'I'm not country, but I wish I was' is the overarching theme of the new single by Marie Johns in collaboration with songwriter Eric Michael Jones.
An earnest tale of a suburban mom who daydreams about the American lifestyle portrayed in country music, I'm Not Country features the opening lyric "I was born in England, lived here all my life" which surely resonates with Johns who was born and raised in Northern England.
"I was born in a small town called Darlington" says Johns, "I've been attracted to all genres of music from a very young age. As I grew up I became more and more attracted to Country music and artists."
Singing was mainly a hobby fo this 'ex-squaddie', a former driver in the army. After Jones heard her sing online he offered to produce a demo of I'm Not Country together. "I wrote the song with country music fans in mind" he says, "They don't ride horses and work on ranches, they drive Toyotas and work for insurance companies."
It's a beautiful and sincere country song which, according to one Nashville producer, "no self-respecting country artist will ever sing." They work so hard to maintain their image and just saying the words "I'm not country" would be anathema.
"I saw Marie doing covers of Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers on Youtube" says Jones, "hearing her sing The Gambler with her unmistakably British voice was like Annie Lennox covering Aretha… the juxtaposition is irresistible. I knew country music was gaining a following in the UK so the collaboration seemed right."
Having done many country covers, Marie was ready for an original. "It has an energy and meaningfulness and will reach a great audience. It blends musicianship with a long tradition in that genre and the creative imagination written in the lyrics was what drew me to sing it. I always like to aim high in life and become better by 'fiinding out who you are, and to do it on purpose' as Dolly Parton would say."