Skinny Dippin’ With Whitney Duncan

Ken Morton, Jr. | October 27th, 2009

whitney-duncan-interview

Whitney Duncan didn’t say “I want to be a country music singer” with her very first words, but she might as well have. With a passion that belied her age, Whitney sang at school events, including multiple elementary and middle school graduations as well as finished as a medalist at a talent competition at Loretta Lynn’s ranch.

Country music was always her first love. She begged to go to the famed Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in downtown Nashville and managed to get up on stage and play when she was barely a teenager. She began traveling to and from Nashville from her home in Scotts Hill, Tennessee, in high school, writing with some of Nashville’s best writers. By her senior year, she had landed a record deal. Almost immediately, Duncan landed a duet with country legend Kenny Rogers, but the first big record release still eluded her. In the meantime, she’d write and co-write cuts for Lee Ann Womack, Katie Arminger and Crystal Shawanda.

In 2007, Duncan participated in the USA Network show Nashville Star, and self-released her debut album. After placing on Nashville Star, she signed to Warner Bros. Records Nashville and the life of the recording star started in motion. Her first solo single, “When I Said I Would” tasted the charts at #48 but it is her third single, “Skinny Dippin’,” that is making its mark. It is in the Top 20 on the Music Row charts and just entered the Billboard Top 50. Meanwhile, the sexy video for the latest single has been a staple across the country music video stations.

KEN MORTON, JR.: Have you been given the key to the city from the mayor of Scotts Hill yet?

whitney-duncan-interview-02WHITNEY DUNCAN: I was. It was awesome. A few years ago, they did that. They had a little parade in town. This town has the nicest people and the coolest people ever.

KMJ: I understand it was your grandfather that introduced you to country music. Tell me about that influence.

WD: I could always hear him singing around the house, and he had such a great voice. But he would never perform in front of other people or anything. And he was always such a big fan of country music. He definitely introduced me to it–and Elvis. I would go to my grandparents’ house on the weekends a lot and I was a total Granddaddy’s girl. I would go and we would watch Elvis performances, movies and everything. I was obsessed with Elvis from age four. We would also constantly watch the Jerry Lee Lewis movie Great Balls Of Fire. Oh my gosh. We would watch that movie every single weekend. As a little girl, I could say the words to the movie before they came out of the actor’s mouths. When I found out that Dennis Quaid was not Jerry Lee Lewis, I think I cried.

When I finally saw the real Jerry Lee Lewis, I said, “That’s not Jerry Lee Lewis!” I had in my mind that Dennis Quaid was Jerry Lee Lewis. I was pretty heartbroken. Not to say that Jerry Lee Lewis isn’t good-looking or anything, but he is no Dennis Quaid. I would say that Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis–both of them–made me want to sing. My parents never played or anything but they both loved music and we always had it around the house and playing in the car. My dad didn’t like country too much. He would listen to the Rolling Stones, John Cougar Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton and all that stuff. My mom would listen to nothing but country. There would always be that battle. And of course, my mom always won. She loved Tanya Tucker, Tammy Wynette, Travis Tritt, Don Williams and all that stuff. I had a lot of different influences growing up in music.

KMJ: And just how early were you performing at the famed Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge?

WD: Too young! When I wanted to go somewhere, my parents were the best. I could talk them into anything. I always wanted to go Tootsies. And during the day, there’s lots of tourists and stuff in there. So I got to go up and play with the house band. I did “Stand By Your Man.” But I had to get out of there when it started to get dark and they started to serve alcohol. I think I was 10, 11 or 12.

KMJ: Most acts get complimentary beer–for you it was Roy Rogers and Shirley Temples.

WD: Exactly! Looking back, that was fun.

KMJ: Your current single “Skinny Dippin’” has sold an impressive 50,000 digital downloads partly due to a pretty racy music video that just about every warm-blooded male found appealing. Any hesitations in that video shoot?

WD: We got a lot of treatment ideas for that video. I was very picky on what I would do and what I wouldn’t do. The song is such a visual song in itself. It had to line up with the song and even make the song better. I really think this treatment did that. It kept it young and flirty and fun. And even funny in some places. Instead of…well lets just say that a lot of the ideas we got were over the top. When we were agreeing to do this, I was saying, “I won’t do that. I will not do that. I certainly won’t do that.” It was hard. And I thought they pulled it off great. I don’t think it’s too racy of a video for sure. When I sent it to my parents, that was my test. If it went too far, they wouldn’t have liked it. Because they’re the most conservative people you’ve even known. When I sent it to them, Mom loved it and thought it was beautiful. I was good to go. If Mom and Dad approve, then we’re good.

KMJ: Your first singles have flirted with the big charts thus far, and your most recent single seems to making a dent. Any sense on why the first couple of singles haven’t made a bigger splash at radio yet?

WD: In places where they’re playing it in daytime hours, it is connecting. That’s what’s so awesome. It’s selling like crazy. On the Music Row charts, it’s up to number 17. Stations that are playing it are getting a reaction from their audiences. On stations that don’t play it, you can’t get a reaction from something you can’t hear. It’s really hard as a new artist. You have stations that will only play a certain amount of songs. And they don’t necessarily always want to take a chance on a new artist. That makes it really difficult. It’s sad that it is that hard. It’s hard for that new artist to get a song played these days. When it’s played, it gets a reaction, though. And that’s really all you can ask for.

KMJ: What can we can we expect on your upcoming album, “Right Road Now?”

WD: I co-wrote the whole thing and I’m most excited about that. It’s a wide variety. “Skinny Dippin’” is the fun side of me but there are many other songs that are deep and dark and I like that too. It’s a big variety of stuff from fun, happy and up-tempo to the other side. There’s something for everyone. I was very picky with songs–I always have been. These are my favorites.

KMJ: Has Warner Brothers set a release date yet?

WD: All I know is early in 2010. It’s been changed so many times, it’s ridiculous. When they get a date, they’ll tell me and that’s when I’ll get excited.

KMJ: How frustrating is it for the artist to be in that record label “holding pattern?” It seems a bit like purgatory from the outside looking in.

WD: I don’t focus on that part too much. I totally understand what they’re doing and it makes complete sense. You want to put out a record when you have the most audience. That part makes sense to me. Until you get that, there’s no real reason to put it out. People can get a taste of it on i-Tunes. You can even buy the digital EP that will hopefully hold you over until the record comes out. Granted, no one will be happier than me the day it comes out. For sure. You put your heart and soul into something like this for so long, you want to get it out for the fans. Ultimately, that’s the whole point of music.

KMJ: You performed at the Grand Ole Opry for the first time this month–how was that experience?

WD: I am not one to get nervous. I never get nervous. But when I walked on that stage, I thought I was going to vomit. I was so nervous. I wasn’t even nervous before. Walking into my dressing room was a really cool moment. When I stood on the side of the stage, John Conlee was introducing me. And I love him and his voice. I always have. That’s really cool. When I walked out there, it hit me like a ton of bricks. This is the Opry. It was a really cool moment.

KMJ: Any special behind-the-scenes moments for you?

WD: I got to take my picture with Little Jimmy Dickens! That was so cool. He’s such a nice guy. I also got my picture taken with John Conlee. All my parents got to come backstage. As special as this was for me it was more special for my grandparents. The Grand Ole Opry is the be-all end-all for them. They used to come up to my house every Saturday and we would all watch the Grand Ole Opry together. This, for them, was like the fact that I had finally made it. He’s always told me I would have made it when I get invited to play on the Grand Ole Opry. My Granddaddy never goes anywhere, but you bet he came to the Grand Ole Opry that night.

KMJ: You’ve written cuts for other artists like Lee Ann Womack, Katie Armiger and Crystal Shawanda–any other songs out there on hold or being cut by other artist?

WD: Yes! I got a LeAnn Rimes cut. It’s a beautiful song and I was upset at first when it didn’t get to make my record. But it’s a big ballad and gorgeous and I can’t wait for you all to hear it.

KMJ: When a singer/songwriter has a song cut by another artist, is there as much pride on that song as if you cut it yourself?

WD: I think probably even more so. I’m really hard on my songs. But when someone else cuts it, they’re saying they love it to. They love it enough to want to cut it themselves.

KMJ: What is country music to Whitney Duncan?

WD: It’s definitely my life. From an early age, I’ve never wanted to do anything else. And I’ve never doubted it for a minute. There have been times in which I’ve asked if I’d ever get my chance or shot. I’ve kept with it and I love it. I don’t know what I would do without it. There’s really nothing else I’d rather do.

To learn more about Whitney Duncan, visit her official website.

4 Pings

  1. [...] (more…) [...]
  2. [...] With the recent release of her digital EP (Right Road Now) and a 2010 album on the horizon, Warner Bros. up-and-comer Whitney Duncan’s future is looking at bright as her buoyant personality. The 9513 has teamed up with Whitney and her team to help celebrate the release of the singer’s current single “Skinny Dippin’” by offering an awesome prize pack valued at approximately $100. “Country music was always her first love. She begged to go to the famed Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in downtown Nashville and managed to get up on stage and play when she was barely a teenager. She began traveling to and from Nashville from her home in Scotts Hill, Tennessee, in high school, writing with some of Nashville’s best writers. By her senior year, she had landed a record deal. Almost immediately, Duncan landed a duet with country legend Kenny Rogers, but the first big record release still eluded her. In the meantime, she’d write and co-write cuts for Lee Ann Womack, Katie Arminger and Crystal Shawanda.” (Read The 9513’s exclusive interview with Whitney.) [...]
  3. [...] With the recent release of her digital EP (Right Road Now) and a 2010 album on the horizon, Warner Bros. up-and-comer Whitney Duncan’s future is looking at bright as her buoyant personality. The 9513 has teamed up with Whitney and her team to help celebrate the release of the singer’s current single “Skinny Dippin’” by offering an awesome prize pack valued at approximately 0. “Country music was always her first love. She begged to go to the famed Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in downtown Nashville and managed to get up on stage and play when she was barely a teenager. She began traveling to and from Nashville from her home in Scotts Hill, Tennessee, in high school, writing with some of Nashville’s best writers. By her senior year, she had landed a record deal. Almost immediately, Duncan landed a duet with country legend Kenny Rogers, but the first big record release still eluded her. In the meantime, she’d write and co-write cuts for Lee Ann Womack, Katie Arminger and Crystal Shawanda.” (Read The 9513’s exclusive interview with Whitney.) [...]
  4. [...] Amy Dalley Ashley Monroe Barbara Mandrell Big Kenny Billy Ray Cyrus Bryan White Caitlin & Will Charlie Daniels Charlie Louvin Collin Raye Corb Lund Darryl Worley David Lee Murphy David Nail Dolly Parton Eddie Montgomery Eric Church Gene Watson George Ducas George Jones Gloriana Guy Clark Jack Ingram Jamie O’Neal Jed Hilly (Americana Music Association) Jeff Hanna (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) Joe Diffie Joe Nichols John Rich Johnny Van Zant (Lynyrd Skynyrd) Julianne Hough Katie Cook Larry Lon Wilson Larry T (Kix Country’s Down Home Cookin’) Love and Theft Marty Roe (Diamond Rio) Minnie Murphy One Flew South Picking Violets Patty Loveless Phil Vassar Radney Foster Randy Kohrs Raul Malo Richard Sterban (Oak Ridge Boys) Richard Young (Kentucky Headhunters) Rodney Atkins Ronnie Milsap Rosanne Cash Ryan Shupe (Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband) Sherrie Austin Sons of Bill Steve Azar Tammy Cochran Tracy Lawrence Wade Hayes Whitney Duncan [...]
  1. Rick
    October 27, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Why is it male bloggers seem to find Whitney so much more interesting than the gals? Hmmm…(lol)

    I listened to Whitney’s recent Opry debut and have seen her live, as well as watching her on Nashville Star. Whitney is a good songwriter but her voice just isn’t up to the current pop-diva standards necessary for the Top 40 “Young Country” scene (Taylor Swift is an pop-culture anomaly). Whitney has both pitch and breath control issues that Top 40 country radio won’t tolerate. Whitney should concentrate on her songwriting and perform on the side in small clubs as I don’t see her breaking through the radio barrier these days as she lacks a pop culture hook. Hey, its a tough business…

  2. Rick
    October 27, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Wow, the lack of interest in Whitney here is very telling! It makes me think of the question: “If Whitney fell out of a tree in the forest, would she make any noise when she landed if no one was around to hear it?” Hmmm….

  3. Stacey
    October 28, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    I don’t know that I agree with you, Rick. I saw Whitney at 12th & Porter in Nashville with Kingbilly & she blew me away.

    I think radio these days is wayyy more about having the right, catchy single more than anything. Whitney definitely has the star power in my opinion.

  4. Evan
    October 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I think Whitney’s a charmer with a great voice! She just needs to get the right push and she’ll do wonders.

    Great interview, Ken!

  5. Erica
    October 28, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    You need your ears checked, Rick. How’s that for a response? Her voice is actually TOO interesting for top 40. All the females on country radio sound alike. Whitney’s voice is very distinguishable. Her tone is amazing…kind of reminds me of Shania/Tanya Tucker. Just waiting for her to break through at radio. And I’m sure she will.

  6. jerri
    October 28, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    i think whitney is a wonderful artist. i believe she will start topping the charts before long. i really identify with her. she definitely deserves recognition. her voice is one of a kind, like reba, and dolly’s voices are one of a kind. i’m already a fan! i can’t wait to get her cd!!!!

  7. Donna
    October 28, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Whitney is a beautiful,talented artist whose career will blossom in the near future!

  8. darlene
    October 28, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Whitney is a refreshing new artist with a unique voice.

  9. Matt B.
    October 28, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Whitney is pitchy? That’s something that MOST singers are on any given night. It’s very, very rare to have a singer be on perfect pitch every night. Also, no singer on “Airhead Country radio” is played because of perfect pitch. If that were the case, Trisha Yearwood would still be a huge radio star.

  10. Jon
    October 28, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    “Perfect pitch” refers to something other than the ability to sing in tune. Just sayin’…

  11. Tanya
    October 29, 2009 at 10:06 am

    jeff seroogy SUCKS

    Whitney is awesome

  12. Bob
    October 29, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I LOVE HER! I saw her at the CMAfest this year (one of the Best shows I’ve seen and I watched everyone) I had no idea who she was, but my girlfriend wanted to go see her because she loves her song Skinny Dipping. 1st of all, Whitney is stunningly beatiful. 2nd, her voice does not look like it should be coming out of that body, it’s raspy & cool. 3rd, she performs better than artists that were on the big stage. Since then I have bought all of her music & I will continue to do so. Thanks for this wonderful interview. Sounds like she has a great personality and brains to go with the rest of the package.

  13. Tommy
    October 29, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    I’ve seen Whitney perform a couple of times and she puts on a GREAT show! I really love her voice! Rick, I agree with ERICA! I think that you really need to get your ears checked!

  14. kelli
    October 29, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    when is the skinny dippin cd coming out!!!!!

  15. will
    October 30, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I saw Whitney at 12th & Porter and she was FANtastic!! Oh btw, great interview.

Tagged In This Article

// // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // //

Current Discussion

  • luckyoldsun: If they're only allowed one modern inductee per year in the H-o-F, then there's a backlog developing. You have Skaggs, …
  • Leeann Ward: I'm not an ETC fan, but I do love "Brotherly Love" with Keith Whitley.
  • luckyoldsun: It's got to be "What I'd Say." (I think that's the title.) There was some question, I believe, over whether …
  • Paul W Dennis: probably "Nobody Falls Like A Fool" or "Silent Treatment"
  • Lynchie from Aberdeen: Where in heck's name is "That Was A Close One"?!?!? It's the guy's best song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrR_2rXiKA0
  • Cody: Love seeing ETC getting some credit! My five, in no particular order at first; Crowd Around the Corner Home So Fine I Have …
  • Juli Thanki: I think it's technically a Keith Whitley song, but I've always been fond of his duet with ETC, "Brotherly Love."
  • luckyoldsun: Lots of very good artists have not had anywhere near the radio play and hits that Lee Ann Womack has …
  • Hard Times: Just read Jewly Hight's feature on Womack. I couldn't believe Womack has had only a half dozen or so Top …
  • Barry Mazor: Leeann, Im not surprised about your sister's response--or that, for many, Garth Brooks now equals the ancient days of country …

Recently Reviewed Albums

  • deadmanstown
  • tom t hall storytellers
  • paulthorntooblessed
  • duhksbeyondtheblue
  • kelleymickwee
  • sandrarhodes
  • candi staton
  • sturgillsimpsonmetamodern