Interview: RaeLynn Is Following Her Heart on New ‘Baytown’ Album
For someone who was, at the time of our interview, due to have her first baby in two weeks — in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and while promoting an album, no less — RaeLynn seemed incredibly calm. She was all smiles, in an oversized denim shirt and understated glam, when she sat down over Zoom to discuss her new record, Baytown, out Friday (Sept. 24) on Round Here Records.
The album, RaeLynn's first full-length release since singing to the label founded by Florida Georgia Line's Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley in 2019, is an expansion of 2020's Baytown EP, with eight new songs that largely build upon the themes of the original six.
“I felt like there was more of the story that I wanted to tell,” the former The Voice contestant says of the decision to expand the EP. “And I always had a feeling that it would be more than six songs.”
The sound of commercial country is ever-evolving, and it’s been four long years since RaeLynn released her last full-length album, 2017's WildHorse. Just as hip-hop-indebted sounds have permeated country radio, the genre has also become a dominant force in RaeLynn’s music. Like the EP before it, Baytown leans heavily into hip-hop, with a rap feature from Mitchell Tenpenny on "Get That All the Time" and lyrics that shout out “Gucci Gang,” kick drums and Cardi B.
“I’ve always been the type of girl that has a huge playlist,” RaeLynn says, describing her sound as “old school mixed with a little bit of vibe.” But while conversations about authenticity and appropriation have swirled around songs such as Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like,” RaeLynn assures listeners that her new style comes from the heart.
“I grew up around so many types of cultures and different people, and they all represent who I am, and so I wanted that to be displayed in my music,” she says. “Baytown, to me, is sass, it’s country, it’s a little bit of bass ... It’s all these things in one.”
A few of the new tracks feel like natural sequels to songs from the EP. “Only in a Small Town” is a Southern romp much in the vein of “Judgin’ to Jesus,” while “Rowdy” offers a country-girl statement of purpose along the same lines as “Keep Up.” But there are also tracks that explore new sides of RaeLynn’s story, including two very different songs about motherhood: “Made for Me to Love (Demo)” and “She Chose Me.”
RaeLynn wrote “Made for Me to Love,” a love letter to her infant daughter Daisy, in January, when she was only eight weeks pregnant. She says she arrived at the writing session feeling “super emotional” and, despite the axiom about waiting to share pregnancy news until after the first trimester, she told her co-writers that she was pregnant before sitting down to write the song.
"When I watched those two pink lines arrive that Wednesday afternoon / It went from just being me to me being me and you,” she reflects in the second verse of "Made for Me to Love." “She Chose Me,” on the other hand, is a painful exploration of a different type of birth story: that of a “a Bible Belt-lovin’ believer” who gets pregnant after an extramarital affair with a man on Galveston Bay and, the lyrics imply, considers getting an abortion.
The woman in the song, it turns out, is RaeLynn’s own mother. It adds a complicated new layer to the story behind “Love Triangle,” arguably RaeLynn’s most personal song to date. "If it went the other way nobody would’ve blamed her / think of all the small-town talk it would’ve saved her / She could’ve chosen one quick fix / To get her out of one big mess … but she chose me,” RaeLynn reveals in the chorus.
These more contemplative moments help anchor Baytown, which is heavy on party songs. Listening to songs such as “Get That All the Time” with Tenpenny and “Why I Got a Truck” with Blake Shelton, the influence of Round Here Records owners Florida Georgia Line is apparent. Corey Crowder — also a Round Here signee, and who who has co-written and produced hits for the duo — produced RaeLynn's new album, and Hubbard co-wrote several of the songs.
RaeLynn insists that she doesn’t feel any added pressure as the only woman signed to the label, but she does admits to occasionally chafing at the idea — spurred in part by the explanation for the glaring gender disparity on country radio that offers that women just aren’t putting out hits — that she needs to be writing a certain type of song.
“I hate it when people are like, ‘Oh, you released two 'down' songs, so you need to release an uptempo song,” she says. “I’m like, 'I’ll do whatever the hell I wanna do.' You know what I mean? Because I’m gonna do what feels right in my heart.”