Following the release of her critically-acclaimed Faulkner County, Nashville-based singer, songwriter, and storyteller Erin Enderlin has been writing and recording new music on her own terms. She has already released three songs off her new EP, Barroom Mirrors and the rest will be available on October 15th.
I often download music from the artists I cover. It’s kind of like a nice reminder to me of why I featured them. However, when I interviewed Erin Enderlin in 2019, I knew I had stumbled upon someone different and unique. Because in today’s country radio, well-written, traditional-sounding heartfelt music is hard to come by. Named after a county in her home state of Arkansas, Faulkner County was among the best music I had heard and I downloaded the record in its entirety.
Now two years later, we traditional country music enthusiasts are blessed with another soon-to-be critically-acclaimed masterpiece, Barroom Mirrors.
As is true with a lot of her songs, Erin Enderlin has a penchant for sad characters and plotlines. The storytelling is so vivid and believable, listening to her music is the equivalent of watching an Oscar-nominated movie. You are drawn in and even with the melancholy, you have to stay and listen until the end.
She explains, “I really love characters and I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that there are so many stories out there. I think that playing music is just has just reinforced that to me because playing shows all over the country and even the UK and Africa, you play music and people just start telling you their stories. You realize how everybody you see every day walking around has a story. That’s really interesting to me.”
Nevertheless, Enderlin admits that she has struggled with depression since she was a teenager. She states that one of her favorite books is called “Lincoln’s Melancholy” and in the book about our historic president, the people all around Lincoln just accepted that was the way he was.
“Back in the day [depression] didn’t have the stigma that it has today. That book showed how his melancholy made him connect with people in a different way,” she expounds.
So in much the same and possibly for the same reason, Enderlin can connect with her lyrics and melodies on a different level than the average artist because she thinks about things differently. She truly feels other peoples’ stories.
She confirms, “I am very responsible with my mental health and I make sure to take care of that.” And even though most of her songs are about whiskey and barrooms and broken hearts, she, herself, is very responsible and, for the most part, is just telling someone else’s story.
We joked that were so many country songs are about whiskey and she laughed that drinking whiskey and being sad is a “good analogy for a lot of things in life.”
When she writes songs about these characters she “gets a few minutes to walk around in their shoes and really try to see things from their point of view.”
No song is this more evident than in her ballad, “The Queen of Marina Del Rey,” Enderlin offers a cinematic tale of a wayward woman with a messy past, reminiscing fondly about her hard life in the glitzy yet feverish side of Los Angeles. “I was working ’til 4, at the old Troubadour / Pink sunglasses on, like a young Elton John, into cocaine and boys” she sings even nodding to Sir Elton’s early years.
She also gives a hat-tip to Rosanne Cash in the song which led to their friendship. Cash was so proud of the song that she sent her a copy of it to her friend, Elton John, which led to him having her on Enderlin on his podcast.
The song was inspired by a T-shirt Enderlin saw that said “I’d rather be somebody’s shot of whiskey than everybody’s cup of tea.
She states, “We all want to be loved and accepted for who we are without having to be like everyone else.”
With old-style lyrics like It’s a Blue Ribbon morning, after a black label night / I got kinda outta hand, cause I was wound up a little too tight / But Jesus still loves me even when I do the devil’s ways / I’m just a honky-tonk angel, with a little bit of hell to pay, she has the traditional country music lovers rejoicing.
The most heart-wrenching song on the album is the song, “If I’m Not in Hell” where the heroine is missing the one she loves. We aren’t sure if the person died or just left, but we hurt alongside her as she croons the lyrics Well I told God I’d be lost without you / So, He can’t be surprised I’m feeling this way / If it’s part of His plan, well it’s hard to tell cause / If I’m not in hell I’m headed that way.
On a more upbeat note, mentor and friend, Terri Clark joins Enderlin on the song “If There Weren’t So Many Damn Songs.” Written with pal, Kaya Ray, they knew that the track was the appropriate one to share with the Canadian Country music star.
“I’d been wanting to do something with Terri – she’s a big influence of mine and I’m proud to call her a friend,” Enderlin says. “And this song reminded me of a game she likes to play where she becomes a human jukebox, playing about any country artist you can imagine. It was so cool getting to record this with her. She’s been an influence on me for a long time.”
Roseanne Cash sings harmony on the beautiful song, “Cut Through Me.” The song is one big metaphor about those who have helplessly fallen for a person that they would probably be better off without.
During the difficult pandemic when everything was shut down, Cash reached out to Enderlin via email and encouraged her and said, “Hey, I know things are hard right now but just keep believing in what you are doing and know that it’s important. Things will come back around.”
They kept in touch and eventually Enderlin asked her to be a part of this new project. She sent her a couple of songs, and Cash picked “Cut Through Me.” It will be Enderlin’s first single to Americana and Non-Commercial radio.
The title track to Barroom Mirrors is also about drinking and heartbreak as the protagonist laments that Barroom mirrors tell the truth even if you don’t want them to / You can look away but you can’t look through all the things you can’t undo / Baby I can see I ain’t over you.
When you listen to lyrics and sing along to the melodies of any of Enderlin’s songs, you see why Randy Travis called her “a country music angel.”
And even if traditional country music isn’t popular or played on regular terrestrial radio, Music Row magazine praises Enderlin as “an old-school traditionalist” and boasts her music is “a splash of clear, clean mountain water on the pancake makeup face of Music Row.”
The way I see it, Enderlin’s storytelling is as creative and clever as any Oscar-worthy film. I have dubbed her the Meryl Streep of country music as she draws in her listeners with her vivid character portrayals. For this reason, you should stream/download anything she offers. Out on October 15, Barroom Mirrors is no exception to this rule.
To celebrate the release of the EP, Barroom Mirrors, Enderlin will perform at 3rd and Lindsley on October 13 at 6:30 pm CT during their Wildheart Wednesdays series, featuring opening acts and frequent cowriters, Kayla Ray and Ben Chapman, followed by an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry on release day, October 15.