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Chely Wright checks into The Metropolitan Hotel

By Rick Teverbaugh, March 2005

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But it didn't break the spell the song had over its listeners. As she began to play it at each show, more and more soldiers would ask her to record the song so they could get a copy of it. She at first just refused.

"Then some of them kind of got a little bit mad, so I started saying I'd think about it," says Wright. But when she returned home, she finally decided to cut the song after a few more days of deliberation. She sent it to a military radio station overseas. Before long she got a call from a radio station in Florida wanting an on-the-air interview.

"I said sure, but why do you want one," says Wright. "He said they had my song that was just blowing up their phone lines when they played it. I asked him what song. He said it was 'Bumper.' I asked them how they had gotten it. He said a solider had made an MP3 of it and sent it home to his mom, and she had sent it to the station."

Everything in the song rings true to her life and that of her family. In January of 2003, her brother was sent to Iraq. She put the sticker on her car.

She believes that everybody has a right to their own views of the war and the role the military plays in that conflict. But she has visited all of the places she mentions in the lyrics of the song, Hiroshima, Vietnam and Baghdad.

"I like Toby Keith," she says firmly. "He and I were once labelmates. I know he speaks of his own personal experience. But there's one line I have a problem with in his song ("Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue"). It says, 'We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.' That's the very least of what the military does. Mostly they are there to protect and help people. Before my brother went to Iraq, he sent me an email. I sent him one back and told him I was scared. He sent me one back saying he was scared too. But he also asked me to please pray for the innocent people of Iraq because he knew that some of them were going to die."

So Wright's little, almost forgotten song has become a national hit and certainly has sparked interest in her recently-released album. But it is by no means the centerpiece to the release.

"I don't want somebody to think that because I have this hit record, that I threw together some songs to get an album out while the song was hot," she says. "I've always been a fan of albums that had little hidden gems that turned out to be my favorite songs on the album. I'm really proud of the songs on this album."

The album appropriately carries the title "The Metropolitan Hotel" after the night there with her friends that inspired her renaissance. It is also on a new label for her, Dualtone Records.

She had a brief stopover at Vivaton Records, releasing just one single, "Back of the Bottom Drawer," which is included on her new album. She didn't talk about leaving that label except to say that "some people said it was creative differences, but those weren't my words."

She bought her material when she left Vivaton, and she ended up at Dualtone for what she believes is all the right reasons.

"It is a good fit," she says. "They've been doing this for a while. They have a good roster, and they're careful about who they sign. The people there own the label. They are interested in artists who take care of their craft."

Ironically enough, though she wrote or co-wrote 8 of the 12 songs on "Metropolitan," the most appropriate-themed song for this project, which opens the album, is "It's The Song," and it isn't one of hers.

"I had known about the song about two years ago," says Wright. "But RCA had a blanket hold on it, which meant nobody could record it. Bonnie Baker wrote it, and she knows that's my story. She told me, 'I was mad before that they didn't let you have it,' I believe that nobody else could sing this song as part of their being the way that I can."

The song relates to the reason a performer would subject herself to the road and the seemingly endless string of hotel rooms and fast food joints.

"All I ever wanted to do was to write songs and get on a bus and go play them for people," says Wright. "I came along at a time when the industry was eating its young." But Wright has survived that gluttony and now appears to be poised for a rebirth for all the right reasons - the songs.

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