- - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

On first listen, Becky Warren’s debut solo CD seems to be another heartfelt country record full of catchy tunes. But listen closer and you’ll realize a depth and breath not heard in the field of pop country. The album, “War Surplus,” is a concept album about the struggle of veterans and the people that love them.

Miss Warren knows firsthand, having watched her own husband’s battle with PTSD. That’s not to say the album is a downer; rather it balances message and music perfectly. Tracks like “Dive Bar Sweetheart,” “Stay Calm, Get Low” and “Call Me Sometime” are some of the best country songs of the year.

Miss Warren, who is sharing the bill with the Indigo Girls at Rams Head Live in Baltimore Thursday, discussed finding the balance between entertainment and seriousness.

Question: Was it hard to assimilate into the Nashville music scene?

Answer: No. It’s such a welcoming place, I guess because so many people are moving here. Creatively, it’s a great place to move to. People are eager to meet you and write with you. I love it.

Q: What is it about that town that leads to so many great collaborations?

A: The big industry in town is country music. Country hits are almost all co-written. There is a sense here that your fortune rises and falls with the fortunes of your friends. Some of it is self-interest.

There is a benefit to writing with a lot of people in the country music world. That sort of culture kind of rubs off on everyone.

Q: Is this your first ever record?

A: It’s my first solo record. I had a band called The Great Unknown. I did two albums with them. This time it’s just me.

Q: Any nervousness in doing it on your own?

A: Yeah. Definitely. [laughs] My band was really collaborative, especially in the studio. We all worked together to achieve the sound we got. This was a new thing for me. It went great because I worked with a producer (Jeremy Middleton) I have known for a really long time. So that helped.

Q: “War Surplus” is a concept album. Explain how you came up with the concept and what your connection to veterans is.

A: I had written one of the songs for the album. Then I went to a program for songwriters run by Johnny Mercer’s family. Half of the people there were writing for musical theater. I’ve never been around that before. I got really interested in how people from the musical theater world thought about character and story. That is where I got the idea to turn the one song I had written into a series of songs based on these two characters. It just went from there. It took a really long time to write this album. That was almost five years ago.

I got interested in veterans because I was married to one. In 2005 I got married to a guy in the 3rd Infantry Division. He was deployed to Iraq about a week after we were married. He was gone for a year. And he came home with PTSD.

It was really really tough. During that time I wasn’t really songwriting or performing at all. I was really focused on what was happening in our marriage. We ended up getting divorced, and that is sort of when I came back to music. My experiences got me interested in veterans and the human face of veterans.

Q: How did you find the balance between heavy subject matter and catchy hooks?

A: I didn’t want to make an album that would be like medicine — tough to take. It was important to me to do songs that were catchy and fun. I listened to a lot of sings that I loved that had done that. Even about veterans.

I know it’s a controversial song, but I love “Born in the U.S.A.” It’s about a veteran, but stadiums full of people sing it. Steve Earle has a song called “Home to Houston.” That is about a vet driving a truck in Iraq, but it’s a superfun rock song.

I knew it could be done. I wanted to make something people would want to listen to even if they weren’t interested in veterans. I didn’t want to just be talking to people who had an interest in this topic.

Q: How did your tour with the Indigo Girls come about?

A: I have played with them before, but it’s been a really long time. Amy Ray, one of the Indigo Girls, used to have a record label, and her label actually put out my band’s first album. We got to tour with them a little bit after that album came out. That was 11 years ago. It’s really a great opportunity for me to get to open for them again.

Q: What can people expect when thy come out to see you live?

A: I like rock ‘n’ roll music, and I’m bringing a full band. We’re gonna have a good time up there playing rock ‘n’ roll music.

In between songs, I’m gonna briefly tell the story of what’s happening between the two people in my songs. At each show I’m wearing a T-shirt that represents a different veteran. I’ll be talking about that too, and I’m looking forward to talking about the real people and what they went through.

Q: What has the reaction from veterans been to the album and shows?

A: It’s really gratifying. I get people of all eras, not just post-9/11. I’ve had Vietnam vets. Family members of vets come up to me after show and tell me that the songs touched on their experience. That’s been the best thing that has happened from this record. To have been through it myself and have people feel like I captured and shared an emotion with them has been awesome.

Becky Warren plays Rams Head Live in Baltimore Thursday. Tickets are $30 by going to AXS.com

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