Rural Missouri - August 2017 - 40
Rooted in Puxico
Only miles keep Natalie Hemby from a town she calls "home"
Born in Nashville, singer/songwriter Natalie Hemby calls the town of Puxico home, too. "It's where I found my voice and I learned to love my roots. Puxico is my home," Natalie shares.
by Heather Berry | email@example.com
The 2009 hit "White Liar" was the ﬁrst song to gain Natalie the top spot on
record charts with Miranda. Today, the Nashville songwriter's music catalog is
f you're one of those music fans who actually reads liner notes on albums ﬁlled with well-known names like Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Lady Antebeland CD covers, you may have seen Natalie Hemby's name.
lum, Toby Keith, Sheryl Crow, Blake Shelton and many more.
If not, it's likely you've at least heard a couple of songs
"Songwriting is my passion. That's what I do," says the insightful musishe's written or co-written - like a little ditty called "Poncian. "But I'm probably a great storyteller because of my grandfather."
The artist also credits much of her style to a longstanding gathering
toon" made famous by the trio Little Big Town, or "White Liar"
by Miranda Lambert. Both of these tunes happen to fall among
that happens in Missouri every August: the Puxico Homecoming.
the current list of six No. 1 hits Natalie has to her acclaim.
"I may have missed a night or two, but I've never missed a year,"
"I spent my 20s trying to get a record deal and my 30s writNatalie reﬂects. "I've been going since I was a kid."
The festival, sponsored by the Puxico VFW Post 7822, began in
ing songs for other people," says Natalie, now 40. "Then everyone
as a way to bring past and present residents together. The
started telling me 'You really need to put out your own record', but
event truly is a homecoming for many residents who, like NataI didn't know what type of record I wanted to make."
lie, come back to celebrate the people and things they love about
A native of Nashville, Natalie is quick to claim two towns as
a town they call "home."
home: Nashville and little ol' Puxico, Mo., population 862 according to 2016 U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
This month marks the 71st year for the annual festival, which
It was in this Southeast Missouri town Natalie would ﬁnd inspiration for her includes a parade, beauty pageant, baby contest, class reunions, carnival and
"square dances and world-famous goat burgers," adds Natalie, make up an
latest project, a documentary and soundtrack called "Puxico."
Creative roots and a love for music run deep in Natalie's family tree. Her dad, event that swells the town more than tenfold to 10,000 people in a ﬁve-day span.
Natalie says it was at the 2007 event she noticed attendance on the wane.
guitarist Tom Hemby, tours with numerous musicians. Her mother, Deanna,
"I thought, 'I hope this isn't dying off, because this is part of my history. I
has served as singer Amy Grant's personal assistant for nearly three decades.
As a child, when her dad was on the road, her mother would pack Natalie want this to be here for my kids and their kids,' " Natalie reﬂects. "I mentioned
up and head a few hours north to Tom's hometown of Puxico. There she would to my husband it would be cool if someone would make a documentary about
spend time ﬁshing, riding horses and listening to the stories her grandpa George what it takes to keep a tradition, as well as a hometown, alive."
The idea persisted, and in 2011, Natalie began interviewing residents of PuxiHemby would share about the town both he and her dad grew up in as boys.
"Grandpa was also a musician and I'd always go and watch him play in co. Off and on over the next four years, she wove together a documentary, capbluegrass bands at the local VFW," Natalie fondly recalls. "I pretty much cut my turing the heart of why traditions like Puxico's Homecoming are vital to capture.
And after reviewing the project, Natalie realized something.
teeth on his piano and guitar."
"In the beginning, I believed this was a story about a town and a celebration,
The musician has notebooks and journals chock-full of songs she's been
writing since she was young. Although she's a Nashville native who still lives in and it is," Natalie narrates in the documentary. "But really, it's about a man who
Music City, Natalie says having music connections and knowing people doesn't loved me so much he gave me a town."
That man is her 87-year-old grandpa, George, who still lives there to this day.
guarantee you a hit.
Natalie debuted "Puxico" to residents during the 2015 festival, noting every"Getting a song to No. 1 is kinda like God creating the Earth. You have to have
the right artist, the right song, then the record label has to like it," the humble one was either "really proud or crying" by the end of the movie. She also poured
songwriter says. "Then radio has to like it, and the people who listen to the radio her heart into the soundtrack, which is her ﬁrst solo album. Songs with names
like "Time Honored Tradition" and "Grand Restoration" evoke nostalgic images
have to like it and on and on. It's deﬁnitely a shot in the dark sometimes."
Natalie signed her ﬁrst publishing deal in 1997. After a few near deals with as Natalie's smoky voice sings of the "roots of her inheritance" she holds dear.
"Maybe your hometown was crazy, but I want you to love those memories and
major record labels, she realized she didn't want to end up being like so many
entertainers who spend their lives on the road. So she turned her attention to go back and love those people," says Natalie. "That to me is the most important
cutting demos for others to record and, hopefully, take to the top of the charts. thing, and that's what I try to do every time I go back to Puxico."
Around that time, Natalie's husband, producer Mike Wrucke, began working
To see a trailer for "Puxico" or to purchase the movie or soundtrack, go to www.
with a young singer/songwriter named Miranda Lambert. Eventually, Natalie's
reputation as a songwriter opened a door for her to join Miranda's co-writing puxicoﬁlm.com. You can also purchase the album on iTunes or via Amazon.com.
Puxico's Homecoming is Aug. 8-12 this year. For more information follow Puxico
circle. The two not only became close friends, but have forged a strong songwritHomecoming on Facebook.
ing relationship, as Natalie co-wrote 17 songs on Miranda's past two projects.
RURAL MISSOURI | AUGUST 2017