Skip Ewing’s Journey to Find Himself Ended in ‘Wyoming’ [Listen]
Singer-songwriter Skip Ewing found a new saddle in Wyoming, but didn't necessarily give up on making new music. The tunesmith has a new album coming later this month, and the title track — "Wyoming," heard first during this Taste of Country exclusive premiere — is what it sounds like when an industry veteran finds his voice again.
The colorful, sharply-written, wistful earworm finds Ewing leaving someone behind, but it's deeper than that. The ballad is what comes after you've allowed space between the leaving and the finding of that new thing that "nourishes your soul."
“For me," Ewing begins, sitting in his truck at the end of a long road that leads up to his Wyoming home, "I went through a time where I was exploring what moves me deeply. I think at some point along the way there's an unrest or at least a drive to look deeply at what you’re about. To listen deeply to who you’re becoming."
He's talking to Taste of Country on the phone from his truck because a freak September snowstorm knocked the power out up the hill. A weary traveler approaches just a few minutes into the conversation and Ewing patiently offers his neighbor help and advice before continuing.
"It sometimes happens that some people close to you, they don’t want to be on that path or they're not ready for that kind of path," he says. "So that’s something that happened and in some ways happens in my life. But I think it's a universal space in maturing as a person."
The late '80s hitmaker ("Burnin' a Hole in My Heart," "It's You Again") stops short of tying the song to family, ex-family or even any friends, and thus allows you to turn the words and emotions of the song around with a clear mind.
"And she asked me why, why / Wyoming / And I answered why, why, why / Why not / And I made her cry, cry, cry / By going / To Wyoming," he sings. Producer Kyle Lehning and a studio filled with inspired veteran musicians helped make sure that turn of phrase landed properly.
The cowboy state is an inspirational space for Ewing, a chart-topping songwriter across the last 30 years with hits for artists like Kenny Chesney, Diamond Rio and Collin Raye. The album at large isn't fairly described as a Wyoming country record, however — there are no mentions of bulls or boots, and the fiddle is tamed. Chris LeDoux may forever be the most well-known cowboy from this state, and Ewing isn't trying to challenge that across 12 stories that often reach for a pinch of regret to satisfy.
"Within that regret there's also a celebration of, 'Wow, look what I learned. Maybe I can be a better soul on the planet,'" Ewing says.
It's been two decades since he last released a record, and in moving west in 2013, the prospects seemed dim. He admits he put music down at times, and when he'd pick up a guitar, it'd just be for a self-expression. The 56-year-old was burnt out on Music Row songwriting, feeling he couldn't make a living writing songs that fulfilled him.
Spending time with horses taught him more about life and relationships than he ever thought imaginable, and he may argue the stables are as responsible for the Wyoming album (Sept. 25) as any human, save his very supportive wife and a producer he'd not talked to in 20 years before he took a chance on himself.
If You Think '80s Country Is Underrated You'll Know All of These Songs: