Jedd Hughes has returned to music. After two failed record deals, the Australian singer/songwriter decided to give Nashville one more shot.
“Animal Eyes,” the stirring lead single from Hughes’ forthcoming album WEST, out Aug. 30, represents the often tumultuous inner-dialogue a creative has with himself. Inspired by a phone conversation with mentor and frequent co-writer Rodney Crowell, “Animal Eyes” features Hughes’ whispered vocals alongside haunting string accompaniment and seductive electric guitar parts while he sings about trying to find himself.
Written over a six-week period in a spare bedroom, the song’s first line came to Hughes during a conversation with Crowell. While the two songwriters chatted on the phone, Crowell asked what Hughes was up to. His response: “Crawling out of the morning” — which Crowell said sounded like a song.
“I spent a hot and humid Nashville summer in bed fighting off the darkest wave of depression I’d ever encountered,” Hughes tells Billboard. “It took every ounce of energy I had to drag myself to work, a lot of which I canceled because I was so far down. I was in a post-sobriety battle with things I could no longer suppress.”
He says “Animal Eyes,” which Billboard premieres below, was written during one of the hardest years of his life as he struggled to create music while reflecting on his drinking days and disillusion with his own artistry.
“The first line came with encouragement from my dear friend Rodney Crowell; the rest was carved out of late nights in a small bedroom seeing if I could assemble something that meant anything to me,” he adds. “I chose this song as the first single as a reset button for my artistic hopes and I see it as a vehicle to engage conversation on depression and sobriety in the artistic community and community as a whole.”
Hughes is currently on the road with Vince Gill, where he serves as opener as well as part of Gill’s backing band. The singer’s forthcoming album includes co-writes with Crowell and Guy Clark, among others, and details his renewed self-discovery and introspective songwriting.
Hear “Animal Eyes” below.