Four year ago, Coles Whalen moved out of her apartment and into a pickup truck with a camper. She says she decided if she was going to make anything work, she had to be on tour. She set up shows at Borders bookstores around the country, sold enough copies of her debut EP and merchandise to keep herself on the road, and raised enough money to record her first full-length, Gee Baby. Earlier this year, Whalen won Akon's HitLab showcase, and Akon acted as executive producer on her latest effort, The Whistle Stop Road Record. Whalen has also spent the last year in Nashville writing material for another album that she'll release next year with Akon and Keith Stegall, who's produced all of Alan Jackson's albums, sharing production duties. We spoke with Whalen, who's back in Denver but still has a room in Nashville, about that city and her new album.
Westword: Did Nashville seep into your songwriting while you were living there?
Coles Whalen: It did. I'm certainly not a country artist. Some of my songs are alternative country, at best, so I really didn't know how that was going to go over there. But there are so many different types of music coming out of Nashville right now that it worked out really well. Some of these old guys who have written a lot of country hits are great writers in all genres. So I ended up having a lot of success writing down there. I think the Whistle Stop Road Record is the most country-flavored of all the records I've ever put out. I'm really happy with it. I think it's high-energy. I think the songs are solid, and the band did a great job. I think you can hear a little bit of Nashville in there, but not any more than...it doesn't make me uncomfortable. It has a little bit of Nashville bite to it.
Is there any significance to the title of the album?
For me, there really is, because there was such a whirlwind of getting things together. That record was recorded in Nashville, in Denver, in Montreal, and we did some little fixes in stuff in between. It was mixed by a guy named Eric Schilling, who just did a Madonna DVD, and he's in Florida. So it's all over the country — all over the world, that record. I think that it was just kind of like we'd been working so hard with the band and playing so many shows and trying to get the live-show part of our career rolling that we just didn't have any choice but to do it that way. The title track is "Whistle Stop on the Train of Love," but this record was really about a whistle stop in every studio in every city of the United States before you get your record done. It's cool. You can tell when you listen to the record that there's energy in there, like we're out there and we're working, and we're still trying to get the music out, and I think that you can hear it if you listen to it.