Outsider A-Side: Emily Nenni Makes Her Label Debut with New Album ‘On the Ranch’

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo credit: Alysse Gafkjen via New West Records)

Emily Nenni has been chasing her dream of being a country singer for years. Born and raised in California’s Bay Area, Emily left Columbia College to move to Nashville. At the time, she didn’t know a soul in Music City, but she knew that’s where she’d find the dream she was chasing. After years of hard work and dedication, the California native became a mainstay at storied venues like Robert’s Western World and Santa’s Pub.

Emily Nenni self-released her debut album Hell of a Woman in 2017. She followed that up with I Owe You Nothin’ a collaborative EP with Teddy & The Rough Riders. In 2020, she released her Long Game EP. The release’s title track helped to put her on the map. This Friday, Nenni is making her label debut with On the Ranch via Normaltown Records/New West Records.

Ahead of the big day, Emily Nenni sat down with Outsider to talk a little about making the new album and how it feels to reach this milestone in her career.

Emily Nenni on Making Her Label Debut

Emily Nenni: It feels really good. I’m still working a full-time job and that feels good, too. It kind of feels like it came out of nowhere, but it was a lot of years of very hard work. I’m really grateful for all the people who helped me and believed in me for years and played shows for little or no pay and recorded with me at home for little or no pay and just knew that we were making good music. It just feels really good. I’m so grateful to New West and Normaltown Records and George Fontaine for hearing my music and liking it. They’ve just been good to me ever since.

The Ranch Behind On the Ranch

Emily Nenni: I had been kind of back at the restaurant for a few months through the heat of COVID. Then, Mike Eli and I went out to a ranch in Colorado. Being there, we were really close to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. I was living in this wrangler house with these amazing women. One of them had recently been working in Tanzania, another gal had been working on a ranch in Australia. These were amazing women. Mike and I would wake up with these gals and watch them work. We’d sit on the front porch and see the sand dunes and hear the women working and watch them riding by. Seeing that was a nice calming kind of reset to be able to write again.

I think, with the COVID stuff, it was kind of hard to have a clear head to write at all. I didn’t do any writing for a while. But, being there kind of reset my brain.

I felt a little guilty for being so fortunate to be there and feel so safe where I was because we were very isolated. At the same time, more than anything, I was just grateful to be there.

Inspired By Icons

Emily Nenni: Dolly and Loretta are big influences. All throughout my early 20s, I was big on Loretta and Kitty Wells. I definitely grew up listening to a lot of Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, and Tanya Tucker. Mainly, Dolly. I love her songwriting, I love her voice, I really love the way she does everything. I really admire her. She does everything with kindness and she seems so smart and compassionate. She’s a good songwriter and her voice is really one-of-a-kind.

Emily Nenni on Covering ABBA’s “Does Your Mother Know”

Emily Nenni: I love ABBA, I love disco, and Dolly did some disco. But, I heard that song and I don’t remember if I was sitting with Jack Quiggins from Teddy & The Rough Riders or Mike Eli, I remember sitting there and just going, “I could hear Waylon [Jennings] doing this in the 80s.” He has those songs that are just like “You love me, but I’m gonna break your heart,” it’s just kind of Waylon being Waylon.

Hearing the song, I just thought there could have been an outlaw cover. Which, I don’t think it turned into a Waylon recording. We still kept it pretty disco-y and poppy. I love that song and I had so much fun singing all of the harmonies on it.

It was the last night of recording and we were all just so tired but I just said, “How high can I get with my harmony?”