Hailey Whitters – ‘I’m in Love’ EP review

It’s been a good 18 months for Hailey Whitters. Since she released her album, ‘Raised’ she won New Female Artist of the Year at the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards in May, where she performed her RIAA gold-certified hit single “Everything She Ain’t.” Billboard magazine recently named Whitters their July 2023 all-genre Chartbreaker, calling out the success and rise of breakout single ‘Everything She Ain’t’ which has spent 62 weeks on their Country Airplay chart now too. New EP ‘I’m in Love’ aims to continue that upward trajectory with an injection of new, upbeat, clever and reflective music, something that has become a bit of a Whitters trademark.

Whitters’ two previous releases were both tied together by binding concepts and narratives and ‘I’m in Love’ is the same. “My last two LPs were concept records,” she says, “‘The Dream’ being about my Nashville experience, and ‘Raised’ was a love letter to the heartland I’m from. Both of these records are foundational to who I am.” ‘I’m in Love’ is a more personal affair, clearly inspired by her recent marriage to producer, Jake Gear. The songs on the EP come straight from the heart and deal directly with love: the finding of it and the celebrating of the new phase that Whitters is in. Oh, and ‘Everything She Ain’t’ is also tagged on the end of the EP too. The success of which has been great for Whitters’ career and profile but the longevity of it on the charts has kind of cock-blocked all the other songs on her ‘Raised’ album from having their time in the sun – let’s hope it doesn’t happen to the songs on ‘I’m in Love’ as well because there are a couple of absolute monster radio songs on this EP that deserve wider acclaim.

Across the five songs on offer here that aren’t ‘Everything She Ain’t’ there is an innocent yet empowering celebration of honeymoon love. You can almost taste the joy and the optimism that runs through the EP. Opener ‘Tie’r Down’ has a slightly more polished sound and very ‘The Chicks-esque’ vibe. It’s a timely release, in light of the messages deployed by the recent release of the Barbie movie, as it deals with issues of empowerment and confidence. There’s an infectious feel to this song which would make it a serious contender for a single release. Whitters employs fiddles and electric guitars to great effect here on a song that manages to capture the spirit of a very spirited woman. ‘She’s got a baby face,’ Whitters sings, ‘but she’s steel-toe strong……if you don’t love her at her worst, then you don’t get her at her best.’

Elsewhere the likes of ‘Bad Love’ and the title track keep that personal feel going whilst channeling a confidence and joy that is infectious to listen to. The former, co-written by the power team of Hillary Lindsay and Jimmy Robbins, is all Taylor Swift ‘Red’ era feels on a Pop-leaning anthem that manages to channel the catchy vibes of a band like The B52s alongside Swift with a niggly guitar line and sucker-punch-to-the-head chorus. Whitters expresses gratitude for getting past all the bad loves in her life that have enabled her to reach the point that she is at now. It’s an original and unique song that breaks new ground with its timeless qualities. ‘I’m in Love’, meanwhile, benefits from the deft hand of powerhouse writer Nicole Galyon. Think Trisha Yearwood dueting with Natalie Maines for a touchstone here on this catchy, rural anthem with serious 90s overtones. ‘He’s in Levis, I’m in love,’ Whitters declares on this simple, innocent song which is both refreshingly effective and yet still very much empowered and female-first in style and tone.

That clean, 90s, fiddle driven sound that The Chicks utilised so well can also be found on ‘Countryside Chick’ which is all laid-back vibes and ‘Wide Open Spaces’ production values. It’s another song about love, but also another song about the strength and confidence that comes from being in a valued relationship. ‘I’m a little more hold on tight for the rest of your life, not the rest of the night,’ Whitters declares, setting out her stall early doors and not settling for anything less than she deserves.

The EP is rounded out with ‘Mellencamp’, a song that is all mid-west, classic Americana chugging guitars and full of references to pink houses and people called Jack and Diane. If you liked songs like ‘College Town’ and ‘Middle America’ from Whitters’ previous album, ‘Raised’ then you’ll love ‘Mellencamp’. Whitters has a real knack for nailing classic rural 80s-leaning MOR and Americana just as much as she does for producing slick, clean sounding 90s Country and ‘Mellencamp’ is of the former category. It’s all about small towns, six packs and the wish that more men these days were more ‘Mellencamp’, set against the backdrop of insistent drums and chugging guitars.

‘I’m in Love’ picks up where ‘Raised’ left off as it continues to tell the story of Whitters’ life. This time we get newly married, deeply happy stories from a women very much in love. It’s a terrific mix of clean, innocent 90s Country with a sprinkle of mid-west Americana thrown in for good measure. Clever lyrics and engaging wordplay add to the style and impact of the songs on offer, leaving the listener satisfied with the journey once the EP is done. There’s plenty to choose for the radio and great additions to the live set via this EP too, meaning that it will provide a nice bridge between ‘Raised’ and whatever journey Whitters chooses to take us on for her next full length release. It’s been a while and not an easy journey for Hailey Whitters but she is very close to no longer being the best kept secret in Country music!

Credit: Pigasus / Songs & Daughters / Big Loud

Tracklist: 1. Tie-r Down 2. Countryside Chick 3. I’m in Love 4. Mellencamp 5. Bad Love 6. Everything She Ain’t Record Label: Pigasus / Big Loud / Sons & Daughters Release Date: July 28th Buy ‘I’m in Love’ now

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