Neo-traditional country newcomer Mae Estes has released her highly anticipated debut EP, Before the Record. Out today (Feb. 17), the aptly-titled six-song set includes one never-before-heard track, "Town Left Me."

Penned by Estes, Autumn McEntire and Paul Sikes, the poignant, semi-autobiographical tune chronicles Estes' struggle to grapple with how much her hometown has changed during her absence. It opens with sound samples of an empty street and a bus door opening, setting the musical stage for her heartfelt storytelling.

"The sun will go up, the sun will go down / They'll widen the road on 58 south / Out with the old breaking new ground / Ripping my roots and my heart right out / Every time that I come back, it's further from what it used to be / I know I'm the one that left this town, but it feels more like this town left me," a dispirited Estes sings in the tender chorus.

In contrast to most country songs that celebrate being at home, the Hope, Ark. native bemoans how foreign it now feels. She isn't livid or horrified but gripped by an almost-palpable heartbreak and sadness. Even if this doesn't wholly mirror Estes' reality, her masterful ability to emote melancholy convinces otherwise.

Production-wise, Sikes does a remarkable job at complementing her tear-soaked vocal delivery with long-time country instruments like mandolin, pedal steel, and acoustic guitar. In turn, this melodic marriage creates a stirring song that perfectly captures the contrast of both heartache and comfort that's found on home ground.

"This is my first project release, and will be my first time to print physical discs. I think that explains what this release is to me," Estes says of Before the Record. "I grew up listening to CDs front to back religiously. I bought into artists as a listener, rarely just single songs. I think I'm one of those artists whose perspective in general you buy into, or at least I hope to one day grow into that kind of artist."

"I think I see the world differently, and yet exactly the same as everyone around me, and feel I've been God-given the coolest ability to connect with strangers through stories," she continues. "No human has ever understood me the way music does and I hope that's evident in every one of these six songs. We covered cheatin', drinkin', smokin' and lovin', so there's sure to be something for everyone. Before the Record marks a very specific time in my journey and I'm so damn proud of it, but we're definitely just getting started."

In celebration of this release, Estes will take Behind the Record to the hallowed Grand Ole Opry stage for her long-awaited debut on March 4.

Fans can stream and purchase a copy of Estes' must-listen EP here.


Mae Estes, Before the Record Track List:
1. “I Quit Smokin’” (Brett Tyler, Mae Estes, Paul Sikes)
2. “Run” (Mae Estes, Marti Dodson, Paul Sikes)
3. “Your Hands” (Autumn McEntire, Marti Dodson, Matthew Morrisey)
4. “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Cheatin’” (Alex Kline, Autumn McEntire, Mae Estes)
5. “Town Left Me” (Autumn McEntire, Mae Estes, Paul Sikes)
6. “Die in a Bar” (Greg Bates, Mae Estes, Mia Mantia, SJ McDonald)

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