Gretchen Peters

Gretchen Peters

Gina Binkley

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters returns with a new album, Blackbirds, on Feb. 10, and she is feeling the itch to get out and perform the new material for her fans.

"It's always exciting to have new music coming out because it means we will get to go out and play these songs in front of an audience," she says. "I wrote most of these songs in a flurry, and I did a lot of co-writing -- a lot more than I ever had done before."

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As someone who has written the bulk of her hits -- like Martina McBride's "Independence Day" -- by herself, what was it like to collaborate? "I think I figured something out about it that was essential for me," she says. "I really can't do it without a great level of trust in my co-writer. I'm never really going to be comfortable with someone I don't really know that well. I spent a great part of 2013 writing with two people that I had long friendships with in Ben Glover and Mary Gauthier. Ben and I ended up writing three of the songs on this record together."

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Peters shared her inspiration for the song, saying, "I had this idea, which essentially became the first verse, about this woman talking about aging and needing her stock, or her looks. I felt it was something I wanted to tackle, but it wasn't something I wanted to do head-on. I ended up playing it for Ben when we were writing songs for this album. It ended up being more about all the things we lose along the way. There was a mention about the Nashville flood [of 2010] in the second verse. That experience is still with me -- the fact that you can lose so much in such a seemingly non-dramatic kind of way. The sun was out, and the worst damage had actually taken place while the sun was shining. I'm happy we were able to take it in more of a metaphorical territory."

She said it's not always the starting point of a song that defines the journey of writing, and that's one part of the creative process that intrigues her. "I think that's the joy and the mystery of writing, is when you open up to the possibility of a song being about something that you didn't expect. It becomes as much of a process of discovery as it does a process of creation. For me, those are the best songs. I begin with some kind of idea about where I'm going, and the song ends up telling me where it needs to go. Those are inevitably the ones that feel the most honest and powerful, because I think they come from a deeper place."

It's those heartfelt lyrics that earned Peters a spot in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame this past October -- a distinction she's still getting used to. "I'm still processing it, to be honest with you. It's one of those moments in your life, and not everybody gets them, but I knew this was a once in a lifetime thing. I had my entire family with me, and it was like a giant stamp of validation from the entire music community in such a public way. It was so surreal because ninety percent of the songs I was being honored for started with just me in a room. In some ways, it felt like I walked out into a giant surprise party. It was very otherworldly," she admits.