When one experiences a breakup, wild emotions come out to play. Many victims of love ride out the storm, but singer-songwriter Terry Radigan turned it around to write, record and produce a no-holds-barred album. Refusing to be held down - either bottled up with pain or shoved into one genre - The Breakdown of a Breakup was released on Valentine's Day, and is a musical roller coaster of poignant, fiery reflections on experiences through love and loss. Playback talked to Radigan about her emotional yet resilient album, her inspiration and positivity, and the direction her career is taking.
What stood out at first listen of The Breakdown of a Breakup were the contrasting musical styles, from the rollicking swamp rock strains of "Mistake" to the bright, acoustic pop-country of "Not Giving Up on Love." What was the thought process behind this blend of sounds? Did you set out to write a genre-bending album, or is that just how the songs manifested themselves?
With other records I've done, you always have to be mindful of the genre. That was always a struggle for me when I was making records out of Nashville because I listen to so much music. The cool thing about this record was the instrumentation, the production. The only thing it had to do was suit the song - that was it. I loved the freedom of every song dictating what the arrangements and the production should be. It was so much fun…and liberating.
The inspiration for the album came from an extremely difficult, emotional situation in your life. Did you find it tough to open up in such a vulnerable, real way to the lyrics?I didn't write a lot of those songs thinking they'd be on a record. I just wrote them because I'm a songwriter and I wanted to be working, but that was what was foremost in my heart, especially the song "The Truth." That was a tough one because I had to admit things that I didn't necessarily want anybody to know that I felt, whether I felt them for five minutes or five months. But I did have that moment when I was writing where I would write a lyric and say, "That's not really it. If I'm going to write this, let me really write it."
The song "Emily" was written directly about the "other woman." Is it tough to have those emotions so close to you in a song, so present when you sing about them?
I was lying in bed one night; I couldn't sleep and I thought I would write this song to kind of pull out what was rolling around in my head and get it out. It just sort of happily fell into a song. But the woman's name really was Emily. And I had no desire to call her out, but that's one of the most singable names there is. And the joke that I would tell on the road before I would play it, and I had said this in Nashville was had her name been Margaret or Joan or something not particularly singable, I would've changed it. I would've changed it to Emily.
You have so much resolve in your songs. Though you lyrically take the audience through so many emotional ups and downs, you ultimately end your album with positivity. Do you think the songs are inspiration for your positivity, or is it the other way around?
You write something positive and then you sing it a bunch and you can't help but be affected by that. I wanted people to recognize that this is not a whiny record; this is not a "poor me" record. It's just the flash of the different emotions that'll come up. I didn't ever want to stay in the mindset of the song "Mistake," because I couldn't. It wouldn't be healthy and there's no forward movement there. I had showed up in Nashville right after my breakup and it was one of those great days of sitting with two of my favorite people and writing that song. And my gosh, I felt better. It was almost like writing a letter to myself
Speaking of Nashville, what do you like about being in Nashville? Do you find it a better music scene for you than your native New York?
There's no better boot camp if you're a songwriter or a performer, but especially a songwriter, than Nashville. Because, first of all, it has the tradition of the song, the lyrics and the story. I went there and learned how to make an idea small, as small as it can be - what's the one emotion, what's the one thing you're trying to convey?
You've written an album with such emotion and energy. Where do you think inspiration will take you next?
It's just dawning on me. A few people have said, "So what's next?" I'm like, "Wait, I have to do something else?" [laughs] There are talks about putting The Breakdown of a Breakup into a stage show. And it makes me excited and enthusiastic about anything I do. I'm also going to do more songwriting in Nashville. There are a couple of records I've produced that are just in the finishing stages of being mastered. I don't know what it looks like, but my arms are open and I'm just waiting for it, like everything, to sort of come from the clouds.