Sixpence None the Richer brings the reunion it started in 2008 to fruition this summer with the Aug. 24 release of "Strange Conversation," the Nashville pop group's first new album in eight years.
After announcing its dissolution in 2004, Sixpence principals Leigh Nash and Matt Slocum got back together in late 2007, releasing an EP, "My Dear Machine," and the holiday album "The Dawn of Grace" in 2008. Both tell Billboard.com that they deliberately took their time to get to the point of making a full set of new material.
"It was like warming up before you go out to pitch; that's what we were calling it at the time," explains Nash, who released a solo album, "Blue on Blue," in 2006, which gave her the confidence to write half of "Strange Conversation's" 12 tracks. "Just getting the gears turning again took some time. By the time we hit the studio with these songs, we felt like we were a band again."
Slocum adds that "we definitely felt pretty rusty. It was nice to do those smaller projects just to kind of get the feel back and get a groove going again. I think if we would've shown up in the studio on a major label, with all that stuff going on, we would've been kind of overwhelmed. It was nice to be able to ramp up to this point."
Sixpence recorded "Strange Conversation" in January and February in Nashville with producer Jim Scott. Longtime bassist Justin Cary took part in the sessions, while Greg Leisz was brought in to play pedal steel. Slocum says the aren't "any major points of departure" from the group's other releases, although a conscious decision was made to strip back the production and eschew the layering and orchestration that marked previous Sixpence albums.
"I think we tried to really make a choice not to put a whole lot on there," he says, "just to have minimal elements and leave room for (Nash's) voice. "It's more sparse, pretty much band performances with limited overdubs, and her voice seems to shine more. It's great to sort of have the chemistry of just five people in the room playing together as opposed to sort of building and building and putting more and more stuff on it."
Nash and Slocum, who co-wrote with a variety of collaborators, were also intrigued to find out that their individual songs wound up sounding like a dialogue between them -- inspiring "Strange Conversation's" title. "Matt and I have never been the best communicators with each other," says Nash, who first joined forces with Slocum in 1992. "I think we do fine in other relationships, but...while we're friends and have a great time together, there's just not proper communication, so some of it gets done in songs. There's some really sweet songs here that I'll always be able to look back on as communications from my friend Matt, and I got to sing them to myself. It's weird, but it's really sweet."
Sixpence, which has done limited live performing since reuniting, is currently scoping out tour plans to support the "Strange Conversation" release. Nash and Slocum also feel they're back to being a going concern and are already talking about other albums, including "regular Sixpence albums" and a full set of covers instead of episodic forays like their treatments of the La's "There She Goes" and Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over."
"We're excited about just making music and not stopping," Nash says. "We're not looking for fame or to get super loaded or anything like that. We never quite did it right the first time around...This time we'd like to make it a little simpler and just keep making records. That way we can build some trust, so fans know, 'OK, Sixpence, they're going to have another record in another two years. You can just kind of count on it.' That's what we'd like to work on rebuilding."