Tenille Townes has released her brand new EP entitled Masquerades. The seven-track collection, which arrived on (April 22) via Columbia Nashville/Sony Music Nashville in partnership with RCA Records, signals the beginning of a new chapter for Townes after she spent the last two years growing, reflecting, and evolving as an artist.
The first half of a two-part project, Masquerades, serves as the follow-up to Townes’ 2020 debut album, The Lemonade Stand, and has the two-time ACM Award winner baring her soul with her most personal material to date. Refusing to hide behind a mask, she celebrates humanity by sharing her truth through a transparent lens, crafting stories from the heart, and pulling thoughts directly from her diary.
What has transpired are introspective songs like her current single, “When’s It Gonna Happen,” collaboration songs, “Shared Walls” featuring BRELAND, and “When You Need It” with Wrabel and her sincere “Villain In Me.”
The second half of Masquerades will be titled Silver Linings, and will showcase the other side of Townes’ personality.
“Masquerades is me setting aside the smiling face I hide behind sometimes and letting the world see more of who I am. In this process, I realized that I am two different people, and I struggle between those two often,” Townes shared in a press release. “I am the introverted songwriter and the fiery performer, and both are true to who I am. I look forward to showing more of these sides in my music and live performances. Music has always been a bridge for me between both of these sides, and I hope this music can help others who can relate.”
Celebrating her new release, Townes recently and hilariously thanked her fans for checking out her new EP, Masquerades. On Instagram, she posted a video that shows her inhaling helium from a birthday balloon.
“On a high from all your love on the new songs you guys,” she captioned the clip.
Townes, who, after completing a run of dates on Reba McEntire’s Reba: Live In Concert Tour, is gearing up to hit the road this summer, opening for Brooks & Dunn, Jake Owen, Brad Paisley, and Darius Rucker, recently spent some time with Country Now to talk about her new EP.
Read on to find out more about Masquerades in this exclusive Q&A below.
Congratulations on your release of Masquerades! After hearing the songs on the EP, it sounds like you have written some of your most personal material, yet.
Yes! My favorite place to write songs is from the observer’s perspective, the storyteller. But, I could not help how these songs were coming out more personal this time around. I think, just being at home and having so much time alone in my house and being a part of everything that was going on in the entire world and navigating these past couple of years, I was, kind of, forced to face more of those vulnerable and personal thoughts. The creative process, to me, has always been my safe place to talk about anything, and this time around, this is the way the songs came out. We shared a clip of the song ‘Villian In Me’ several months ago. I sat on the floor, played the song on my guitar, and posted it. The most terrifying emotions came with being that this is a whole new and deeper side of sharing pieces of myself. It was the most encouraging and beautiful thing to me to hear from people who were like, ‘Hey, I feel the same way. This song means so much to me.’ That gave me the courage to keep working on that direction and collection of music. I could not be more excited and ready and terrified all at the same time to be sharing this EP.
Did you write all of the tracks on this project in quarantine?
Yes. And then for Silver Linings, some of them, yes. The whole, you know, sort of, dream of releasing this new season of music in sections is that it can be this living, breathing thing. So the first collection of songs is all connected by Masquerades. Then we’ve got a few of the songs already ready to go for the next EP, and then I’m writing and creating, and still kind of watching and feeling where this music is taking us together. So some of those songs have been written in quarantine, and some of them will be created very much right now.
How did you prepare for the release of Masquerades, being that the songs are, essentially, pulled from your diary?
I think that I am still learning how to do that, honestly. This is a new chapter for me. So those kinds of things I feel like are another level of scary to share. But, so far, it has been so encouraging hearing people say, ‘I feel the same way.’ I think something happens when I see someone else being vulnerable or finding a way to take down their masquerade. It gives me permission to do the same. My greatest hope with this music is that it could feel like an invitation for all of us to figure out how to set down the masquerades that hide parts of ourselves. Instead, show up and be entirely who we are – messy and beautiful and all of the in-between of that – and figure out how to see each other. I think that is such an important thing that we’ve all sort of learned and grown through in the last couple of years. I think it’s a beautiful silver lining to come out of a dark time. So, it is scary to do this, but it gives me the courage to know that we should all figure out a way to feel closer and more alike as fellow human beings the more that we step into those vulnerable places.
Your song, “When’s It Gonna Happen,” received a huge outpouring of fan support on social media. What is it like to receive that reaction when you share a new song with the fans?
It was so encouraging hearing people say, ‘Oh, I feel the same way. This is my song.’ That was the intention at the heart of writing it. It was me going, ‘I can’t believe that I’m being this honest in this song and saying exactly how it feels to be single sometimes or to have a different life than the one that you grow up picturing that society paints for us.’ Just being honest in that was terrifying and exciting. As I was writing that, I was like, ‘I can’t be the only one who feels this way.’ In sharing it, I wanted to create the music around it, with that raw, vulnerable lyric to pair with [a melody] that can feel like an uplifting anthem for people to sing at the top of their lungs and be like, ‘Yes. I feel this too.’ So, we can all feel comforted to go, ‘Oh, we can all stand together in this emotion and this raw, weird season of our lives.’ It felt so good to see that from everybody. It encouraged me to keep going down this road of collecting those vulnerable songs. I have been writing for awhile while putting them together in a project to be able to share. So I am so grateful for everybody’s support with these more personal songs.
You have two collaborations on Masquerades – “When You Need It” and “Shared Walls.” Tell me about those collaborations and how you chose your duet partners, Wrabel and BRELAND, for the project.
“When You Need It,” which is the first song on the EP, is a song that I wrote with my friend Wrabel. That was the very first song that we had ever written together. Wrabel was the first person that I got set up with to write over Zoom at the beginning of the shutdown. I was so nervous going, ‘I don’t know how this will work to create a song through a computer screen and with someone that I’ve never met before.’ But, I am such a fan of his music and his voice. We started writing the song together and just started talking about how grateful we were for the people in our lives that are checking in on us and that we were checking in on and moving past the answer of saying, ‘How are you?’ and ‘I am fine.’ Like, instead, it’s like, ‘How are you?’ And then you’re answering that question. So, I love that this song is about friendship, and it’s the beginning of my friendship with Wrabel. We have probably written over 20 songs together at this point, and writing songs with him through the last couple of years was one of the brightest silver linings to being in a very dark time. So, I couldn’t be more excited that we get to sing this song together and share it as the very beginning part of the adventure on this EP.
The other collaboration is with my friend BRELAND. I wrote this song, “Shared Walls,” about, you know, being neighbors and feeling closer to the neighbors in my apartment building and also the neighbors around the entire world as we were all going through the same thing. I think that’s another beautiful thing to be taken from such a dark and strange time in our history. When I was working on this song in this studio and dreaming of a neighbor, with whom I’d love to sing this song with, BRELAND was at the top of my list. I reached out to him and sent him the song. I met him briefly in passing in the hallway and at events before, and you can’t help but get inspired by the joyful spirit that surrounds him. Watching how he’s been sharing music lately and witnessing his perspective and his influence in how he’s shaping the genre of country music has been inspiring to watch. I’m such a fan of his, and I was so excited when he said ‘yes’ to singing on this song with me. It’s been wonderful getting to know him through this process.
Have any of your fans reached out to share how they’ve connected to the songs on Masquerades?
Yes, and it means the world to me to hear from the fans, whether it is after a show, besides a merch stand or through an Instagram message, or on the road. Hearing stories from people has always given me courage. It has given me courage from the songs off of the first album too. Hearing about that and feeling that sense of community is very much a part of going and sharing more of those parts of myself. We all have things that we hide behind. And it is so strange to grow up in a world that, I think, really expects so much from us. This is how it should be. This is the smile that you should paint on. I think there’s strength in pushing up against that in a real honest and vulnerable way in just being like, ‘This is a true smile because I am being my true self in that.’ And this music has very much helped me walk through that process. I’m still very much in the middle of figuring that out. So, I hope this music can feel like an invitation for somebody listening to feel like they can sit theirs down too, and we can figure it out together.
Is there a track on the project that you consider the most personal?
They all are a part of the tapestry of this whole project to me. But I would say that the song “Villain In Me” is probably the most personal that I’ve written up to this point. The line in the second verse is, ‘Sometimes I wear it like a mask; it’s easier that way.’ That was very much the jumping-off point of the whole theme of Masquerades, and where the title came from and just the idea of going, ‘We can be both sides of who we are. We can be the light and the dark. We can be the most real and the optimist.’ All of those things are a part of what makes us human. And that song was very much my process of seeing that differently for the first time in my life.
Before Masquerades, you released The Lemonade Stand. How would you say your writing process has evolved since that project?
Music to me will always be like looking through a window of a certain season of my life in how I see the world and how I look for my place inside of it. The songs are the evidence of that. I think with looking back at The Lemonade Stand and the more sort of third-person perspectives and evolving to stepping into a more personal storytelling side this time around. I feel like this is a bit of a different window. I’m excited to see what the next one will keep looking like because I think it will continue to reflect the evolution of what I am working on as a human being. So, I am so grateful to have music to turn to in this process of growing and learning.
Tell me about some of the shows you have coming up? I read that you will be going on Big Hearts Mini Tour in May and hitting the road with Darius Rucker this summer.
I am so excited to be opening up for Darius and a few more of my heroes in the coming year. I’m looking forward to doing some more headlining shows as well. But, right away in May, my heart is bursting with excitement to be doing a Big Hearts Mini Tour. So, I started an event in my hometown when I was 15 called Big Hearts For Big Kids, and it supports a local youth shelter. It has completely changed my life, witnessing how my community can come together and make a difference in those kids’ lives. The first night, over 12 years ago, I saw everybody come together and raise over 30k dollars. That was the night when I was like, ‘This is it! This is what I want to do more of, being able to combine my love for music and community spirit. It’s been life-changing for me to be witnessing that event over the past 12 years. It’s always been on my heart to expand that. Now here we are doing our very first Big Hearts Mini Tour. So, we reached out to a few fans that we’ve been fortunate to meet and get to know over the past few years, and we’ve just been like, ‘Okay, how about you bring a cause that you’re passionate about in your community, invite your friends and your whole town to come and join. I’ll bring my guitar and the music, and we can see what we can do together. So, I couldn’t be more excited for these shows, and I’m so excited to see what happens.
What’s next for you?
I couldn’t be more excited to just continue to write and look toward the direction of sharing more of this new season of music. So, we are going to be celebrating this first EP at the Exit Inn in Nashville on May 3. So we’re looking forward to celebrating that there. And, as far as Silverlinings goes, I can’t wait to keep creating more and working on finishing the entire project.
Fans can keep up with Tenille Townes on Instagram.