Tenille Arts “ To Be Honest” Album Review

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BY LESLEY HASTINGS

Released on May 3rd via Dreamcatcher ArtistsTenille Arts’ fourth studio album, the bold and brave “To Be Honest”, strikes me as her “coming of age album”,  seeing the multi-award winning Canadian reflecting on some difficult times over the past few years. She appears to have been taking stock of life and the lessons she’s learned to date, and pondering what really matters to her. Come on ladies, who doesn’t value those so called  “Call Me When You Get Home Friends” for example, one of my favourites among the fourteen tracks, twelve of which Tenille has writing credits on (see details below). 

Tenille herself describes the release as “the breakup album I didn’t know I was writing“ and don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely some tracks that totally fit that brief, “Something I Can Cry To”, “How Do You Sleep” and “Next Best Thing” included,  but it embraces so many more universally relatable topics and is much more than that to me as I’ve just insinuated.

One of the things I noticed and found interesting (does this make me nerdy? ) was that there’s  a number of different producers involved, so my thoughts are that these songs weren’t necessarily written with an album in mind but happened to fit together perfectly for this latest project ….. I guess that’s an interview question for the future should the opportunity arise.

However what IS consistent throughout is the quality of the writing (unsurprising when you look at those names, so many mainstays of the Nashville songwriting scene), the sympathetic arrangements and as always Tenille’s stunning vocals. She has a delicate and emotional way of delivering lyrics, there’s some beautiful inflections along the way and she lives and breathes meaning into each song. My type of a singer.

While fans will no doubt already be familiar with half of the tracks which were available ahead of release date (including the stunning duet with LeAnn Rimes “Jealous of Myself “ and the mainstream hit  “Last Time Last“ feat. Maddie & Tae) there’s plenty of brand new songs to explore and enjoy and it’s some of these which will be the focus of this review. 

Several of my personal favourites lie among these totally new songs in fact, including the album opener which is also the title track. Yes, “To Be Honest” immediately hit hard, a slow, measured waltz in which the frustration Tenille is feeling as she urges her partner to communicate their feelings in order to save their relationship is tangible. “ If we disagree we’ll be stronger, I promise … love ain’t supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be honest“. 

Further down the track listing, in total contrast to the opener and demonstrating Tenille’s versatility as an artist is “Call Me When You Get Home Friends” which I’ve already mentioned. It’s a great ode to long lasting, genuine friendships as opposed to those who come and go like “temporary tattoos“, such a clever analogy! It comes from the same team responsible for “Mama’s Eyes” (Tenille/ Trannie Anderson/ Alex Kline who also produced) which follows on the track list, already a stand out song for me when released as a single last year … yes, sometimes it takes the age and experience of an older person to “find silver linings and always see the bigger plan”. I love everything about this one, including the arrangement that builds beautifully from a simple piano accompaniment. 

There’s another pairing, both new tracks this time, which I particularly want to highlight, “Dying To Be Pretty“ and “Something I Can Cry To” which, like the  above mentioned two are written and produced by the same people.  This time the honours go to Tenille/ Jesse Fraser/ Jessi Jo Dillon, with Alex Kline again producing, and both are real stunners in my opinion.  The uptempo “DTBP” brings a real party vibe to the album but has a deep underlying message being a commentary on the unhealthy obsession with outward appearances that is so prevalent these days.  It’s just so shallow trying to be “the best in the worst way”, and comparing ourselves to others can of course be very damaging both mentally and physically. “Why are we dying to be pretty when we already are?” Tenille asks. 

“Something I Can Cry To“ has already been mentioned as one of the album’s break up songs, and it’s one I can definitely relate to …. why is it when we are down we choose to listen to sad songs instead of those which could lift our spirits? “Play one that goes with whiskey, hurts me when it hits me” Tenille implores the DJ, wanting to make “this whole room feel like my heart”. 

Her heartbreak continues on the following track, “How Do You Sleep”, my current favourite on the album if forced to choose and the final one I’ll single out in this review.  I mentioned earlier how much I love Tenille’s vocals, and the stripped back accompaniment here really exposes them with the undeniable pain and frustration (with a touch of vitriol) she feels coming across so perfectly. The fantastic lyrics are sure to hit a nerve with many of you I’m sure as she wonders if her ex is struggling to cope in the same way she is, telling them “this should hurt you too” . 

I hope you enjoy exploring this beautifully crafted collection of songs as much as I have done, and I’m very excited to hear at least some of them, I’m sure, performed live when Tenille returns to the UK later this year. 

I’ll leave the final words on “To Be Honest” to the Canadian, whose hope is that “when people listen they know that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes … and that there’s still so much happy and beautiful even in the hard times. I owe my fans something deeply real and I owe myself something deeply real” . You’ve definitely given us (and yourself I’m sure!) exactly that, Tenille, thank you.

Stream/ Download “ To Be Honest” here https://stem.ffm.to/tobehonest

“To Be Honest”  Track Listing

1. “To Be Honest” (Ross Copperman, Emily Weisband, James McNair, Tenille Arts, produced by Ross Copperman)

2. “So Do I” (King Henry, Demi Lovato, Sasha Sloan, Laura Veltz, produced by King Henry)

3. “Wonder Woman” (Alex Kline, Tenille Arts, Allison Veltz Cruz, produced by Alex Kline)

4. “Dying To Be Pretty”(Jesse Frasure, Jessi Jo Dillon, Tenille Arts, produced by Jesse Frasure)

5. “Something I Can Cry To”(Jesse Frasure, Jessi Jo Dillon, Tenille Arts, produced by Jesse Frasure)

6. How Do You Sleep”(Sasha Sloan, Henry Agincourt Allen, Tenille Arts, produced by King Henry)

7. “People Change” (Chris Lacorte, Emily Weisband, Tenille Arts, produced by Ross Copperman)

8. “Want Her Back” (Tenille Arts, Scott Stepakoff, Aaron Eshuis, produced by Ross Copperman)

9. “Next Best Thing” (Emily Weisband, Ross Copperman, Tenille Arts, produced by Ross Copperman)

10. “Call Me When You Get Home Friends” (Tenille Arts, Alex Kline, Trannie Anderson, produced by Alex Kline)

11. “Mama’s Eyes”(Tenille Arts, Alex Kline, Trannie Anderson, produced by Alex Kline)

12. “Summer Don’t Go”(Allison Veltz Cruz, Jordan Reynolds, Tenille Arts, produced by Ross Copperman)

13. “Jealous of Myself” (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Emily Weisband, Trevor Rosen, John Byron, produced by Nathan Chapman)

14. “Last Time Last” (feat. Maddie & Tae) (Tenille Arts, Alex Kline, Allison Veltz Cruz, Trannie Anderson, produced by Alex Kline)

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