Sunny Sweeney titled her upcoming third album Provoked, in part because the rocky road to its completion has provoked so many emotions within her. Those emotions have been laid bare and stripped of any shred of pretense throughout the 13-song collection that’s more raw and honest than anything you’re likely to hear all year. So honest, in fact, that the singer-songwriter, who had a hand in writing all but two of the album’s tracks, doesn’t let herself off the hook, confessing the role she played in her own romantic downfall, the result of which was the end of one marriage and eventually the unlikely start of another, in spite of her best efforts at self-sabotage.
“I certainly do not play the victim in any song or any facet of my life,” Sweeney tells Rolling Stone Country. “But I have been in situations and have been in relationships where I feel like I’m being provoked, where I’m like, ‘Well, that was kind of shitty, but at least I do get a song out of it.’ I also know that I’m a teeny tiny bit of a shit-starter, so to speak. Not in a mean way, but if something needs to be said I’ll be the one to say it. It’s not always pretty but sometimes things need to be said.”
“My Bed,” which Sweeney co-wrote with Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe, is performed as a duet with Will Hoge. But there’s anything but perfect harmony captured in such devastating lines as “I don’t know you/I don’t miss you when you’re gone/You don’t know me/Baby where did we go wrong?”
“I was married to someone else and there were obvious issues and stuff and it just didn’t work,” Sweeney admits. “I was the one who didn’t want to stay married anymore. Even being the one that wanted the divorce, I was still so torn up over it. I still did my shows and I still wrote a bunch of songs during that time, but it was the most emotionally draining thing I’ve ever been through.”
Confessing that she would lie awake and hear the footsteps of her ex coming down the hall, then close her eyes pretending to be asleep, Sweeney says, “You just know when you’re done. It’s just sad and it’s tough and you can’t make that a good situation. You can’t be like, ‘Oh, it was great while it lasted.’ Because when it ends it sucks. There’s no way around it.”
Ever the confessor, Sweeney says a conversation she had with a serial-dating friend made her realize that once she sees the end of a relationship in sight, the gloves come off and she’ll pick a huge fight so it’s easier to call it quits. She’s become even more aware of her penchant for doing that now that she’s married to her second husband, whose job as a Texas police officer means he has to stay behind at home while she’s on the road.
“When I leave to go the airport, I get teary-eyed because I really don’t want to be without him,” she says. “It’s weird when it’s the polar opposite of a relationship where one person wants [to leave] or the other person wants it, or neither of them wants it but it just needs to happen. There are all different scenarios. You don’t want to be in the same house and certainly not in the same bed.”
Even if the confessions keep piling up, Provoked isn’t all doom-and-gloom. Sweeney’s extraordinary gift for humor is all over tracks such as “Backhanded Compliment.” Penned with Natalie Hemby (“Automatic,” “Pontoon”), its lyrics are peppered with such pithy sentiments as “I love that you don’t care about your looks” and excellent advice like “Never tell a man his pants are cute.”
Provoked will be in stores on August 5th, but Rolling Stone Country has your exclusive first listen to “My Bed” here.