Iowa-born, Nashville-based country artist Hailey Whitters broke out in 2020 with her sophomore album The Dream, a colorful, ambitious record that introduced her as one of the genre’s more formidable songwriting talents. Raised picks up where that album left off, upping the ante on its predecessor’s vivid narratives and traditional country soundscape with a loosely conceptual, creatively structured collection of songs about home, family, and belonging. The title track is something of an origin story for Whitters, serving as a love letter to the place that made her who she is. “Our Grass Is Legal” and “Beer Tastes Better” play with country tropes like drinking and smoking, but reveal themselves to be multilayered stories with roots in Whitters’ family history. And the whole thing is bookended by the instrumentals “Ad Astra Per Alas Porci” (Latin for “to the stars on the wings of a pig”), lending the LP a cinematic vibe. “The music feels very Midwest, so I think the scenery is probably a little different,” Whitters tells Apple Music. “But I hope that everyone can find something that is universal or reminds them of where they came from.” Below, Whitters shares insight into several key tracks on Raised. “Ad Astra Per Alas Porci” “That is actually super influenced by John Steinbeck, who's a writer that I just absolutely adore. Back when I was putting out The Dream and I was fully independent, I named my record label Pigasus, and it was kind of a nod to Steinbeck. And it's also a nod to my roots, where I come from in Iowa, the Midwest. Iowa's the biggest pork producer in the country. So I grew up around a lot of pig farms, and it reminded me of my roots, and also the saying 'when pigs fly,' which was a little bit of the sentiment I was feeling when I was struggling in Nashville and couldn't get anything going.” “Raised” “That song is my first love song. I really have never had a love song, and that song took on a whole different life than I thought it would when I originally threw out the title to Nicolle [Gallyon] that day. I think it's sweet, vulnerable, and it feels like a little love song to not only the love interest, but also to the town that I came from. It felt representative of the whole record, I think, just because when we started to piece all these songs together, it felt like the concept: where I came from, my roots. I consider it a ‘thank you’ to the place that raised me. I'm so proud to be where I'm from. And I know I wouldn't be where I am today without it, and without the people that I grew up with.” “Big Family” “I come from a giant family—I'm one of six. My mom and my dad, both one of nine. My grandpa, one of 15. So I am very close to second and third cousins and we all still get together on holidays. Christmas Eve is always a big one. We all go over to my Aunt Tina's house and it's just loud and people are drinking and eating food. Everyone's welcome in the door, and we love pretty hard, pray hard, drink hard. I was sitting around the kitchen table once with some of my great-aunts and we were all just sharing a bottle of wine and they were talking about husbands and ex-husbands and boyfriends and the word of God, and that kind of inspired that song.” “Middle of America” “That song came from driving around western Iowa one day and seeing all of these signs that were up that were saying ‘Stop the airport, save the farms.’ I guess that was the first time I'd ever heard of eminent domain, where the state could just take someone's farm. It seemed absolutely crazy to me, because not only are farms such a direct source of the food supply, but it seemed wild to me that they could just take away a farm that's been in generations for forever. And so that was the little mustard seed that started that song.” “Pretty Boy” “I was thinking a lot about the boys that I grew up with. I grew up with three brothers, a bunch of boy cousins and uncles, really wild boys that turned into strong, tough, hard-working men. And I was just thinking about some of the ways in which the expectations we put on boys and men to be tough, to not cry—‘crying’s weak,’ ‘man up,’ things like that. I think that to expect that boys aren't supposed to cry or show emotion or anything like that, I think that can be a little destructive. So I wanted to write that song to speak to them and tell them that I actually feel like vulnerability is a strength and to let them know that it's okay and it's actually really cool to be yourself.” “Our Grass Is Legal” “My grandpa had a sod farm when I was growing up, going back to the ’70s, ’80s. My dad and my uncles all grew up working in the fields for him. He sold grass and he called himself ‘the Grass Man.’ And people from surrounding towns started calling him, asking for pot. They thought he was selling weed. So he made his business motto ‘Whitters Turf Farms: Our Grass Is Legal.’ And I just felt like that had to be in a song somewhere.” “Beer Tastes Better” “When I go home, I have the bar that I always go to. I was in one and I saw an old friend from high school that I hadn't seen forever, and it was kind of a trip to see her again. She was bartending. To see her again and to just think how much has changed, and also, at the same time, how so much hasn’t—that was the inspiration for that song. I absolutely love that song, because I think, on the surface level, you see that title and you think, ‘Okay, this sounds like a stereotypical cliché country song about beer,’ but it's a lot deeper than that to me. It's been 14 years since I've been home, and I've been all over, and beer still, to me, just tastes so much sweeter when I'm sitting at my hometown bar.” “In a Field Somewhere” “When I say I'm from Iowa, people kind of laugh and roll their eyes and say, ‘What's up there, corn?’ And there's a lot of corn. I grew up in a cornfield, and it's so much more than that to me. I learned how to drive in a field. I used to go out streaking, drinking with the boys from high school. We'd go cut through the cornfield and stay up all night. And I actually got engaged in a cornfield. So it felt really symbolic to me, just growing up and having all of my young life experiences in a field. And still to this day, whenever I go home, my holy place is to grab a bottle of wine and a lawn chair and go out back behind my parents' house to the cornfield and just sit and listen to music and relax and take it all in and think.”

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