Home FeaturesInterviews Billy Currington on the influence Def Leppard had on his new album

Billy Currington on the influence Def Leppard had on his new album

by Mallory Arbour
Billy Currington

Billy Currington has spent more than a decade in the spotlight proving he’s truly a man of all seasons. The Georgia-native has twelve number one singles to his name, including the double-platinum hits People Are Crazy, Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right and most recent multi-week number one hits, It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To and Do I Make You Wanna. He also charted as a duet partner on Shania Twain’s single, Party For Two and later with Lionel Richie on Just For You.

Possessing one of the smoothest and most distinct voices in any genre of music, the 47-year-old is equally skilled at delivering upbeat summertime anthems as well as exploring the complexities of life and love with a poignant ballad. His gold-certified album, Summer Forever debuted at number 3 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and earned three Platinum-certified number one singles.

Without advance warning, now comes his recently-released ‘surprise’ seventh studio album, Intuition. Produced by Robert Persaud, with whom Currington co-wrote all twelve tracks, Intuition blends elements of pop, country, R&B and eighties synth-pop.

We caught up with the singer-songwriter to discuss recording a new album in the midst of a pandemic, music genres and the unusual influence English rock band, Def Leppard had on Intuition.


You recently released your seventh studio album, Intuition on August 6. Intuition follows your previous album, Summer Forever, released in June 2015. Apart your 2018-released single, Bring It On Over, which peaked at #29 on the Billboard Country Airplay charts, 2019’s Details and 2020’s Seaside, that’s six years or so between albums. Why did it take so long to bring out something new?  

I don’t really have that answer myself … it’s just, time flies so fast sometimes and then you look back and you keep hearing people say it’s been six years and it doesn’t seem like six years. It seems like a couple years, but I guess it’s been six. I have been working over the years writing songs and going in the studio with different producers. I just felt like I never found the right [person] to complete an entire album with, so I just kept moving and touring. Then I met this guy named Robert Persaud from London, England. And long story short, here we are with the twelve-song album that I co-wrote with him. We started working on this album in August of 2020 and we completed the album in December of 2020.

I guess by August 2020, the world was very much in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. Did being in lockdown or isolation for that long amount of time spark any kind of inspiration as well?

I guess. In some way, not knowing it played a part, but it was. While I had time off, I started going through songs I’ve written in the past and I ran across a song that Rob Persaud, who produced Intuition, had mixed for me and another writer out in LA. Rob didn’t write this particular song, but he’d mixed and produced a track on it. So, when I found out it was him, I got his number and asked if he would be interested in making some more music together in some way. So, I ended up going to Nashville, Tennessee, where he ended up living in 2020 and just started writing songs.

At first, I was just thinking maybe get a single out of it, but it was hard to stop writing with him. We got it down [to 12 songs] and decided to turn in an album. He became the only guy I wanted to write and work with for the rest of that time. And I’m so glad because I really loved the project, and I was excited to put it out.

Intuition blends elements of pop, country, R&B and eighties synth-pop – which, arguably, from the outset, could make the album feel and sound disconnected in some ways. Are there any overarching inspirations, stories or themes that connect the album as a whole?

Well, every song was written about somebody that I had an experience with in life that was recent – the breakup songs, the healing song, the moving on song, meeting someone new … all that was put into this project. There was so many conversations I had with Rob about my life, and, as we would talk, we would come up with titles, ideas, lyrics, melodies, whatever, and we laid down what we’d been getting from those conversations and they would quickly turn into another song.

At least in Australia, we’re heading towards a genderless society. Do you think we should consider a genreless music industry too?

I do … or head wherever you really want to head. We talked a lot about what people were gonna think, just like you said. We knew that the real hardcore “country only” [Billy Currington fans] were gonna be a little affected by it. But it really didn’t matter to me because I was making music I felt at the moment with someone new who wasn’t even from our country and who wasn’t even from the genre of music I’ve been involved in for so many years. So, when it was all put together, that was a given that we’re gonna have some people confused. But the thing is, we kept saying exactly what you said, like, this is just genreless. It’s just music. We just made music. We didn’t set out to do anything pop, rock or country, it is what it is so that’s how I presented it.

Did you know when you were writing and creating the songs with Rob that the album was going to have all these different sounds/be genreless or did that happen in the recording process?

It didn’t happen in any of the process really. All the music got made while we were writing it. We didn’t take it to a studio. The studio was a small extra bedroom in Rob’s house that he turned into his tiny six-by-six studio. It was very, very small [laughs]. He was the producer and all the instruments you hear is him. All the background voices, that’s all him. And so, we did everything as we wrote it. We didn’t do anything on an extra day, except the song Words, we took to an old church and put strings on it so that was the only side thing we did.

What was that situation experience like?

It was unique for me. It was different. All the past albums I made was all written, recorded as a demo, sent to the producer I worked with, re-recorded in a bigger studio, and then days and days and days afterwards different musicians would come in and put parts on it and different background vocals. That’s the way I always did it. So, this process was the total opposite … just two people on the whole album on everything … even the album cover Rob took that picture [laughs] and some other pictures that we plan on using. We felt like we were on an island, lost in this pandemic and didn’t know where anybody was, so we just figured to write some songs on this little island.

We would work for like five days. Then I’d go home for a couple weeks or so and then I’d come back and work about six-eight more days. We did it four different times. The only times we got together was those four different times. So, I would have known early on, like, this ain’t gonna work and I’d have never continued, but I was just in love with the whole situation. It was so fun. It’s really the best way I’ve ever made music. I really enjoyed it more than anything I’ve ever done.

When the world goes back to normal and you’re able to be in those big studio spaces with lots of different writers, producers, musicians and/or vocalists etc do you think you’ll go back to recording this traditional way or continue with the minimal approach?

Oh, yes, definitely [I will continue with the minimal approach]. I feel quite sure. We already actually have six songs that we didn’t get to put on the album. We only wanted to put 12 [tracks on Intuition] so we’re already six songs into the next project. I’m sure we’re gonna complete another album together.

Is there a specific reason why you only wanted to put 12 songs on this new record?

I guess so. I kind of look back over different albums I loved, and I love all the songs, and then albums that had 14-16 songs, there was just some [tracks] that weren’t good. I just started thinking 12 is a good number. I don’t know if you remember Hysteria, the Def Leppard massive album? They had 12 [tracks] on that, so I think about that, like, that was the perfect album. I was listening to that album when I was young, before I decided I was going to be a country singer. My dad played a lot of old records of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, but my Mum was playing Def Leppard, AC/DC, Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross, so I was lucky to be exposed to all types of music.

Do you listen to Hysteria by Def Leppard still to this day?

I still listen to it any chance I can.  


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