Gretchen Peters Salutes Mickey Newbury on 'Wish I Was': Premiere

Gretchen Peters
Gina Binkley

Gretchen Peters

As the writer of such monumental country songs as “Independence Day,” “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” and “On a Bus to St. Cloud,” Gretchen Peters certainly knows her way around a good tune.

As the title of her May 15 album declares, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee is turning to another legendary songwriter for her latest effort. Her stripped-down, wistful version of “Wish I Was” premieres below.

In further homage to Newbury, Peters recorded his songs at the same studio where Newbury recorded his now classic albums, Looks Like Rain, Mabel Joe and Heaven Help the Child. Among the guests on the album are Buddy Miller, guitarist Wayne Moss, Country Music Hall of Famer and harmonica player Charlie McCory, Will Kimbrough and Barry Walsh.

“I had had the idea of recording an album of Mickey Newbury’s songs for the past 10 or 15 years, but it was always one of those ideas I put on the shelf because I was busy writing and making records of my own songs,” she tells Billboard.  “About three years ago my husband and co-producer Barry Walsh and I decided to explore the idea of recording a few songs, as a sort of trial run, at Cinderella Studio, where Mickey recorded his great trio of albums in the late 60s/early 70s. I think we were hoping some of the magic would rub off. It turned out to be the best idea we could have had.”

With her songwriting career taking precedence, Peters recorded the album at a leisurely pace. “Cinderella was a sort of refuge from Music Row - a secluded converted garage studio in Madison, Tennessee where we could go and experiment with songs and arrangements without any pressure. Over the course of two-and-a-half years we recorded a few songs at a time, whenever we had some time. It was a wonderful, organic way to make a record.”

“Wish I Was” holds a special place in Peters’ heart: “It is one of the first Newbury songs I remember hearing,” she says. “I’ve known and loved the song since the late ‘70s, so it was always on my short list for this album. I’m drawn to visual imagery in songs, and this lyric is like a little movie — full of beautiful images: ‘I wish I was a grain of sand/playing in a baby’s hands/falling like a diamond chain into the ocean’ and that pervasive sadness that Mickey’s songs are known for."