Elle King Reveals Why Making a Country Album Is a Full-Circle Moment for Her

by Blake Ells
(Photo via Getty Images / Mat Hayward / Contributor)

Elle King dropped her first solo country single on Friday. “Try Jesus” is a fun song that was born out of a time in her life when she “was trying to give [her] life to something greater – and you can feel it.” A lot of people wondered what this country version of Elle King might sound like, and if “Try Jesus” is any indication of what’s to come, it’s going to be great. She spoke to People about why this record is a full-circle moment for her.

“I was given a talk, like, ‘They’re going to give you a chance, but why should they let you take up airplay if it’s a one-and-done?'” Elle King said of her crossover potential. “Because in country, you have to be a lifer. They’re like, ‘Okay. We really like this. You’re going to have to make a whole record.’ And I was like, ‘I just made a whole pop record. You guys, I can’t be writing. I can’t write a whole other record. I just wrote and recorded an entire record. So could I have a few months off to be a mom?'”

But the country music terrain wasn’t unfamiliar to Elle King, so she offered a compromise.

“‘They’re like, ‘You want to blow it or what?'” she said. “And I said, ‘I know country music. Send me the best songs in Nashville. Send me songs written for men; send me songs written for women.’ So they sent me songs. I recorded some.”

One Song Stood Out to Elle King and Changed Things

She wasn’t all the way in on the project until she heard one of the songs in particular.

“And then a song came to me called ‘Out Yonder,'” Elle King said. “And I said, ‘Who the [expletive] wrote that song?’ Turns out it’s a 22-year-old girl named Ella Langley, and then Bobby Hamrick and Matt McKinney. I said, ‘Get me in a room with them.’ [My label] put them on a tour bus for two days to follow me around. We wrote half the record together. Some songs made me cry. Some songs made me laugh my ass off.”

Elle King’s career kind of began in country.

“I didn’t even really remember or realize until this year that I got signed [to RCA] because of a country song on my first EP, ‘Good to Be a Man.’ I was just a girl playing a banjo. But I happened to be able to play any genre on that instrument. Everything is full-circle.”

Elle King burst onto the scene in 2015 with one of the most popular pop songs of the millennium, “Ex’s & Oh’s.” The track has more than 400 million streams on Spotify. But after collaborations with Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, she appears ready to fully embrace a new genre. She hasn’t changed her sound, really. She’s just found a new audience.