Keith Stegall and legendary players that include Paul Franklin and Stuart Duncan, Nugent took the reins like a pro with her fourth album.
Mixing high irresistible honky tonkers like “Tell Forth Worth I Said Hello” and “I Thought He’d Never Leave” with songs that are sure to tug at the heart strings like “The Other Woman” and song of the year candidate “Way Too Young for Wings,” Nugent made the eleven year wait for new music more than worth the wait.
We chatted with Nugent all about The Old Side of Town, including working with Keith Stegall and A-list musicians on the project, the stories behind many of the songs on the album, what she hopes listeners take away from it, her plans for the rest of the year and more!
Pro Country: You lived almost exclusively in the Bluegrass world for much of your career. What drew you to record a classic country album with The Old Side of Town?
Alecia Nugent: I’ve always wanted to record a country album. If you’re familiar with my Bluegrass records, they always had a country flavor, to the point where with the HillBilly Goddess record, Rounder Records was telling me that they were going to have to start monitoring my song selections, because I was getting a little too close to country [laughs]. I’ve always wanted to make a classic country record with pedal steel and fiddle, and when the opportunity for this record came about and I had total creative choice, I decided to go ahead and give it a shot!
PC: The Old Side of Town is your first album in over a decade. How excited were you to release The Old Side of Town after that layoff? Why did you feel that now was the right time to release a new record?
AN: I really didn’t know for sure that I was ever going to get to record again. I moved back to Nashville in 2017 with hopes that I would somehow be able to do another record. When my sponsor came along that wanted me to record again and said he would help make it happen, I was able to choose the producer that I wanted oh, and it seems like everything was falling into place. I’d say that’s pretty good timing!
PC: To that point, Keith Stegall served as producer on The Old Side of Town, and you had several A-list musicians playing on the record. What was it like to work with Keith in the studio, and what was the recording experience like playing with musicians of that collective caliber?
AN: It was awesome! It was pretty nerve-wracking and intimidating being in the studio with all of those guys. It was a blast though. They made me feel right at home like I belong there. I would do it again in a heartbeat!
PC: What went into the decision to release “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy Anymore” prior to the release of The Old Side of Town?
AN: That was actually the first song that was written for the record. I knew if I had a chance to do another record, I wanted to pay tribute to my dad. I had already been singing the song live at a lot of my shows, so I had a chance to introduce it that way. I just love the song so much. It has a more personal, deeper meaning than anything on the record. It seemed right to put this one out before everything else.
PC: “The Old Side of Town” was originally written and recorded by Tom T. Hall. What drew you to record the song and have it serve as the title track for the album?
AN: At the time I recorded it, I didn’t really know that I was going to make it the title track. I decided to pay homage to Tom T., because I worked for him for five or six years, and I still go out and do things with him every now and then. I knew that I wanted to cut one of his songs, and that was one of my favorites. I asked Keith what he thought about it, and he thought it was a great idea! After we cut it, I was trying to figure out which song could be a title track or if we should take a line from one of the songs and make it the title of the record. As I was going down the list of the songs, I ran across this one and I thought it was perfect. The classic country music that I listen to is on the old side of town, and I thought nothing said “old country music” better than that title.
PC: “I Might Have One Too” is a song written by Larry Cordle and Erin Enderlin. Can you talk about how you heard the song and what drew you to record the song and include it on The Old Side of Town?
AN: That was one of my favorite songs pitched to me. Larry pitched that song to me two years before recording, and it’s just one of those songs where as soon as I heard it, I thought, “This is country music.” I played it for Keith, and he loved it as much as I did. After that, I told myself it was a definite [laughs].
PC: “Way Too Young For Wings” is our favorite song on the record, and is a song that discusses the untimely passing of your daughter’s high school sweetheart. What has that song meant to you and those affected in the time since his passing?
AN: That song means a lot. Like “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy Anymore,” this song has a deep, personal meaning to it. I probably put more pressure on myself when we were writing this song, because I wanted it to be from my daughter’s point of view. When you’re trying to write something, from someone else’s heart and perspective, I wanted her to be proud of it. I wanted this to be a song that when I played it for her for the first time, it would really mean something to her, and it did. It had every effect on her that I thought it would, and having her approval on it, as well as Tyler’s mom’s approval, having them say how much it touched them was all I needed.
PC: Because you had to write “Way Too Young for Wings” from her perspective and you had to approach it with care, can you talk about being in the room writing the song?
AN: There were four of us in the room writing it. The hardest part was trying to stay in that perspective. Everybody has someone that they’ve lost, whether it be a family member that lost a young child or someone they may know who passed away at a young age, so I tried to get everyone in the room to put themselves in the shoes of the person closest to them. Once everybody understood where it was going and we all found that perspective, everyone had a story of their own and it made sense, and we wrote it within a couple of hours.
PC: You’re releasing “Way Too Young for Wings” to country radio, and at the same time, releasing “Tell Fort Worth I Said Hello” to Texas country radio. Can you talk about making the decision to release them simultaneously and why you chose each for their respective market?
AN: I knew that I wanted to release two singles simultaneously, and I knew I wanted those two to be the ones out there. Texas radio is basically a planet of their own, so to me, it made sense. It didn’t feel like I was going to be splitting my audience. Of course, it doesn’t bother me at all if somebody wants to play both of them [laughs]. To me, it made sense to release “Tell Fort Worth I Said Hello” to Texas country radio because it has that Texas country Flair to it.
PC: “Sad Song” was written based on personal experiences, including a divorce. What was it like for you to open up that way with the song? Is there a certain catharsis that comes with encapsulating those feelings within the song?
AN: Absolutely. Some of those things are hard to write, and you do have to go back in time and walk down memory lane putting yourself in a place that’s not necessarily easy to be, but the song remembers when. It’s not easy, but it’s therapeutic at the same time.
PC: Do you have a favorite song on The Old Side of Town? If so, why is it so special to you?
AN: I’d have to say it’s a tie between “Way Too Young for Wings” and “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy Anymore,” just because both of those songs have really deep, personal meetings to them. I like everything that’s on the record, but those two are extra special to me.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from The Old Side of Town after listening all the way through?
AN: I hope they take away the fact that there are still artists out there trying to put new classic country music out there that tells stories about life. I miss that. I miss songs about life and life experiences; heartache, losing someone you love, and even just being sassy like “I Thought He’d Never Leave.” I miss those kinds of songs, and I hope that’s what people take away from this record.
PC: 2020 has altered most of the plans of artists so far. Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
AN: I have a release party at The Station Inn on November 13th, which will be live streamed through The Station Inn TV. Other than that, I’m hoping to start doing a few live streams here and there, even if it’s just from my living room. I’m praying that venues open back up so we can try to book some tours and get back out there to promote our music!
*Alecia’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*
**All images courtesy of so much MOORE media and photographed by David McClister**