Lee Ann Womack Looks Beyond Country on Disco, Pop & Soul-Influenced #TBT Mixtape

Lee Ann Womack
Ebru Yildiz

Lee Ann Womack

Welcome to #TBT Mixtape, Billboard's series that showcases artists' very own throwback-themed playlists exclusive to Billboard's Spotify account. The curated set features the artists' favorite tracks from their youth and childhood.

This week’s spin comes from Lee Ann Womack. It’s been nearly two years since the release of the roots singer-songwriter's ninth studio LP, The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone, via ATO Records. Recorded in her home state of Texas at local Houston haunt SugarHill Studios, which has hosted acts like George Jones, Willie Nelson and others, the set was a family affair, helmed by Womack’s husband: producer Frank Liddell (Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler). “We all felt we weren’t going someplace just to make a record,” says Womack. “We were going someplace to make a great record.”

The set notably marked Womack’s re-emergence as a songwriting force: she co-penned more tracks than any prior record combined. “I got everybody out of their comfort zone and into a new element,” she adds. “And it was funky there. This place was not in the least bit slick. Everybody there, all they think about is making music for the love of making music. Everyone comes in with huge smiles and positive attitudes. It was much different than what we were used to."

The effort paid off, earning her two Grammy nods earlier this year -- including for best Americana album and best American roots song (“All the Trouble”). “I wanted to get out of Nashville and tap into what deep East Texas offers musically and vibe-wise,” she says. “I could never shake my center of who I was. I’m drawn to rootsy music. It’s what moves me.” During her career, Womack has racked up 14 overall Grammy nods -- including one win, for best country collaboration (“Mendocino Country Line” opposite Willie Nelson) in 2003 -- as well as six CMA Awards (including single and album of the year) and five ACM wins.

Currently in the midst of a headlining tour that includes stops at Hinton, Okla.’s Sugar Creek Casino (Aug. 10), Cincinatti’s Memorial Hall OTR (Oct. 2), Chicago’s City Winery (Oct. 4-5) and more, Womack curated this week’s #TBT Mixtape to spotlight her eclectic range of sonic influences from her lengthy discography -- from country, blues and soul, to pop and disco.

“I listened to mostly country music and church music growing up," says Womack. "But this is a list of songs and artists I remember from my childhood that fall outside that genre and made an impression on me.” 

Give the playlist -- which features cuts by Eric Clapton, Bill Withers, Dr. John and more -- a spin and check out some throwback shots from the singer’s come-up below.

“Nostalgia is so powerful, and when I hear these songs now I realize that, even as a small child, I was impressed by great singers," she tells Billboard. "These are some of the best and they still move me today.”

The spirit of Texas can be felt throughout the set as well. "Music down there -- including Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and all the way through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama -- is this huge melting pot," she adds. "I love that. Real country music has soul, and I wanted to remind people of that."

For more on Lee Ann Womack, head here