Nearly three years after Brittney Spencer first caught Nashville’s attention after posting a cover of The Highwomen’s “Crowded Table” on social media, Spencer is fully coming into her own with her debut full-length album My Stupid Life, out Friday (Jan. 19) on Elektra.
But that doesn’t mean she’s putting the spotlight solely on herself.
“This was a very collaborative record for me,” she tells Billboard, seated on a couch in the Nashville office of her management company, Activist Artists Management.
On My Stupid Life, Spencer welcomes several in her creative community who have championed her along the way. Jason Isbell lends guitar to “First Car Feeling” and “Reaching Out,” while Grace Potter, Maren Morris, Abbey Cone and Sarah Buxton offer up backing vocals on various tracks including “I Got Time,” “Deeper” and “If You Say So”.
In an industry where women artists are seemingly set against each other in a fight for scant radio airplay, Spencer’s new album feels like not only a conduit for her own thunderous artistry, but a celebration of likeminded friends, fellow artists and supporters.
“People always will try to pit somebody against someone else and compare, and all of that stuff is the thief of creativity — and so to be able to push back and be like, ‘No, that’s not my narrative, that’s not what’s happening…’ I just think it’s beautiful,” Spencer says.
My Stupid Life follows her two previous EPs, 2020’s Compassion and 2022’s If I Ever Get There: A Day at Blackbird Studio. Spencer, who recently signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell, co-wrote every song on the new album, each one unearthing a new layer in personality and perspective. “The Last Time” depicts hard-fought love lessons, while “Deeper” looks at the yin-and-yang of yearning for love while fearing heartbreak. Throughout is a periphery-expanding mix of pop, country, R&B and rock.
At a label exec’s suggestion, Spencer worked with producer Daniel Tashian (Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town) on most of the album, with additional production from Marcus “MarcLo” Lomax and Romil Hemnani. The album mixes newer and older compositions, including several Spencer crafted on writing trips in Los Angeles.
“I wanted it to be a lot more personal [than the two previous EPs],” Spencer says. “I wanted to put more of my stories and myself, which is challenging for me to do, because I’m not a person who naturally likes to take up space like that. I find so much value in people and in stories. With this album, I wanted to put more of myself and my feelings into it, which is something I’m becoming more comfortable doing. I’m excited for this new chapter, and nervous, and all the things.”
On “New to This Town,” she sketches a journey familiar to many Nashville singer-songwriters, recalling the early days in Music City of songwriters rounds, industry events, networking and honing a craft.
“You move to a new city for your career, and it takes time to find your people,” she says. “If I could go back, I would tell myself to use that time to find more of myself. If you’re not finding your people, at least find yourself.”
The Baltimore native moved to Nashville a decade ago, attending Middle Tennessee State University while busking on the streets of Music City. She grew up inspired by amultiplicity of sounds, from The Chicks and Faith Hill to Aretha Franklin and Alanis Morrisette. After uploading that cover of “Crowded Table,” The Highwomen members Morris and Amanda Shires not only shared her cover but invited Spencer to open shows for them on tour and to join them on their writing sessions.
The past three years have been marked by many high-profile looks. At the 2021 Country Music Association Awards, Spencer joined Mickey Guyton and Madeline Edwards to perform Guyton’s “Love My Hair.” In 2022, she earned a CMT Music Awards nomination for CMT digital-first performance of the year and an Americana Honors & Awards nomination for emerging artist of the year. She’s been a member of The Highwomen and performed with or opened shows for Bruce Springsteen, Bob Weir, Reba McEntire and Isbell. She sang on albums including Isbell’s Georgia Blue, Shires’ Take It Like a Man, and, as part of The Highwomen, recorded on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way: The Tenth Anniversary project. She was also featured in the Amazon Music documentary For Love and Country, which examined race and country music.
In November, Spencer andGuyton backed Morris on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
“That meant the world to me,” Spencer says. “I’ve even explained this to Maren, like, ‘You’re so much further along in your career. You’ve been such a huge support and help to me. I never thought that I’d get to be able to offer any of that.’ It felt like such a rare opportunity where I was like, ‘Wow, I get to be there for you right now.’ She’s been there for me countless times. And I adore Mickey. There is no me here without Mickey and Maren. There just isn’t. There have been specific decisions that I’ve made because of conversations I’ve had with Amanda, Jason Isbell, Mickey, Maren. They have been so helpful — I’ve not had to just guess at the road ahead. I’ve had people around me who have open-heartedly and open-handedly poured into me and cared about me.”
If “New to This Town” recalls a time when Spencer was still finding her way in Music City, “Night In,” written with Jessica Cayne and Summer Overstreet, feels like a joyous, if low-key, ode to friendship. Spencer trades a night out on the town for an evening in pajamas, with good tunes and best friends. Cone, Morris, Guyton and Fancy Hagood join Spencer for a spoken-word intro.
“I hit up everybody and I was like, ‘I want to do this little sketch in the beginning of this song that I’m doing. Would you be down?’ It was so much fun and it was natural. I think it was Abbey and Maren’s first time meeting. Everybody else had known each other already, and so it was really sweet. It was just easy. For that particular moment, I wanted this album to have personality, a certain element that showed who I am as a person.”
The album’s first release, “Bigger Than the Song,” which Spencer wrote with Tofer Brown and Runaway June’s Jennifer Wayne, honors the connection that is passed down as one generation of female artists imprints on the next generation through song. Lessons — both life and musical — are soaked in, pondered and refined. Spencer nods to those whose music has influenced her in a myriad of ways, including: McEntire, Franklin, Morrissette, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Morris and Beyonce.
Elsewhere, she describes “I Got Time,” written with Cayne, Nate Campany and Emily Reid, as a throbbing “disco hoedown,” while she turns contemplative and introspective on the solo write “If You Say So,” which was partly inspired by her parents’ marriage and divorce.
“I was trying to put myself in my parents’ shoes,” she says. “They got married when they were young. I think they were both still teenagers and they ended up divorcing early on. I cannot imagine being married with two kids at my age; It feels so impossible in my head. I was just trying to imagine, ‘What does responsibility look like?’ I was also inspired because a lot of my friends get engaged after knowing someone for eight or nine months, and it’s wild for me to think about knowing a person a few months and knowing already that you want to spend your life with them.”
Looking ahead, Spencer, who is booked by UTA, will play Stagecoach later this year, but her aspirations aren’t limited to recording and performing.
“I definitely want to do movies. I want to act and do music for soundtracks,” Spencer says. “I already have folders in my phone with songs I’ve written that I think would go great with different kinds of movies. I want to be the face of beauty brands,” says Spencer, who has already been spotlighted in the Victoria’s Secret “Undefinable” campaign.
But currently, her focus is on further cementing her place in country music and beyond. “I’m exploring, but I do know where I am musically, and I know where I want to be and where I want to go.”
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