Being on TV’s Nashville didn’t influence what singer, songwriter and actress Alicia Witt wanted her next recording project to sound like. But it did impact on how she did it — and who Witt did it with.
For her upcoming EP 15,000 Days (out Aug. 24), whose track “Younger” is premiering exclusively below, Witt enlisted Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Tom Waits, Norah Jones, James Bay). “After I’d been on the show Nashville I knew I was feeling more and more at home in Nashville and was sure I wanted to record there again,” Witt, a Nashville season 4 vet who recorded the EP at Blackbird Studios, tells Billboard. “A friend of mine had the idea of reaching out to Jacquire, and I thought that would be an incredible case scenario that most likely wouldn’t happen — but of course it was worth a shot. The fact that he agreed to want to work with me is something I will always be astonished and overwhelmed by. It was just one of the most magical things that’s ever happened to me.”
Witt had “tons of songs I was wanting to record,” and had even worked with other producers on demos for the tracks. She presented King a folder with about 20 tunes in it, but the resulting five-song EP “was really a matter of time and the fact that we got incredibly lucky with him having a window of availability when I wasn’t working on anything (in acting) during that time. I think if there had been more time I might have tried to do a full album.” Nevertheless, working with King and the crack session band he assembled for 15,000 Days was an indelible experience.
“It was my first time recording live, where the band is all playing at the same time,” says Witt, who also played piano on all five tracks. “The energy of just jamming out with these incredible players all at once, then getting to sing along with those tracks and loops (King) had created ahead of time, it was really special. I felt like a rock star, I really did.”
“Younger,” Witt says, started “as a bit of a rambling poem about…someone that I know and how sometimes we can get so caught up in our own image and our own safety net and what we think we have to appear to be to the people around us, maybe we can’t be the version of ourselves that is the truest. It occurred to me that when we’re really young we know exactly who we are, and then we spend all those years trying to prove to the people around us that we are who we think we’re supposed to be. It takes another moment, sometimes, to get to a place of confidence and just a place of having learned the hard way that you don’t always gain anything by putting on a facade.”
Witt wrote younger with Catt Gravitt and Tofer Brown, in need of a melody to go with the poem. “Catt pulled out the notion that the song should be about what it became, this much more free and open sort of ode to having known everything once upon a time — less of a love song and more of a love song to who you were back then,” Witt recalls. “Now, when I hear it and sing it, I feel as though it’s me appealing to the younger version of whoever is out there listening, trying to connect us all back to that — and maybe trying to connect myself, too.”
Witt has a handful of shows lined up to support the EP — Aug. 28 in New York, Sept. 6 in Los Angeles and Sept. 9 in Nashville — and hopes to do more in the future. Acting is keeping her busy, however; Witt was recently in Prague working on a new Amazon TV series called Lore, and like a legion of fans she’s waiting to hear about whether David Lynch has more planned for Twin Peaks, in which she reprised her role as Gersten Hayward last year. “Just as a fan I’m really curious to know,” Witt says. “I got the sense that the intention was to just do that (Showtime) season as it was, and any talk about creating a season 4 was something that came up after that new season was so well-received. But I don’t think (another season) was ever a part of his grand scheme. I’ve always thought there’s an element of (Lynch) that lets the story tell itself. I don’t know that he knows what the story’s going to be until it happens, so…who knows what could happen next.”