Clare Dunn has been productive in quarantine. The country singer-songwriter has breathed new life into her latest six-track EP, Honestly a personal collection, with an acoustic rendition. Produced entirely by Dunn, the acoustic project had the artist alone in her home studio stripping down the songs she had written previously over the past two years.
“The opportunity to be really busy this year has been exciting for me,” Dunn tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone. “I can’t tour. So if I can’t do that, no problem, I’ll just create. I’ve never done a full acoustic EP. I’m excited to give all the people who’ve been listening to me an acoustic version of things. I know I tend to be a rocker, so it was nice to just be chill.”
According to a 2019 USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study, only 2% of popular music was produced by women last year. Dunn is hoping to change that statistic by encouraging other women to dive in and produce their own music. She has seen the benefits firsthand: her confidence as an artist has been boosted by being in the producer chair. As a producer herself, Dunn is her best advocate.
“I feel like I’m more of a shield for my songs as a producer,” she says. “I get to fully walk that song through the whole process and that’s what it’s about. It’s not about the production, it’s about the song and doing what’s best for it. I get to be the protector of that.
“I think there needs to be boatloads more,” she continues, noting the lack of female producers within the country genre. “Whatever girls want to do on the music side, on the business side, I certainly hope to be an example. Just go for it, dig in. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re gonna scrape your knees a few times and get some bruises here and there from growing pains, but you’re going to be fine.”
One of the standout songs on Honestly (Stripped) is “El Paso,” which Dunn co-wrote with Brett Beavers. The new version shines as a stripped down piano ballad where Dunn’s descriptive lyrics and soulful belt captivate.
Dunn says “El Paso” marks the first time she’s gotten to record a song alone with just vocals and a piano. It’s something she’s wanted to do her entire career. “I finally got to ask the producer, ‘Hey, can I do this?’ And she said, ‘Yes,’” Dunn says with a laugh referring to herself. “I think that song has only gotten more meaningful to me. Stripping it back and being able to just sing — I feel like those words really ring even truer and deeper to me.”
Other highlights include the piano-infused love ballad “Sweet Talk,” penned with Tommy Cecil and Matt Alderman, and the uplifting “Safe Haven,” the latter of which marked Dunn’s first release since signing a publishing and artist deal with Big Yellow Dog Music after departing from Universal Music Group Nashville.
Title track “Honestly,” meanwhile, details a line being crossed after Dunn found out one of her former employees was stealing from her. She says when she confronted this person, they justified themselves. Taken aback by the situation, Dunn turned to her electric guitar to write the song with Tom Hambridge. “Honestly” has since been transformed into a revenge anthem where Dunn’s powerhouse vocals demonstrate she’s not one to be messed with.
“The day I went in to write this song, I was very frustrated. I had come face to face with this person who thought I had no business understanding my own business. I don’t feel like any artist should be treated like that,” she says. “So, I wrote that song and I just felt like standing up for myself that day. It’s important to empower any artist or woman. I’m not trying to say this was a woman issue, but I definitely [thought] that could have played a role in this situation and that’s what I had on my heart [writing] that day. When I went back into the acoustic version of it, I wanted to let that all shine and let all that emotion be raw and be out there in front.”
Dunn hopes country fans listening to Honestly (Stripped) will enjoy the stripped down experience of her embracing the role of singer-songwriter. She credits her musical heroes like the Rolling Stones and Waylon Jennings for their prolific bodies of work and wants to provide the same for her fans.
“They had no shortage of music and I want to give that to my fans. They’re constantly asking me, ‘When are you putting something new out?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, here you go!’ It should be out there for the fans and let them enjoy it,” she says.
Listen to Dunn’s new stripped down EP below before its official release tomorrow (9/25).