Sunny Sweeney knows that her fans have been eagerly anticipating the day that Trophy, her fourth studio album, is released this Friday, But, she tells Sounds Like Nashville that the recording process can take a little bit of time. “I’m so excited. It seems like it’s been forever. I guess it’s been two and a half years. But, the process takes between a year to a year and a half from start to finish, so really, it isn’t that much time. You have to do the pre-production, and then the actual recording, then the mixing and mastering, picking a publicist, and then a date. So, in a sense, it really isn’t that long between records, but it can seem like it.”
Though the songstress has Texas roots, she says that she doesn’t want to get caught up in the “Nashville vs. Texas” debate. Sweeney states that she appreciates both for what they bring to her career. “I don’t really feel there’s a difference. People always ask me that because I’m from Texas. For me, I work in both places. I have my publicist and my producer, and some of the guys in my band are in Nashville. Then, I’ve got my house, my husband, my dog, and the rest of my band that live in Texas, so really it’s just a geographic difference. I love and respect both places for what they are.”
Trophy might hold some surprises for her longtime fans, as several of the songs represent perhaps her most emotional state, ranging from the wistful regret of “Unsaid” to the longing of “Bottle By My Bed.”
“I don’t want to say that it’s more of an adult record. I feel that it’s more than that. I try to sing and write songs that people will believe, so I feel it’s easier to believe if it’s something that I really know. Those are the things that I’m going through in my life, whether it’s right now, two years ago, or whatever. I feel like most adults have those events in their lives, like ‘Unsaid’ for instance, people have that someone in their life that has died that they wish they could have said something to. I feel like there’s not a concept to the record. I just feel like it’s just speaking from where I am right now in my life.”
“Unsaid” could very well be the most vulnerable spot Sweeney has ever allowed herself to be. “I don’t know what (co-writer) Caitlyn Smith was thinking about when we wrote that, but for me, there was a friend of mine that committed suicide. There were things I wish I could have said to him, especially afterwards, because I was just mad.”
Then, there’s “Bottle By My Bed,” which details the desire by the singer to have children. If you look at the title, you might think it’s about something else entirely – which is a goal of hers, from a songwriting perspective. “I was very specific on that one. I wanted that song to be what it turned out to be. I could not have written it with a more perfect match because (co-writer) Lori McKenna knows the love of a child – obviously. She has five kids. That’s one of the things I love about writing songs – coming up with a title that is going to be thought-provoking, and make people think that the song is going to be something different than what it is. Maybe there’s a little twist to it.”
She conjures up the sound of rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson on “Pills.” She said the influence of artists such as Jackson, Jeannie Seely, and Jean Shepard make her wish that perhaps she had begun her career in another time period. “I think I was born about twenty-five years too late. I feel like I relate to those women a lot. They lived the hard road life, and were just trying to get to the next gig. There’s a little bit of that in what I do, as well. Things are probably a little easier than they were then, but those women were doing it – riding around in cars with no air conditioners with basses strapped to the top of them. I admire those women so much, and having gotten to be friends with so many of them is something that I cherish.”
One special fan that the singer pleased on the album is her father, who definitely was in favor of his daughter recording the anguish-driven “Pass The Pain,” which Sweeney says has been around for a while. “It’s my dad’s favorite of all of my songs. He would call me before we decided what songs were going to go on the record, and ask about it. My dad doesn’t really even like Country. He was always into Tom Petty, but he’d get the demo of the song and say ‘Can you please put this on your album? He was so thrilled that it’s on there. That song is about ten years old. I always wanted to put it on a record, but just never did. I was told that it was ‘too country.”
However, the time was exactly right for Sweeney to put the song on Trophy, with some help from a very special guest. “It turned out to be perfect for this record, because since the last one, I’ve become friends with Trisha Yearwood. She is singing on it with me. Had I done it before, she wouldn’t be on it, so everything happens for a reason,” she surmises.
One thing is for sure – if Yearwood ever needed a fan club president, Sweeney would sign up. “We have a mutual friend in Mandy McCormack, who has for years said ‘I’ve got to get you two together. You are destined to be friends. Your humor is exactly the same.’ She gets us together, and we’re like long-lost sisters. We just totally hit it off, and then I got to do her cooking show. I look up to her so much. I just think she hung the moon.”
One thing about Yearwood and her husband, Garth Brooks, that people could take a page from is the way they take time for their fans. It’s something she has definitely done. “The biggest compliment that I could pay to either her or her husband, is that I have a friend that is not secure with her weight. When they played Dallas, my friend and I wanted to come. So, I called Trisha, and she said ‘Absolutely.’ They left us tickets, so me and my husband, my friend, and my husband’s friend go to the meet and greet. My friend had lost about a hundred pounds, and had been inspired by a picture she had taken with Trisha before to lose the weight. They spent fifteen minutes in a room by themselves, proving how sweet people they are. My friend was talking about how nice they were to me, because of it being a testament to me, but I’m looking at it as an artist as these people have twenty-thousand people that they are about to go do a show for, and they spend fifteen minutes in an individual room – and I bitch about doing meet and greets sometimes with thirty people? Both of them are the kindest people in this industry. They made time for my friend, who they didn’t know – and she wasn’t a radio contest winner or anything like that. Trisha sat down on my friends’ lap and hugged her. I learned from them. I’ve seen some real divas and some real shit-type attitudes, and then you look at them. They are just very kind people. I think they need to have a class on how to be before a gig and afterwards. You just want to be around people like that.”
Fans can order Trophy on iTunes now.