From the moment she came careening into Nashville, singer-songwriter RaeLynn has been the talk of the town for her refusal to color within the lines and play it safe. Within minutes of meeting the Texas native, it’s obvious you’re in the presence of a woman who’s entirely comfortable being 100 percent herself. Talking a mile a minute, telling stories in her rich twang, RaeLynn manages to be frank, funny, and feisty yet thoughtful and emotionally connected both in conversation and in her music.

Soon after making her debut with the chart-climbing single “Boyfriend,” RaeLynn scored her first PLATINUM-selling smash with 2014’s “God Made Girls,” then triumphed again with “Love Triangle”: the GOLD-certified lead single from her debut album Wild Horse, a 2017 release that hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. But despite enjoying major success over the years— including two ACM New Female Vocalist nominations, more than 450 million total career streams, and the distinction of being the first Country face to represent global beauty brand Too Faced— RaeLynn long felt like something was amiss. Though she co-wrote 11 of the 12 songs on Wild Horse, those songs were penned when she was just 17 and 18. “My songwriting has changed, and my life has changed,” she says now. “I want to be able to show a more quirky, fun side of my personality. The things I say are kind of left-of-center. How can I put that into a song and make music that finds its own box within Country music?”

On Baytown, RaeLynn answers that question with gutsy confidence and unbridled joy. Taking its title from her Texas hometown, the EP channels her force-of-nature energy into six songs that perfectly capture Baytown’s one-of-a-kind spirit. “I’ve always been told I have a big personality,

and I feel like all that sassiness comes from growing up where I did,” says RaeLynn. “I grew up a church kid, but I like to cuss, too. And I want all those flavors in the music because that is me, and it’s my fans. The ones who send me messages about a scripture I post on my Instagram are the same fans who crack up at me dancing in a post the next day.”

Kicking off with “Keep Up,” Baytown instantly proves to be RaeLynn’s freedom ride. As the track bubbles over with her all-out joie de vivre and whip-smart sense o fhumor, RaeLynn shares a fiery love letter to Country girls everywhere. “We can party just as much as any other dude, and I felt we needed a song to say that, ”RaeLynn says. “Yes, I rock Gucci sometimes, and yes, I drink pink drinks, and yes, I’m girly as hell, but that doesn’t mean I can’t drive a truck. That doesn’t mean I can’t change a tire. That doesn’t mean that I can’t do whatever the guys can do.”

All throughout Baytown, RaeLynn flaunts the formidable vocal skills she’s honed for almost her whole life. But while she grew up singing in church, it was a trip to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with her dad in her pre-teen years that left her determined to make a go at music. “I remember seeing the Dixie Chicks up on that revolving stage and thinking, “That’s what I want to do,” she recalls. After taking up drums when she was just nine, RaeLynn learned to play guitar at age 13 and then started writing her own songs, thanks in part to some encouragement from a cousin–lead singer in Grammy Award-nominated Christian rock band Leeland. Although her early material mostly consisted of what she now describes as “really heavy heartbreak songs,” she soon carved out a songwriting voice that fully reflects her free-spirited personality—all while taking a page from the classic Country artists she’s long admired. “Storytelling’s a top priority for me in my songwriting, and there’s nothing like the storytelling in older Country music,” says RaeLynn. “Whenever I’m writing, I take the song line-by-line and read it out loud like it’s an actual story—and if it doesn’t make sense when I talk it out, then I’ll change the lines from there. I put a lot of work into making sure my songs genuinely say something.”

Leaving Baytown for Nashville at the age of 18, RaeLynn delivered her debut EP Me in 2015 and quickly made her name as a magnetic live performer. In the last few years alone, she’s achieved such milestones as performing at the Grand Ole Opryin addition to taking the stage in such faraway cities as Seoul. And in a particularly meaningful moment for RaeLynn, 2019 saw her receiving a surprise welcome from local fans upon supporting Maren Morris at London’s Royal Albert Hall. “At a fan party in Nashville two years ago, I’d given all my fans these light-up crowns I had left over from the launch of ‘Queens Don’t,’” RaeLynn explains, referring to her 2018 single. “So I’m at this huge show so far from home, and I look out in the crowd and there’s ten girls wearing those same crowns. It turns out some fans in the U.S. had sent them over so that I could feel loved and represented in London. I just thought, ‘My gosh, Country fans are the best. ’It still gets me all teared up to think about it now.”

In bringing Baytown to life, RaeLynn set her sights on deepening her incredibly strong connection with her fans. “I always try to put myself in their shoes, and create something they’ll feel inspired by,” she says. “Anytime a fan tells me, ‘I feel like you wrote my heart,’ that means more to me than anything. ”For help in matching her lyrical directness with adynamic sound—anaesthetic she refers to as “Dolly Parton with some 808s”—RaeLynn turned to producer Corey Crowder (Chris Young, Florida Georgia Line) and purposely tapped into her Baytown roots. “Where I grew up, I didn't just listen to Country music,” she says. “I listened toPop. I listened to R&B. I listened to Rap. I listened to so many different things and I wanted it to really show that. I wanted something that makes me dance, that makes me feel good. I want to bring the fun.

Her first release for Florida Georgia Line’s Round Here Records, Baytown brings the fun in spades.

The EP’s infectious leadtrack “Bra Off” offers a full-tilt celebration of post-breakup freedom, hilariously comparing casting off an ex to shedding a “pink, lacy, suffocating” bra, while “Judgin’ to Jesus” unfolds as the kind of big-hearted, signature RaeLynn song that gives people permission to be themselves (“If you keep a Bible by your cigarettes/If you go to church in a cheetah dress...Don’t worry, honey, around here we leave the judgin’ to Jesus”). “That song is like my life statement,” she says. “I’m the kind of girl who’d walk into church in a tight cheetah dress and a big coat. I like to dance ,but I also love the Bible. Being a person like that, I want to hear songs like this.”

Revealing RaeLynn’s more introspective side, “Fake Girl Town” looks back on her early days in Nashville and the struggle to finda tribe of girlfriends (“I know they’re out here somewhere / Chasing down their dreams / Sneaking the midnight stressing cigarettes /Talking Jesus, love and break up sex”). That melancholy mood also infuses “Me About Me,” a brilliantly detailed track that speaks to “a situation with an ex where I knew everything about him, but he never asked me about me,” according toRaeLynn. In its wistful recollection of that experience, “Me About Me” showcases her gift for crafting lyrics both highly specific and powerfully resonant (“Your first ride was a 1990 Wrangler/Your first kiss was a game of spin-the-bottle/When it comes to you I can answer any question/That’s what happens when you just sit back and listen”). And on “Still Smokin’, ”Baytown shifts into ablissed-outtone as RaeLynn serves up astarry-eyed love song for her husband (“I was floating to heaven as soon as I met ya / We were burning tires, starting fires that are still going”). “We’d just celebrated our third-year anniversary, and I wanted to write a song about how we’re still so gaga for each other,” she says. “It’s written almost like a story to our kids—like, ‘This is how it all happened.’”

Since releasing the first tracks from Baytown, RaeLynn has witnessed the undeniable impact of the bigger and bolder approach she’s taken to her artistry. “One of my favorite things so far is how girls are posting of videos of themselves doing all this bad-ass stuff with ‘Keep Up’ playing behind them,” she says. “There’s one woman roping horses, another who’s a firefighter, putting a fire ou—I think it’s so epic.” And in sharing all of Baytownwith the world, RaeLynn is eager for that cycle of inspiration to continue even further. “With these new songs, I feel like the person you meet in the room is being reflected in the music as well,” she says. “I’m more confident in the woman I am now more than ever before, and I’m saying what I really want to say. I cannot wipe the smile from my face because I know the fans are going to love it.”

A Nashville Christmas Carol cast