hopes that her latest musical project will herald the beginning of a new era for herself and the theater
world as a whole.
The country singer, who is half of the Grammy-winning duo Sugarland, released “Always Like New,” a 10-song collection of songs from Broadway musicals
such as “My Fair Lady,” “Annie,” and “Dear Evan Hansen
,” last week. The album's centerpiece is a gender-swapped rendition of “It All Fades Away” from 2014's “The Bridges of Madison
County,” performed in duet with Brandi Carlile
The new version was praised by “Bridges of Madison County” composer Jason Robert Brown, who called it “the best possible birthday gift I could have gotten.” For Nettles, the opportunity to work
with Carlile, a six-time Grammy winner, on the song was “life-giving.”
“She’s one of the most important voices, not only in terms of her instrument, but in terms of her artistic voice as a writer
in our time right now in current music,” Nettles told Stardia in an interview
. “This piece is so emotional and so expansive, and I was thrilled when she said yes.”
Below, you can watch
Jennifer Nettles perform an exclusive rendition of "It All Fades Away."
should not be surprised by Nettles' foray into musical show tunes; the Georgia-born singer-songwriter has a lifelong love of theater and made her Broadway debut as Roxie Hart in the Tony-winning revival of "Chicago
" in 2015.
Interestingly, she and arranger-producer Alex Lacamoire finished recording “Always Like New” on March 12, 2020, the same day that all 41 Broadway theaters announced an indefinite closure to combat the spread of COVID-19
. By releasing the album 15 months later, she hopes the songs will help usher in the gradual reopening of theaters in New York
and across the country later this year.
“Broadway is classic Americana, so the closing became very symbolic of the seriousness of what was going on in the United States
and around the world,” Nettles explained. “We all waited with uncertainty as to the timing of the album, like, ‘When can we share this with the world? When will it be possible to go see a show again?’ And as we waited, it became clear that it should celebrate the time when we’re comin’.”
Nettles intends to tour in support of the release of "Always Like New," and she is also working on a musical based on the life of Giulia Tofana, who turned her makeup business
into a poison factory during the 17th century, catering primarily to women
seeking an escape from abusive marriages.
She is thought to have killed hundreds of men over the course of nearly 50 years before being apprehended and executed. She is described as history
's most prolific and lethal female poisoner.
As dark as Tofana's story is, if the show is successful, Nettles may have another "Sweeney Todd" or "Little Shop of Horrors" on her hands. "I'm always interested in what I call the hidden half of history," she said. "There were injustices happening for women since the beginning of time. I'm sure they didn't just stand idly by and accept it as their lot in life."
The singer-songwriter went on to call the project "a dream as a storyteller and as a performer," implying that she'll be eager to play Tofana if her musical is produced.
“Of course, I want it to be able to live its best life as the piece that it is,” she explained, “but I don't see myself passing up that opportunity.”