Country singer Chely Wright will soon be in Germany to perform for U.S. servicemembers. She has previously entertained troops in Iraq and South Korea.

Country singer Chely Wright will soon be in Germany to perform for U.S. servicemembers. She has previously entertained troops in Iraq and South Korea. (Morgan Loosli / S&S)

Chely Wright might be known for a lot of things – her powerful vocals, her ACM award for Best New Female Vocalist in 1995, or her new album, "The Metropolitan Hotel."

But most people don’t know that the 34-year-old country artist loves to perform for troops. Wright was the first entertainer of any genre to play in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. She’s also been to South Korea and in a few weeks, she’ll be in Germany.

Her experiences in war zones have made her appreciate life, she says. "It really does inspire one to get up every day and say ‘This is awesome,’" she says. "Getting up is awesome. It was great to wake up."

She took a few minutes to chat with Stripes about her music, her career, and the experiences she’s had with the troops.

Look for the story about her new album "The Metropolitan Hotel" and the single "Bumper of My S.U.V." in the April 3 edition of Scene.

Stripes: What’s in your Ipod?

Chely Wright: I’m listening to an artist named Bob Schneider, he’s a Texas-based artist. I’ve got … Norah Jones’s "Come Away With Me." Can’t get that one out. I like the new (album from Jones) too, but the first one’s the best, in my opinion. (Also) Patty Loveless’s "Mountain Soul," which is her bluegrass album. "You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive" is a great song. And, I hate to say this, but my new record. Only because when you finally get through the process of mixing and mastering, you really finally then get to listen with pleasure rather than "I need to change that, or tweak that or do that differently." So it’s good to listen to it just as a finished project. As narcissistic as that sounds, I’ve got me in my player.

Stripes: I love the song "Back of Your Bottom Drawer" (from "The Metropolitan Hotel"). What’s one thing in the back of your bottom drawer?

CW: Well, that song is autobiographical of course, so I do have a Dear Jane letter from a boy in Mississippi who broke up with me, broke my heart. There’s a champagne cork and the champagne was cheap. (Laughs) I’ve got the room key from the actual Metropolitan Hotel (in London) after which the album is named … I don’t always keep room keys. And it’s just the sliding key, it’s not like a hard old-fashioned key. But I did keep that, and I’m glad that I did, because I ended up naming the album "The Metropolitan Hotel" because that’s where I say I had my musical rebirth. I ended up listening to a bunch of music that night with my friends on my last night in London. And I said, this is what I have to do. They said, what? I said, I have to make an album full of no-skippers. None to skip over, because we had a song fest that night. … I said, if I can go back to Nashville and make an album of no-skippers, songs this good and important, because we were sharing with each other good album cuts and things like this, and I said if I can accomplish that, I’ll call it "The Metropolitan Hotel."

Stripes: If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be, and why?

CW: We get asked questions like if you could be anyone – this is the first time anyone has said ‘if you could be anywhere.’ I’m really of the moment, so there’s nowhere I’d rather be than right here, doing this. I really love my everyday. My everyday is good. I deal with some stuff on occasion, but I think that one has to experience. … I wrote a song once that says "a deep down low makes level feel so high.’ It’s like you got to experience the lows for just an average day to seem great. I’m of the moment, I like being here and in 20 minutes I may be in a bathroom and I’ll be thankful there too. (Laughs.) … I like the today. I like the right now.

Stripes: In 1996, you wrote out a wish list for your career. What’s currently on your wish list?

CW: I would like for a whole bunch of people to have a copy of "The Metropolitan Hotel." I would like to maybe someday have a song I wrote be nominated for a song of the year type thing, whether it be the Grammys, or the ACMs (Academy of Country Music) or the CMAs (Country Music Association). ‘Cause I’ve written hit songs for myself and other people, but to actually have one that gets picked out as one of the five best songs of the year, that would be really cool. What else do I want? I’m so creatively satisfied right now, it’s just so gratifying to put this album out after three-and-a-half years of working on it, and the reviews are coming in, and they’re saying "It’s her best work," and "She’s finally an artist" and that, right now, I’m kinda relishing that. That’s really sweet. Hopefully I’ll just read more good reviews and I’m looking forward to going back to Iraq in the fall-ish time. I was just thinking this morning as I was getting ready, with every day that it comes closer, I get more and more excited.

Stripes: What’s the one thing that never fails to make you smile?

CW: Little kids. (Laughs.) They’re just funny. Y’know, I get to see a lot of little kids on my tours, and in particular, just in the last couple of days, these little guys and gals that belong to different Marines and sailors and soldiers that I know … There’s little kids coming through and they show me a picture of me with their dad or their mom overseas. And it’s so cute and I have heard about the children so often. In one case in particular, I was at Ft. Hood, and there was a guy that came up and he was one of my protocol officers … in Iraq, and he and I had ridden around in the Humvee a lot and he was a great guy and he talked about his family. … And I remembered that in the Humvee it’s like a 150 degrees, and there’s a gunner looking out shooting at somebody, and in that moment, the juxtaposition of that, we’re talking about his kids. At Ft. Hood, I finally got to meet his family, and it popped into my mind, I said to his daughter… are you still dancing? And the mom just broke out, just bawling. And I was like, what did I do? And he hugged her, and he looked at me, and he said she was happy to know that I’d talked about my wife and kids (while in Iraq).

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