When Natalie Stovall officially joined Runaway June this spring, she and her new bandmates were a little surprised to realize that they’d never written a song together before. While being in the same band was new, they’d run in the same circles for years, and trio member Jennifer Wayne had even once worked with Stovall as her radio rep before Runaway June even formed.
“I can’t believe that Jen and I had never written together. Of all the years that we ran into each other,” Stovall remarks to Country Now. “I think we met on the road a little over ten years ago, and we were invested in completely different projects. It’s crazy that we’ve both been writing for so long but not together ever.”
With a revamped lineup and time on their hands thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Runaway June is now making up for lost time. After Stovall added her fiddle line and vocal harmonies to a reimagined version of their single, “We Were Rich,” the newly-formed trio got to work on new music quickly in 2020. The first time the three artists were able to get in a room together to write, Stovall brought a fresh element to the table that, at first, felt a little exotic to the other two women.
“It’s been the coolest thing bringing a fiddle into the writer’s room!” exclaims Wayne. “I’d never had that happen…It’s usually just guitars. When Natalie brought the fiddle in, it inspired us to go back to that organic [sound], really kind of how Runaway June started: Very organic with traditional instruments, but still modern.”
The band was borne out of traditional instrumentation and three-part harmony, a style they had to move away from early on in their career.
“In fact, we were told we were too country and we needed to tone it back some. And we also couldn’t afford a fiddle player,” points out Naomi Cooke. “And so with Natalie coming in, it’s really inspired us to go back to where we started, which has been some incredible exploration.”
First up on the docket? The trio’s got a Christmas EP in the works, and Stovall’s enthusiasm for the holiday season — and exacting specifications about what a Christmas album should and should not be — is already providing inspiration for the project.
“She’s the Christmas elf,” laughs Cooke. “She’s in, like, a full Christmas outfit in the studio, with a Christmas sweater on, and all her Instagram stories are snow. It’s the best vibe.”
The EP will include three traditional holiday classics and two original songs, and Cooke says Stovall’s strong opinions helped them think long and hard about what to include on the project. “People are very protective over Christmas,” she adds drily, pointing at her bandmate.
“Well, it just bothers me when songs come out and someone just put the word ‘Christmas’ in it and called it a Christmas song,” Stovall protests, adding that the original holiday material that her bandmates brought to the table more than met her high standards.
“When I saw the originals that were being considered, I was like, ‘We get to record these songs?!’” she remembers. “Like, Jen wrote one that’s so good. I feel like I can say that — they’re so good.”
Meanwhile, the bandmates are also writing for their second album, the follow-up to their highly acclaimed debut, Blue Roses. As they work on material, the band is well aware of the pressures and perils associated with a sophomore record.
“Your first record, you kind of spend your whole life writing for it. It takes years and years to put that together. And then album number two, it’s like, ‘Okay, you have six months to write something, and it has to be edgy and cool. And it has to be better than the first one,’” reflects Cooke. “And you’re like, ‘Wait, I’ve been touring! I haven’t really been living!’”
But with the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, 2020 is no typical touring year. While quarantine is often stressful and scary, the band isn’t ignoring the silver lining behind their unexpected downtime.
“We’ve been really blessed to have the time to write, and work together on a really creative level as collaborators. That’s not really something we’d be doing if we were touring,” Cook points out. “We’ve been writing vigorously for the past few months, and it’s been really fun, this creative process.”
The trio’s 5-track Christmas EP is set to feature three Christmas classics in addition to two Runaway June Christmas originals and will be released on October 16. You can see the full tracklist below.
“Our new Christmas EP, When I Think About Christmas has all of these beautiful mountain Appalachian sounds,” the trio explained. “So we put our own little spin on Christmas music and we’ve got some fiddle so why not!”
When I Think About Christmas EP tracklist:
- Christmas On The Radio (Runaway June Original – Sam Hollander, Martin Johnson)
- Sleigh Ride (Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish)
- O Holy Night (Traditional Holiday Song)
- When I Think About Christmas (Runaway June Original – Jennifer Wayne, Josh Matheny, Tiffany Goss)
- Let It Snow – (Julie Styn, Sammy Cahn)
The trio’s new EP, When I Think About Christmas, will be available on October 16.