Natalie Hemby Long Avoided the Spotlight and Is Glad She Did: 'Don't Know Where I'd Be If I Had Hit Early On'

·4-min read

Grammy-Award-winning songwriter Natalie Hemby found herself in the middle of a pandemic last year, silently being flooded internally with a myriad of questions that she simply had put on the backburner for far too long. And the loudest of those voices was one of the most personal.

Was it time to let her voice be heard once again?

Granted, the spotlight has indirectly followed Hemby throughout her career, a career in which her words found their way into the world courtesy of the voices of artists on chart-topping songs such as Jon Pardi's "Heartache Medication," Little Big Town's "Pontoon" and Miranda Lambert's "Bluebird."

But amid the pandemic, she found herself smack dab in the middle of working on the follow-up to her following 2017 debut Puxico when the world shut down. And as COVID cases rose and tensions began to boil, Hemby began to question the timing of it all.

"There was this part of me that was like, 'I'm 44 and I have a kid who's 9 years old, and she needs me, and I have a lot on my plate and maybe this isn't going to work," she admits to PEOPLE in a recent interview. "When you get in your mid-forties, you have people in your life that are aging, and you have people in your life that are getting sick, and you have children in school. You have a lot of things to juggle, especially as a woman."

Natalie Hemby
Natalie Hemby

Alysse Gafkjen Natalie Hemby

Despite her reality, Hemby realized she could no longer put this particular dream on hold. This October, Hemby will release her second solo album Pins and Needles, produced and mixed by her husband Mike Wrucke and filled to the brim with songs she co-wrote with the likes of Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne and Miranda Lambert.

But this time, Hemby's miraculous voice takes center stage.

"You write a lot of songs with artists and then they usually pick one or two that go on their records," explains Hemby, who signed her first publishing deal at 19 and whose songs have gone on and gotten recorded by legends such as Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga and Sheryl Crow. "And sometimes, if you're an artist, you hear yourself in these songs. And sometimes, you are the artist who is supposed to cut them."

That's exactly what happened with the title track of her upcoming album, a song that Hemby originally wrote alongside Brothers Osborne's TJ Osborne and John Osborne.

"That was the first song I ever wrote for Brothers Osborne," recalls Hemby. "They loved it and I loved it, but it just never went on one of their records. So, I was like, 'Do you care if I take this?' And they were like, 'No, are you kidding?' So, we made it the title track and I'm so grateful for that, because the last few years has been a whirlwind."

A creative, 'good ole Midwesterner' born about 135 miles outside of Chicago, Hamby grew up on the music of powerhouse artists such as Crow and Sarah McLachlan, women ahead of their time via the music they made and the feelings they expressed through their lyrics.

"I actually worshiped the entire record of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, the self-proclaimed "liner notes junkie" says of McLachlan's 1993 breakthrough album. "I mean, I still play it. Listening to it was like a journey to me. That record probably defined me more than any other record I've ever owned."

RELATED: Nashville's Go-to Songwriter Steps Out Solo: Meet Natalie Hemby

And it's these inspirations that can now be heard loud and clear within the raspy undertones that speak to the grit of everyday life in Pins and Needles album cuts such as "Last Resort," "Lake Air" and the eerily relatable and forever timely "Radio Silence."

Natalie Hemby
Natalie Hemby

Alysse Gafkjen Natalie Hemby

"'Radio Silence' is actually about me," Hemby says of the song she wrote alongside fellow songwriters Rosi Golan and Daniel Tashian back in 2016. "I went through a really rough period in my life where I was having a hard time dealing with a lot of different things and I just shut everybody out — I stopped calling people and I didn't want to drag people into my drama. The song is about ghosting your friend and they don't understand what happened."

Cowriter Golan was the friend. And yes, none of this is easy.

"People are going to tell you, you can do anything and everything, but I'm here to tell you…you can't do everything," Hemby admits. "It's just not true. You have to not do everything and do it well. I'm so happy to have had the maturity to have had success later on. I don't know where I'd be if I hit early on."

Pins and Needles will be released Oct. 8.

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