During Brett Eldredge’s extended break from social media and the spotlight, the singer says he began a journey of self-discovery that led him, one foot after another, to the process of creating his next album, Sunday Drive, out July 10.
“In the [shower glass] steam every day, I write, ‘Be bold.’ And then I put my handprint to remind myself to go out there and just show up,” he reflected during a virtual media roundtable earlier this week. “I’m just trying to show up, even if it scares me.”
On Friday, Eldredge showed up in a big way. As promised, he delivered his new single, “Gabrielle” — but he also dropped two additional tracks, and officially announced his forthcoming new project.
The singer explains that it was important to him to share multiple tracks off of Sunday Drive. The project is so diverse, he reasoned, that it would be difficult to get a sense of the album as a whole from just one song.
“The album is just very much a full body of work,” he pointed out. “I wanted to get out as much as I could at the very top, because if you get just one song, you’re not gonna get a feel of the whole record.”
The two instant grat tracks, “Crowd My Mind” and “Where the Heart Is,” represent vastly different sides of the project. Both talk about different elements of the “burnout” he went through after a decade of non-stop touring, amassing hits but never truly taking the time to look inward and learn who he was as an artist.
“‘Where the Heart Is,’ that’s very much the mission statement of the album,” Eldredge goes on to say. “[It speaks to] the search I went through of kind of finding who I was and trying to find the magic of music again, the magic of what it felt like when I first moved to town, a little bit.”
He points to the lyrics in the song: “Do you remember when you felt the summer? / Do you remember how you felt the rain down on your skin? / Where’d you lose your sense of wonder? / That firework going off in your head…”
“That line, that’s the whole mission of this album, to find that myself. And I have,” Eldredge reflects.
By contrast, “Crowd My Mind” takes listeners back to the California beach cottage where he holed up for weeks at a time to write the album, with only a flip phone, a pen and a pad of paper.
“It was a very lonely time in a sense, but also a time I needed to make myself feel something, really let that stuff come out — just for my personal self,” Eldredge explains. “Then it grew into my music, and I got home, and it was just fully on my mind…All the people that I carry with me through my life. There are certain people that just crowd your mind and you can’t let go of, no matter where you go.”
As for the single? Eldredge reveals that “Gabrielle” is so personal that it’s about a specific relationship.
“It is a real story,” he says. “You wish the other person well, within their life wherever they are, but you still look back and wonder…where they are now, and what could have been. What if, you know.
“I’m not saying whether or not the person’s actually named Gabrielle, but it is about a real situation in my life, absolutely,” the singer adds with a smile.
Fans will notice that the new batch of material is much more piano-forward than Eldredge’s past music, and Eldredge says that trend started with the single, which was the first song that he recorded for Sunday Drive.
“We used this upright piano that we found. The first song we recorded was ‘Gabrielle,’ and this piano was an old piano from my high school somewhere, or music school, back a hundred years ago,” he continues. “It just had this sound that became this thing [for the whole project.] This song has a message of hope, and also just letting things be what they are and being grateful for the relationship that you had, even if they aren’t there anymore. [It’s about] the bittersweetness of that, but also wishing the person well.”
The strength and perspective of that message, combined with its anthemic musical style, made it the perfect single to introduce listeners to Sunday Drive, he says.
“Along with the catchy nature of it, [it] feels kind of nostalgic. It feels like you’ve heard it, like it’s a part of you…I think it’s a good introduction to what this album holds,” the singer points out.
Sunday Drive may be the product of an intensely self-reflective period of Eldredge’s life, but he stresses that that doesn’t mean he’s done learning. “I still am kind of compartmentalizing and breaking it down to this day,” he argues.
“It’s not like I went on a mission and then I stopped and now it’s discontinued. It’s kind of my lifestyle change,” he says. “I changed everything, from the way the public eye would see me to how I connect with my friends and become a better friend and family member.”
Thus far, the singer says, the most important thing he’s learning is how to be comfortable opening up.
“The thing I learned the most is how I didn’t always love vulnerability,” Eldredge admits. “I’m kind of a shy guy, honestly. I feel like I have a knack for entertaining, and people would be used to seeing me with a phone in my face…And I got enjoyment out of that, but it was also very draining to the creative side of me.”
On a personal level, it was important to Eldredge to pull back from the spotlight in order to dig into the kind of musician and person he wanted to be. But the more he excavated the depths of his personality, the more he realized that his vulnerability could give him more creative power, and allow him to connect more deeply to his fans.
“I wanna lift people up, but I also want them to feel like it’s okay to to feel emotions: To be heartbroken, to be sad, to be frustrated, whatever…just being vulnerable, being able to say that in my music and be open with my friends is helping them out as well,” he muses. “The power to be vulnerable is everything. It’s something I still work on every day.”