Kelly Lang has been at the business of entertainment since childhood. She wrote her first song when she was just a kid and released her first single at age 15. Cut to present day, and you’ll find that she’s still a prolific writer and singer, turning out a number of albums including “Shades of K” and the popular “Iconic Duets” with her country star husband T.G. Sheppard. But she’s never helmed a project like her current album, “Obsession,” available now through her website and other online outlets. A bit more was on the line.
Lang wrote all 12 selections on her own and also produced the album, a hefty double duty to be certain, but also a necessary one. “It was more like a personal challenge,” Lang says from the well-appointed home she shares with Sheppard outside Nashville. “I wanted to see what it would be like to be solely responsible for something. What was really difficult for me was being the only writer. That’s a little scary because you’re really putting yourself out there. Once it’s released, then good luck because you can’t take it back. I love to co-write and I’m not disregarding any of the songwriters in Nashville,” she adds for emphasis, “but I just did not want other writers to be involved because I wanted this to be an intimate record.”
And that it is. The songs on “Obsession,” all inspired by Lang’s personal experiences, speak to women engaged in that never-ending quest for identity and where they fit in a complex world. They’ve been through the rigors of relationships and know what they want from them. Lang provides a mature, been-there voice that’s totally relatable to the target audience.
“I did write from a woman’s perspective,” she says. “There are songs like ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Mr. Right’ that kind of tell you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But then there’s one called ‘Hell Hath No Fury,’ which is more of a statement. There are things I won’t put up with now that maybe I would have years ago, and I think that’s true for a lot of women. So maybe this is speaking to an audience that isn’t being spoken to. It is a strong woman’s record.”
The song lineup has a generous mix of tunes from “My New Obsession,” which evokes a 1950’s kind of R&B groove, to the softly romantic “His Guitar,” which uses the instrument as a symbolic stand-in for a male lover. “That is probably the most unique thing I have on the record,” Lang says of the latter.
Though a thematic variety plays throughout “Obsession,” all the cuts share a common thread: they were written in or near water. Lang explains by pointing to the swimming pool located in the back of the family home. “I practically live in the pool during the warm weather,” she laughs, “and that’s where I write most of my songs. That’s my therapy. I’ll just be laying out there and be really clear-minded. Something weird happens out there, I guess,” Lang adds with a smile. “I write all of my songs either out by the pool or in the bathtub. In fact, my mother reminded me once that I wrote my first song in the bathtub when I was about three years old.”
Obviously, she caught the writing bug early, and she has continued to pen songs for not only herself but also Lorrie Morgan, the Oak Ridge Boys, Janie Fricke, and, not surprisingly, her husband. One particular cut from “Obsession,” the emotional “Last One Standing in the Rain,” was actually intended for her good friend Barry Gibb, best known as the vibrato-tinged lead vocalist of the brotherly trio the Bee Gees. Lang was inspired to write it after Gibb lost his brother, Robin, in 2012, leaving him as the sole surviving Bee Gees member. Brother Maurice had passed away in 2003.
“Barry was very sad,” Lang recalls. “I had heard an interview that Barry did after [Robin] died where he said, ‘I guess I’m the last one standing.’ And that just hit me really hard. I had such compassion for him. The whole lyric was about Barry and his brothers, and the original title was ‘Last Man Standing in the Rain,’ which was changed later. I was using rain more as a metaphor for sadness.” Barry Gibb heard the song and immediately liked it, but told Lang that the message was too personally painful for him to record. However, he strongly encouraged Lang to put the song on her album. “That was a nice stamp of approval from him,” Lang says.
Easily her strongest declaration comes with “Hell Hath No Fury,” though hardly as angry as the title might suggest. “I wrote that about three years ago,” Lang says. “In the song, you see the woman going from being weak to, ‘This is my line in the sand.’ I think women seem to need to say that once in a while.” She’s quick to clarify that “Hell Hath No Fury” shouldn’t be construed as any sort of male-bashing attempt.
“Maybe I’m a little old-fashioned,” she begins with a smile, “but I do like and respect men. Being married to my husband, who is a real gentleman, has given me even more respect for men. I do believe women need to be strong, but I would never want any of my songs to be a put-down [to men]. That is not how I write.”
She’s grateful to her husband for his continual support of the album. Lang also gives a shout-out to the Springer Mountain Farms company, which is credited on the record as well. The project took some time to put together, and now she’s thrilled for it to see the light of day.
“Some of these songs I wrote as long as 20 years ago,” Lang says. “I hadn’t recorded them for any project before. And there are six that I had written in the last year. So, this is kind of a full circle moment for me.”