It's not every day you read about an artist soliciting her fans for secrets. But when folks found out that Nashville songstress Shelly Fraley wanted to use their deepest, darkest as fodder for lyrics, they complied.
About seventy of Fraley's listeners submitted their secrets, and with them, she created her newest album Hush. It's comprised of ten tracks, filled with whimsy, love, loss, and an assortment of emotions that are as universally relatable as they are unique to each person's experiences.
We spoke to her about the whole process of turning tales of witches and those of loss into songs.
New Times: So the tracks from your latest album, Hush, were inspired by anonymous fan secrets which were emailed to you?
Shelly Fraley: Yeah. I had a form up on my site where people could submit secrets that way.
This was intentional then? You solicited them?
Yeah. I just decided I kind of wanted to do something a little bit different, so I decided to do more of a concept record and that was the idea.
How did you decide that this was something you wanted to do so you could then make an album out of the material?
I had done a co-write with a guy in Nashville, and I was having a hard time coming up with a concept for a song, so I randomly threw out this idea which was a secret that I had read in The Book of Secrets earlier that week just so we would have something to write about, and we ended up writing the single off the album, which is "Just Don't Wanna Be Alone," based on that idea.
After that, I just kept thinking that would be really cool to have some more ideas that were inspired by something more than just my own life or things I had seen on a personal level. I decided to put the form up on the site and start promoting the idea, and I ended up getting quite a few secrets from people. Maybe sixty to seventy, something like that.
That's a lot to choose from.
Yeah, a lot of them were pretty similar ideas. Some of the songs were actually written about three or four secrets.
So was this a way for you to engage more closely with your fans and to get them more involved in what you do?
It was a way to engage with the fans, but also you can only write so many songs about the things you've experienced, and I just kind of wanted to get outside of my box a little bit and write about some other things. So that was a good way to get some inspiration from some other people, and I could relate to a lot of the secrets at the same time.
Were you looking for anything in particular with the secrets? Or did you just pick and choose and then try to form songs around the secrets?
Well I think with some of them, they were secrets I related to, and it was easier to write about them. But then there were others, like one of the secrets was, "What if they found out we're witches?" And I really liked that idea, because it was something totally different. I would never have dreamed of writing about being a witch, so I thought it would be a fun song to write. I tried to pick secrets that were kind of outside of what I would normally write about, but then I picked a few I could relate to and so they were a little more heartfelt.
Do the people whose secrets were used in the different songs know that their secrets were used?
It was all anonymous, so there would be no way for me to communicate with them, but I did post the secrets [that were used] on my website after the album was released, and they're also in the liner notes, so people definitely know if their secret was used or not.
"All That I Wanted" was a secret?
There were quite a few secrets behind that one, actually, but it was basically about lost love, and I can relate to that, so it came as much from a personal place as it did from somebody's secret. I wish I could remember verbatim what the secrets were which inspired that one, but there were quite a few about losing people that they loved.