You might not have heard Priscilla Renea’s name yet, but you’ve heard her music, whether you know it or not. In Tune Monthly profiled Renea in the (April 2017). Now the celebrated songwriter is stepping in front of the mic for her new song, “Family Tree,” which brings together all of her diverse influences in one very cutting-edge track, according to tasteofcountry.com.
Renea plays on her facility to write pop melodies for the song, which marries a deceptively simple melody to a track that combines straightforward acoustic strumming with soulful and even jazz tinges for a truly one-of-a-kind progressive country track.
“Family Tree” was inspired by a particularly hard time in Renea’s life when she was kicked out of her family’s home as a teenager and had to provide for her siblings.
“People seem to forget that a seed has to be planted in the cold, dark dirt, but when it grows, it turns its face toward the sun, and is even rooted and grounded by the very same soil that once covered it,” she tells us. “‘Family Tree’ is my testimony. It is the story of how I survived in the desert. I hope to inspire others to be strong through my openness. I hope people out there don’t think they are struggling alone. We’ve all been there!”
The singer-songwriter’s roots are in country music, going all the way back to her childhood in Jacksonville, Fla., where she wrote her first song when she was eight. She’s gone on to build an enormous career as a songwriter for artists including Selena Gomez, Mary J Blige, Madonna, Demi Lovato, Chris Brown, Fifth Harmony, Mariah Carey, Charlie Puth, Nick Jonas, Train and Kelly Clarkson. She also co-wrote “Somethin’ Bad” for Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, and Renea points to Rihanna’s “California King Bed” and Pitbull’s No. 1 hit “Timber” as other songs that draw from her roots in country, so when it came time for her to write for her latest solo project, those influences came naturally.
“So it’s funny that I’m now being myself and writing songs about my childhood and they naturally have this dark, swampy, country-western feel,” Renea says. “I didn’t do that on purpose. That’s just in me from growing up in the South.”
“Family Tree” is one of the focus tracks on Renea’s upcoming album, “Coloured”. She came to Nashville and stayed in “Somethin’ Bad” co-writer Brett James’ converted barn studio to work on the album, and she enlisted country music songwriting powerhouse Ashley Gorley to co-write with her on several tracks. A press release describes “Coloured” as a “fierce, political, and personal collection of stories that reckon with Priscilla’s childhood in rural Florida, sublime love, violent heartbreak and racial trauma.” The album’s provocative title is spelled that way deliberately as a message of inclusion, since it spells out “our” in the middle.
“It’s significant because at what other time in history would it have been possible to even have an album called “Coloured” and for someone like me to even put out a record independently and own it?” Renea says. “We’ve made so much progress, and I feel like we have to keep pushing, because if we don’t, ignorant people are going to keep teaching their kids to hate, and those people are going to keep growing up and being in positions of power and keep oppressing. So we have to keep growing and expanding against that. I’m focused on the freedom of being able to be who I am and be proud of it and be happy. So the next generation, they won’t see the word ‘coloured’ as negative. They’ll see it as a beautiful thing because somebody like me was bold enough to use it.”
“Coloured” is set for release on June 22, 2018.