Gwen Sebastian is embarking upon an adventure with her new album, Once Upon a Time in the West: Act I. The hardest-working woman in country music has returned with thirteen new songs that she either wrote or co-wrote, including the lead single "Cadillac", but this isn't just another record. This is Sebastian at her storytelling best, not only putting the tracks together but taking the audience on a journey. AXS conducted a phone interview with her to discuss how this outstanding album came together, and what she's learned from a busy year in the studio and on the road.
AXS: This is an album that you've had in the works for a long time now, so what's the feeling now that it's been released?
Gwen Sebastian (GS):I am relieved that I finally get to release the entire project. To get it out there is something I've been waiting for. I recorded it last year, so I'm tired of waiting. Just the fact that I get to put it out now, it's time for me. I'm impatient and I can't wait for everyone to hear it.
AXS: It's your first full record since 2013's self-titled album. Has your recording process changed over those four years, or largely remained the same?
GS:I kind of stick with it. What I love doing is recording it at the same time that the band records it. So most of my vocals on this album were on the tapes that the band did. I think it feels more natural doing it like that; it might be because it makes me feel like it's more like a gig and I'm on stage which is where I'm comfortable. It makes me feel like I'm playing a live show with musicians.
AXS: It's important to say that the break between records is because you're incredibly busy. You've released some singles, but you've also been touring as a background vocalist for Miranda Lambert, who is featured on this album. How have you been able to balance supporting other artists with maintaining your own career?
GS:I have people around me that help so much with things. I couldn't do it without them. Especially my husband and Miranda. She's so good, she's so flexible with things. She wants me to succeed on my own, as well as be in her band, so all of that had to come together for me to do what I need to do.
AXS: What songs on Once Upon a Time in the West: Act I stand out to you?
GS:I love the song "Wing and A Feather" which features Ashley Monroe on vocals. I wrote that with Miranda and Ashley on a bus one night as we were going down the road drinking some wine so I love that song in particular. [For] the last verse, we wanted to incorporate a piece of us. So "if Texas don't need Austin," that's Miranda. "If baseball don't need Boston," that's Ashley because her husband was a major league pitcher. And then "If the Dakotas don't need summer," that's me. That's real personal to me, having something like that in there.
Another song that I love is a song called "Cry to Jackson." That song title came from my co-writer Terri Jo Box and it's such a cool story. She was with her dad one day and they were shopping. She looked over to her dad and he was just really sad and she goes Dad, what's wrong? And he said we'll have to go back home today, we have to leave today but I guess I'm only [going to] cry to Jackson. How sweet and sad is that at the same time? That's where we got that song title from. Blu Sanders, our other co-writer, came in and put down his vocals on there as well.
AXS: What did you take away from the experience of making the record?
GS:This album in particular I'm really proud of and I found it easier than all of my previous other projects, just because I dig the sound of it. I wanted it to sound sort of like a Quentin Tarantino movie soundtrack with a little bit of sweetness to it as well. And just the fact that I wrote it with my friends makes it easier for me to listen to it, as if it's not [just] my album but as if it's their album, too.
AXS: Will you have time for a headlining tour to support the album?
GS:What I'm trying to do is put something together for May and June, because I know at that point in time Miranda will be done with most of her tour. That's kind of what I'm waiting on. But that's my plan, go touring in May and June.
AXS: So how would you say Gwen Sebastian is a different artist now than she was four years ago?
GS:I definitely have more experience under my belt. Doing more shows always helps me for sure. I'm just more confident in the music that I'm releasing and putting out that I'm not afraid to be a little bit out of the box. This album is definitely different. I want people to like it but if they don't, I don't care. I'm proud of it and I'm proud that my husband did a wonderful job on producing it. It's kind of like your kid. It might sound silly but that's my baby, and I want people to enjoy [the songs] and hope they do. But if they don't, it's just a matter of taste, it's not going to hurt me anymore. I wanted everyone to like me and like every song that I released, but I'm different now.
AXS: Since the record is called Act I, does that mean we'll be hearing an Act II in the future?
GS:There may be a part two. I'm pretty sure there will be.
Once Upon a Time in the West: Act I is now available on iTunes. While Gwen Sebastian has not yet announced a supporting tour, music fans can keep up with both her solo dates and dates touring with Miranda Lambert through her website.
For more on Gwen Sebastian, visit her artist page at AXS.