Mary Bragg didn’t necessarily plan to release something so soon after her acclaimed 2019 album Violets as Camouflage. But the covers EP Think About It, whose stark, gentle version of Roy Orbison‘s 1988 hit “You Got It” is premiering on Billboard today (Feb. 6), filled an unexpected need for the Nashville singer-songwriter.
“Last year I was on the road playing those songs [from Violets as Camouflage] a lot, and I just needed to play some music that was not my own, that was not a constant reminder of my own life and my own story,” Bragg tells Billboard. “So I started looking for some songs that really brought me a sense of calm and joy outside of myself, and then I decided to lay ’em down.”
Save for Aaron Lee Tasjan’s “Don’t Walk Away,” which Bragg recorded in Atlanta with Drivin’ N Cryin’, she recorded the EP much as she did Violets as Camouflage: “Mostly at home and I brought in a couple players to fill it out and make it a little more lush.”
Bragg also took on Jackson Browne’s “Our Lady of the Well” and Stevie Nicks’ “Think About It,” while covering “You Got It” came from a fondness for Orbison’s original, which was co-written with Traveling Wilburys mates Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne and came out shortly after his death in December of 1988.
“I love the Orbison version, and I basically grew up on that kind of music,” Bragg says. “I think of it as folk-rock, which we call Americana now. But I wanted to give a bit more of a spotlight to the lyrics because it is a really lovely, sort of voluntarily sacrificial, romantic song about love. Even when you’re aware that perhaps you’re giving too much of yourself to someone, you’re still gonna do it because you love them so much.
“So I wanted to strip away the rock ‘n’ roll element of it to make it feel like love actually feels. I really felt connected to the song in a way that was really delicate and almost painful.”
With Think About It dropping March 6, Bragg says she can envision recording more covers in the future, primarily as an antidote to the more rigorous recording of a full-scale album. “To be able to record music in such a way that is immediate and essentially costs me nothing is a really incredible gift,” she explains. She is, however, starting to write for her next album “pretty constantly,” though any guesses on what’s coming are a bit premature.
“I’m essentially writing every day this year with the idea that I’ll have the songs ready to do in a reasonable amount of time,” she reports. “But also I just want to get it right. I’ve got a bit of a life story to unpack from what’s happened in the last year, so there’s a lot of unpacking to do and creative mining to do. We shall see what that looks like once I have the songs that I’m ready to package and present.”
Listen to “You Got It” below.