How Tenille Townes Dropped Her Mask and Confronted Her True Self to Write 'Villain in Me'

Country singer-songwriter Tenille Townes has always impressed us with her moving and evocative tracks, but we think her latest release, "Villain in Me," might be her most authentic and raw yet.

The song, out today, Nov. 5, is an honest and painful reflection, with Tenille accepting her vulnerability, and confronting the villain inside her own head that tells her she's not enough. It's something that most of us can relate to, but that we certainly don't hear enough, and simply finding those words in a song make us feel less alone. For us, it was love at first listen, which is why we had to take the time to chat with Tenille to find out how the song came to be, and precisely what it means to her.

Sweety High: What was the songwriting and recording process behind "Villain in Me"?

Tenille Townes: I wrote this song over Zoom with my friend Alex Hope in L.A. I had the title "Villain" in my phone and had been thinking about what that could mean. Songwriting always feels like a sacred thing to me. It's like it lifts me up in a hot air balloon where I can get an elevated perspective to figure out how I'm feeling. As we started writing this song, I could feel it scaring me because of how personal it felt. But I trust the music and where the song wants to go and I'm grateful we followed it. I recorded a rough guitar vocal at my house and sent it to Alex, and when this song continued to pull at me to finish recording it, I tried to cut vocals two other times and it was such a wrestle. We ended up going back to the raw original vocal and guitar that I did at my house because it felt the most honest. I'm glad we left it that way.


SH: Was this a difficult song to write? Why do you think it can be so hard to address the less desirable parts of who we are?

TT: I think it's hard because we wish those parts of us didn't exist. That's why we put on a mask about it. The truth is, the most vulnerable things about all of us are the parts that make us brave, and make us less alone when we have the courage to talk about them.

This was a hard song for me to write. I don't like talking about the voices in my head that are constantly telling me I'm not good enough. It's easier to sing about it. Music has always been my safe place and this song very much has been that for me lately. I hope it feels like a safe place to anybody listening to it, too.

Tenille Townes Auren Dunn sweater

(Photo credit: Lauren Dunn)


SH: Are the feelings in the song something that you experience often? How do you move past the moments when you're not being kind to yourself?

TT: I do struggle often with all of those feelings and I'm still very much in the process of figuring out how to move past them in a healthy way. Talking about how I'm feeling with somebody I trust helps a lot. So does going for a walk or focusing on something that stops my mind from wandering. I've got a lot of post-it notes up throughout my house as reminders to be kinder to myself, and sometimes those help, too.


SH: Do you think it can be damaging to always put on a happy face? Is there something empowering about dropping that mask?

TT: I've gotten really good at the mask of a happy face. Sometimes it makes me stronger and pulls me through hiding behind it. Sometimes I do think it is damaging and pulls me further from my truth. I think we realize we are not alone and have so much more in common as human beings when we put the mask down. I am learning it is so important and empowering to step out in our truth, even when it isn't bright and shiny or tied up with a bow.


SH: Do you have a favorite lyric from the track? What do you love about it?

TT: I think the line in the second verse that talks about, "sunshine and a smiling face, sometimes I wear it like a mask… it's easier that way" feels like the truest part of the song to me. It feels terrifying and also liberating to talk about.


SH: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

TT: Thank you for lifting up this song. I really hope it can be a comfort and an invitation to somebody hearing it out there to know we're walking through this together.


Can't get enough of Tenille's empowering songwriting? Click HERE to read our interview with Tenille on her song 'Girl Who Didn't Care."