Whenever Logan Murrell is performing for a crowd, be it on a stage or on the streets of Gatlinburg, the Tennessee singer-songwriter can't help but tell her audience everything. And that unvarnished honesty is what helps make her one of country music's most relatable — and irresistible — new talents.
"I'll get in front of a crowd and it's like I've had three glasses of wine — I have no filter. I'm telling them about my breakups and my problems, and all of a sudden, we're best friends," she says. "People come up to me after shows and say, 'We felt like we were sitting in a house with you, just talking.' That's what I love most."
But Logan Murrell (pronounced like "Merle") is more than just an onstage therapist. The Knoxville native is also a natural lyricist with a gift for writing easygoing melodies; a guitarist adept in bluegrass musicianship; and an all-American girl with an outsized passion for her fellow East Tennessean Dolly Parton — she used to paint a mole on her chin in tribute to her hero.
Now working with veteran producer Garth Fundis (Trisha Yearwood, Sugarland), Logan is harnessing all of those strengths in the studio, writing and recording some of the most intoxicating material to come out of Nashville this decade. With songs like "Her Name" (Sept. 20) and "First Year," (Oct. 25) she's bringing a rootsy aesthetic back to country music, while also mixing her bluegrass background and love for Seventies rock into the proceedings. Logan calls it the "East Tennessee Sound."
The 23-year-old has been refining that sound since she was a kid. At the age of 9, she was busking for tips in Knoxville, before eventually asking her mom to drive her to the Smoky Mountain tourist meccas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Logan made serious money for a teenager on those sidewalks, and also learned how to read a crowd. She'd tailor her songs to whoever was standing in front of her dropping bills into her guitar case. "I'd play everything from Taylor Swift to James Taylor," she says. "I worked a lot growing up and I saved, and everything I had I paid for myself. That work ethic I learned from busking made me confident to move to Nashville alone."
Vocally, Logan is in line with Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow, nuanced singers who embrace the rustic over the polished and indulge in massive notes and runs only when warranted. "I don't like to belt," she says, citing late jazz vocalist Eva Cassidy as an influence on her singing. "She could go from delicate to just wowing you with power, but she was never trying to prove anything. It was emotionally based singing and very dynamic."
Logan does likewise in "Her Name," effortlessly alternating between coos and growls. The first song she wrote when she moved to Nashville two years ago, it's inspired by an ex who dumped her for — wait for it — another blonde girl named Logan. "It blew my mind," she says. "It was something that was really hard for me, to think about my ex dating someone with my name."
Other songs, like the empowering ballad "I'm Not Broken" and the sexy soul of "Making Up Down" (with its sly lyric of "we don't have it all figured out/but we got the making up down") underscore the fact that Logan isn't boxed in as a "country" artist. Instead, with playlists featuring soft-rockers Chicago alongside Appalachian poet Tyler Childers, and a radio preset in her car for SiriusXM's Alt Nation, she's a true artist of the streaming generation, where genres are often blurred.
"I like so many different types of music and they all made me who I am," she says. "Whatever songs I put out are a reflection of me. You'll hear a hint of Dolly in there, and the soulful vibrato that comes from me listening to Michael McDonald. I can do all those types of genres and it's still me."
It's impossible to hear Logan sing, or even just speak with her after a concert, without realizing that she's an old soul. Her bluegrass roots run especially deep, and when she writes and records new songs with her producer, she's aware that elements of string music will pop up. "There is something about Dobro, mandolin, fiddle and upright bass that I can't get enough of," she says.
Even more so, however, Logan is fueled by interpersonal connection. Her entire artistic outlook is based on the idea that she, as a human being, remain approachable.
"I want people to know how important it is to connect and be attainable," she says. "When I'm onstage, I'm a little self-deprecating, and when I'm offstage and meeting people, I like making them feel like we've been through the same stuff. With my music, and my songs and my life in general, that's who I am."
Once again, she returns to her north star: Dolly Parton.
"When I watch Dolly perform, I'm like, 'Wow, I love that feeling.' You feel bubbles in the air!" Logan says. "I want the audience to feel that way when they leave my show."