A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Jul 20, 2011
She’s opened for such musical heavyweights as Willie Nelson, yet country artist Whitney Mann seems right at home in Madison. In May, the Michigan native released her latest album, The Western Sky, filled with heartfelt songs about love, comfort, home and more.
Mann recently took time out to answer some questions about her inspirations and journey as a musician.
How did you get into music?
I grew up playing the piano and singing, as well as listening to the radio whenever one was around. I don’t remember ‘getting into music’ because it was something that was always around. Like oxygen.
What role has your hometown played in your work?
Growing up on a farm with a slow, simple, steady pace played a big role in my emotional and psychological development. It was obviously a key factor in my musical development as well. I don’t set out to write songs in a certain genre. The songs I write come out sounding ‘country’ or ‘Americana’ because of who I am (which I’m sure has something to do with where I grew up and what I listened to). I know what I like to hear, so I just go with that.
How did you end up in Madison and what impact has the city had on your music?
I moved to Madison in 2007. There is a nice, supportive music community here that has helped me to grow as a musician and songwriter. There are also lots of music lovers in Madison who support us by coming to our shows, so there is the added motivation to keep improving for them.
What or who are your major influences?
My major musical influences include the music legends that I grew up listening to: Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Shania Twain has been a personal hero of mine since I was ten. Alison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, M. Ward—the list could go on for days.
How did The Western Sky come about? What inspired this album?
The Western Sky was inspired by playing and singing with Kyle Jacobson, who is also my fiance. All of the songs were written about him, in some way. Either in a subtle, top-secret kind of way or in a really heavy-handed, obvious way. The song “Been Thinkin A Ways” was a song that we wrote together, about each other.
How does this album differ from your first album, The Way Back Home? How has your music changed over the years?
The Western Sky has a more laid-back, breezy kind of feel to it. It was recorded with all acoustic instruments. The Way Back Home is heavier. The material is darker. And the instrumentation, although country-inspired, was primarily electric.
What sort of reactions have you been getting to your new album?
People have really taken a liking to the new album, especially to the songs “Born to Love You” and “Been Thinkin A Ways.” We couldn’t be more grateful.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishments to date?
I can’t pinpoint one accomplishment that outweighs or out ranks another. Opening for my heroes was pretty huge. The first Willie Nelson show I opened was an exhilarating and terrifying experience. It was also a giant honor. The Loretta Lynn show was amazing. Opening for Ray LaMontagne in Madison was tremendous.
What do you hope people get from hearing your music or seeing you perform?
I hope that people like what they hear. I hope they have fun. I hope they tell their friends about us. And I hope they stand as close to the stage as they can.
What’s next for you?
We have a few shows lined up. We’re going to play the Willy Street Fair in September. And I have the honor opening for George Jones in Illinois in October.
For more information on Whitney Mann, visit whitneymannmusic.com.
Photos courtesy of Whitney Mann.