Renee Wahl and the Sworn Secrets
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Renee Wahl and the Sworn Secrets

Nashville, TN | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE

Nashville, TN | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Americana Roots




"Watch Nashville Singer-Songwriter Renée Wahl Perform In Stop-Motion With New Music Video"

Pennsylvania native, now Nashville-based artist Renée Wahl wasn’t always a singer-songwriter. Before beginning a musical career with her band, The Sworn Secrets, she accumulated a few secrets of her own as a captain in the U.S. Air Force assigned to the National Security Agency. Even before then, though, music wasn’t her main identifier — she majored in physics as an undergraduate and scored a Masters degree in aeronautics. Her most recent venture, though, comes back to performing. On her most recent EP, Sworn Secrets, opening track “See You On The Way Down” offers insight into Wahl’s wild life. - Savannah Davanzo

Punchy outlaw country with practiced vocals, Wahl herself says the track is about “That one thing, that person, that situation that is ill-fated, but you choose to move forward just the same.” In this way, the track follows a specific trajectory of eerie tones merging into powerhouse vocals singing bittersweet lyrics like “This isn’t gonna end well/Love only feels this good before it all goes straight to Hell”. The constant movement of the music flows in contrast to what’s happening in the music video for “See You On The Way Down” — a stop-motion video created by Deone Jahnke consisting of over 1,000 images, slow images of Wahl performing in slow-motion and a powerful silhouette scene with Wahl and her presumed love interest fade in and out, blending into each other for profound stories, in some cases prolonged and in some cases fleeting, told purely by song. - Elmore Magazine

"The secret is out about Renee Wahl"

Nashville’s Renee Wahl is not your usual country singer. After a storied career in the military she has closed that chapter to begin her second career as a country singer/songwriter. With a sultry voice and songs that elicit emotions her debut record Cumberland Moonshine introduced folks to her music leaving them wanting more. Building on early success Wahl is back with new music with the first of a couple of EP’s she is planning to release, Sworn Secrets.

Sworn Secrets is a five song EP packed with songs about heartbreak, loss, and bad decisions. The upbeat “Wild Living” is a jaunty tale about choosing to live wild and free over a safe conservative life. Wahl sing of an imploding relationship on the twangy “See You on the Way Down” then slows it down for the melancholy “Baby Don’t Go” about seeking love. Showcasing Wahl’s songwriting prowess, the sparse “Whiskey Smells Like Bad Decisions” is a melancholy tale of a dysfunctional couple. Rounding out the album with what may be her best tune, “Better Devil” is a chugging tune about fighting demons to gain redemption.

Renee Wahl’s Sworn Secret is an enjoyable listen that is filled with beautiful melodies and visceral lyrics. She creates vivid imagery with her words putting listeners into the middle of her songs as they travel through her broken world. If you are looking for songs with heart, then give Sworn Secret a listen you will not be sorry. - Chris Martin

"3x3: Renée Wahl on Home Bases, Underrated Movies, and Reliving with Presence"

Artist: Renée Wahl & Sworn Secrets
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Latest Album: Sworn Secrets
Personal Nicknames: Riff, Riff Randall, R “Dub”, Dub
What song do you wish you had written?
Wow, that’s a tough one … I’m gonna go with “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison. Such a beautiful song, lyrically and melodically. Always takes me to some faraway place when I hear it.

If money were no object, where would you live and what would you do?
I would still have my farm outside of Nashville in Lebanon as a home base. It’s so open and relaxing. But I’d travel everywhere and play music. Whenever, wherever!

If the After-Life exists, what song will be playing when you arrive?
"Angel" by Elvis Presley. I think that’s appropriate! Or “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies. That would work, too.

How often do you do laundry?
Hmmmm, when I run out of clothes, sheets, or towels -- whichever comes first.

What was the last movie that you really loved?
Again, so many movies I love. I will say Frailty. It’s a bit older, but an extraordinary movie. It takes place in Texas. It’s very dark, lots of twists and turns … great acting, fantastic storyline. Certainly an underrated movie, in my opinion.

If you could re-live one year of your life, which would it be and why?
I guess it depends on if I knew I was reliving it … if so, this year (2016). My mom passed away in July, and I would love to have been more present in the time I spent with her.

What's your favorite culinary spice?
Cayenne Pepper … flavorful and great for a sore throat!

Morning person or night owl?
Not a morning person. For sure a night owl. Though I can’t quite seem to stay awake as late as I used to …

Coffee or tea?
Hands down, tea. I don’t drink coffee much anymore, but I can’t go a day without a cup of hot tea. There are some pretty cool tea places in Nashville, like Aromagregory. - Bluegrass Situation

"Left Lane: Zoe Muth, Renee Wahl: Two indie stocking stuffers you might have missed"

Before we bid adieu and say good riddance to 2011, here's a pair of LL recommended CDs we managed to misplace but were pleased to rediscover in the (St. Nick) of time.

A pair of singer/songwriters who released top shelf records during the year. And both of whom should make their presence felt in 2012.

RENEE WAHL'S bio may be all over the map but her songwriting ability is instantly impressive.

Wahl gathered some of Nashville's finest players, entered the studio, and departed with "Cumberland Moonshine," an adept collection of 12 songs and a record most certainly worth seeking out.

After serving in the Air Force, Wahl wisely opted to pursue a musical career while her husband served in Afghanistan.

With out the steady income and benefits military life provides, Wahl, instead, entered the unpredictable indie music world and settled in Music City.

She's probably regarded an alternative country artist, though there are frequent elements of straight rock in a number of tunes she either wrote or co-wrote with partner Roger Prescott.

All 12 songs on Cumberland Moonshine clock in under four minutes but each more than stands on its own merit.

Wahl is totally comfortable mixing and matching styles, from the record's dynamite opening track "On Something New" to the rock-a-billy twang of "Heartbreak Thing."

In between, she goes for the jugular on the radio-friendly "Keeping You For Mine" and explores a bummed relationship on "Roses Are Blue."

Along for the ride is Marty Stuart's lead guitarist Kenny Vaughan who shares licks with both Prescott and Pat Bergeson.

The venerable Fats Kaplin contributes mandolin and pedal steel with Bryan Owings on percussion and Charles Treadway (organ) and Charlie Chadwick (stand-up bass) as supporting players.

Wahl is playing a free online Friday show on Knoxville, Tennessee's WDVX-FM Blue Plate Special. To listen, visit the station's website at

FROM Seattle, Zoe Muth grew up in the 80s, raised on the classic rock sounds of Dylan, Springsteen, Buddy Holly and the Beatles.

"I wrote songs when I was five years old, but nobody understood me" Muth discloses, discussing "Starlight Hotel," one of the year's standout indie releases featuring Muth and her band, the Lost High Rollers.

"Somehow, the country sound just lends itself to the way I feel, the stories I want to tell."

Muth does so with a unique perspective on 'Starlight,' a 10-track project featuring nine originals and one co-write.

"I have always been who out of fear or a need for security, tried to keep a full-time job to pay the bills, so I traveled in my mind down the roads of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and the Carter Family, weaving elements of history and traditional country and blues into my music and lyrics."

Muth's music takes you down a two-lane highway ("Let's Just Be Friends For Tonight," "Harvest Moon Blues") where characters emerge from anywhere but mainstream Americana.

"I know for some people (they) work, but I hate computers and don't really have good social skills," Muth describes. "That is part of why I have tried so hard in the past few years to really make this work - to make a record and promote it, even if it means playing Los Angeles to five people."

Muth's band includes Dave Harmonson (guitar, steel, dobro); Ethan Lawton (mandolin); Mike McDermott (bass); Greg Nies (drums); and Billy Joe Huels (trumpet).

"I never figured anyone would like my stuff," Muth related. "So it's pretty cool I've been able to play shows with James McMurtry, Fred Eaglesmith, Dave Alvin, the Gourds and others. I never thought I'd be playing the No Depression Festival or (Seattle's) Bumbershoot either, so let's just see what happens next."

IN two weeks, the Lane returns with our annual Top 10 list of the year's standout CDs.... - Times Leader

"Renee Wahl, Cumberland Moonshine"

Every once in awhile it seems out of no where an artist comes along and unexpectedly knocks you right out of your boots. Renée Wahl is that performer, with her latest release, “Cumberland Moonshine”. She has made a home in numerous places and finally landed in Nashville, TN where she is giving all the talent there a run for their money.

This CD is 12 tracks of perfection. From beginning to end, it starts off wonderful and finishes outstandingly awesome. It is difficult to have a CD these days with this many songs on it and have every single one of them stand out above the one before it. They are catchy, hooky and have a familiar vibe. Probably the most radio friendly CD I have heard in a long time.

Renée has a knack for writing. She knows how to tell a story that leaves nothing to your imagination and draws you into her world; and trust me, you so want to be there. Vocally she has a subtle country twang that rings with power and conviction. The song, “Around” is one of my favorites. It sticks in your head and you can’t help but singing it over and over long after it ended. It is one of many cleverly articulate tunes amongst the group.

There are so many cool things on this CD it would be difficult to sum it up in a few paragraphs. There are not enough words in the dictionary that would describe the greatness. Renée Wahl has come to play and she does it quite well. I do not think your musical catalog is complete until you have, “Cumberland Moonshine” in it. Buy it, and sit back and enjoy. - Skope Magazine

"The New Face of Old Country"

Alternative country is such a wide and varied subgenre that to call Renee Wahl an alternative country artist tells you almost nothing about her sound. You have neotraditionalists…, cowpunk artists…, bands with more of an alternative pop sound…, [and artists] who are alternative because they sing about subjects that aren’t considered mainstream or just haven’t met mainstream success yet, artists like Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and Gillian Welch. Renee Wahl fits more into this category than any other.

Wahl keeps it simple as a Nashville singer/songwriter, creating rootsy country music that actually sounds like country music. Cumberland Moonshine isn’t your run-of-the-mill modern pop country. It’s not rock and roll with a twang in the voice. What it is is a modern document of an art form slowly being choked off by an image of country that has been popularized by the modern music business. Wahl cuts through the layers of hype and gives us what turns out to be a damn good record.

If you’ve never heard Renee Wahl you’re obviously not a listener of our Top 5 Records podcast, and shame on you for that. Wahl has a voice somewhere between Gillian Welch and Patty Griffin. I wouldn’t describe Cumberland Moonshine as a sparse record, but it’s certainly not heavily layered either. Wahl relies on these basic instrumental tracks to allow her singing and songwriting talents to shine through on tracks like “Around” and “Roses Are Blue.” And you can’t listen to tracks like “One More To Go” or “Under My Skin without feeling exactly what Wahl must have felt writing the songs.

Cumberland Moonshine is a strong debut from a strong songwriter who will, hopefully, be able to attain success. - Danny McCaslin, Lonely Friday
- Danny McCaslin, Lonely Friday

"Country Fried Rock's Best of 2011"

Wow! In 2011, Country Fried Rock featured 50 roots musicians via in-depth interviews, highlighting their songwriting and musical influences. From those, we selected the 40 most-listened to programs, and let our listeners select their Top 10. Hundreds of listeners voted for the Country Fried Rock "Best of 2011" list, yielding a surprisingly clear Top 10.

10. Renee Wahl, Cumberland Moonshine Free download "One More to Go"

9. Betsy Franck, Still Waiting

8. The Back Row Baptists (now called Some Dark Holler), Broken Hearts and Bad Decisions Free download "Purple Hearts" from the new Some Dark Holler EP

7. Dylan Sneed, Texodus Free Download of "No Worse for the Wear," Live on Dutch Radio

6. James Scott Bullard, The Rise & Fall of James Scott Bullard & The Late Night Swe... Free exclusive download, "Skin and Bones"

5. Driftwood, Wanderlust TWO exclusive, free downloads! Jeannie and the Giant and California's Burning.

4. The Mother Truckers, Van Tour

3. Kevn Kinney, A Good Country Mile (with the Golden Palominos) Free download of "In the Land (Of Things That Used to Be)" exclusively for Country Fried Rock listeners.

2. Abby Owens, Indiantown

1. Stephanie Fagan, Heart Thief Free download of "You Are the Devil," first available for our listeners

So, who would you like to hear in 2012 on Country Fried Rock? Leave a comment and let us know. - Country Fried Rock, No Depression - Sloane Spencer

"My Country Station"

In an alternate universe, country music had its punk moment, somewhere around the time actual punk emerged. In this other dimension or timeline, Nashville was flooded by a wave of bands and artists who rebelled against overblown productions and slick commerciality. Their music was fast and loud, and pundits thought that Music Row could just ignore them, and they would go away. But these rebels came out with Country Music Television, (remember, this is an alternate universe), and suddenly they started to sell massive amounts of records. The first artist on CMT, (“I want my…”), was Rank and File, and Dwight Yoakum would get there in due course. In the way of these things, there would eventually be a mellower sister channel, which welcomed the “new traditionalists” like The Whites with open arms, and later broke artists such as Red Molly. The upshot of the matter was that now, thirty years later, country music is only just rediscovering huge productions and glib faux emotion. But the biggest songs are still the ones that are descended from that country-punk wave of the eighties. Let’s have a listen to some recent and upcoming chart-toppers, shall we?
Renée Wahl: Keeping You For Mine
The scorned lover is a classic figure in country music. Renee Wahl takes this archetype and plays with it a bit. I don’t want to give anything away, but keep your ears open at the chorus, and you’ll see what I mean. The song gets a beautifully rendered spooky vibe. On Cumberland Moonshine, the twang in Renee Wahl’s voice comes and goes. It’s not an affectation; it’s just a tool that Wahl uses to get the emotion of her songs across, and she has others. She can go from the sweetness of a Dolly Parton to almost the sharp tone of a Maria McKee, and Wahl uses this expressive range perfectly, giving each song what it needs. The music has rockabilly accents, and even a bluesy flavor in places, but it is unmistakably country.The scorned lover is a classic figure in country music. Renee Wahl takes this archetype and plays with it a bit. I don’t want to give anything away, but keep your ears open at the chorus, and you’ll see what I mean. The song gets a beautifully rendered spooky vibe. On Cumberland Moonshine, the twang in Renee Wahl’s voice comes and goes. It’s not an affectation; it’s just a tool that Wahl uses to get the emotion of her songs across, and she has others. She can go from the sweetness of a Dolly Parton to almost the sharp tone of a Maria McKee, and Wahl uses this expressive range perfectly, giving each song what it needs. The music has rockabilly accents, and even a bluesy flavor in places, but it is unmistakably country. - No Depression and Oliver Di Place - Musings on music. New Discoveries and Old Favorites.

"Top 5 - Featured Artist Renee Wahl (the title is deceiving when you view the website)"

"Renee Wahl has studied music in college and on the mean streets of Philadelphia. After a stint in the Air Force she moved to Nashville, where she has honed her songwriting skills into an incredible blend of country and rock, with the punk sneer and swagger of alt-country thrown in for good measure. Wahl has crafted a sound that is at the same time feels original and well worn, managing to craft a tight traditional country sound with a twist. Though just beginning her career she is already writing songs that could easily compete with anything on country radio today." - Danny McCaslin, Lonely Friday

"On Something New"

Candy Says: The featured track reminds me a little of Emmylou Harris circa Elite Hotel era, take that as a positive as Renee stamps her own mark on the music. That’s only one dimension of her, there is a lot more and you would do well to check out the album Cumberland Moonshine if this song grabs you. - Beehive Candy

"New Faces"

Die in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania geborene und aufgewachsene Singer/Songwriterin RENÈE WAHL deckt auf ihrem Albumdebüt Cumberland Moonshine zusammen mit musikalischen Mitstreitern wie Fats Kaplan, Kenny Vaughan und Pat Bergeson das ganze Spektrum zwischen Alt.Country, Americana und Roots Rock ab. Erzählt werden große und kleine Geschichten über Verbrechen, Schuld, Sühne, Tod, Hoffnung, Liebe und Erlösung. Balladen, Twang und Rock geben sich hier sozusagen die Klinke in die Hand nostalgisch und erfrischend gleichermaßen. Wer auf wirklich gute Singer/Songwriter-Kunst steht, der liegt hier goldrichtig. (In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, born and raised singer / songwriter RENEE WAHL covers on their album debut Cumberland Moon Shine together with musical colleagues such as Fats Kaplan, Kenny Vaughan and Pat Bergeson whole spectrum between, Americana and roots rock at it. Told, large and small stories of crime, guilt, atonement, death, hope, love and redemption. Ballads, twang and rock to come here to speak the catch in the hand - both nostalgic and refreshing. Who is on really good singer / songwriter Art, which is right here.) - Country Jukebox


Il brano On Something New, che apre la raccolta, sembra presagire qualcosa di nuovo nel mondo patinato del country nashvilliano ormai troppo spesso relegato a produzioni mainstream e commerciali che hanno il solo scopo di scalare le classifiche. Il brano, di sicura presa, ci apre le porte a Cumberland Moonshine esordio per Reneé Wahl, una nuova songwriter che ha tutte le qualità per volare in alto nell'olimpo dell'alternative country. Ex marines ed educatrice, Renee ha maturato nel corso di pochi anni una lunga esperienza, e un carattere caparbio che l'ha portata nel 2007 a spostarsi a Nashville, realizzando così il suo grande sogno, quello di diventare una vera songwriter ed esibirsi dal vivo (ben 67 concerti nel 2010). La voce calda, vellutata e ricca di pathos può far venire in mente quella di Neko Case o di Maria McKee (Lone Justice) mentre i suoi testi sembrano piccoli ritratti fatti di semplici storie che riflettono le sue esperienze e che parlano delle gioie e delle delusioni della vita, degli amori persi e di quelli ritrovati. Sette delle dodici tracce sono scritte in compagnia dell'amico Roger Prescott (che spesso la accompagna dal vivo), che da un contributo notevole al suono dell'album con quel suo infallibile tocco di chitarra (oltre a mettere mano alla produzione). Nonostante le principali influenze siano riscontrabili nella musica country di Dolly Parton e Tammy Wynette, troviamo anche accenti roots, blues e rockabilly che rendono la raccolta un piacevolissimo ascolto dall'inizio alla fine.

Ascoltando le sue canzoni si ha come la sensazione di parlare con un vecchio amico di fronte ad una birra o un caffè. Per l'occasione viene accompagnata da musicisti di prim'ordine del circuito di Nashville: Bryan Owings alla batteria (Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin), Pat Bergeson alla chitarra e armonica (Shelby Lynne, Lyle Lovett), Charly Chadwick al basso e alla co-produzione. Keeping You For Mine é la classica ballata dal "cuore spezzato" con una bella melodia che ti si appiccica addosso, mentre Around è accattivante ed energica ed è sicuramente il pezzo più trascinante dell'intera raccolta, che potrebbe anche portargli qualche soddisfazione commerciale. One More To Go è una ballad dolce amara che ti rapisce al primo ascolto con quel suono twangy delle chitarre, la slide e la voce intensa ed espressiva che non stonerebbe in una soundtrack di David Lynch. Il brano rimanda al primo Chris Isaak, che rimane una delle sue principali influenze. E proprio per il riconoscimento che ha per lui, la cantautrice originaria della Pennsylvania ripropone I'm Not Waiting (la seconda traccia di Heart Shaped World). Il brano, con tanto di rombo di Harley, è rifatto con quel piglio country e rocakabilly che lo rende uno dei brani più riusciti della raccolta.

Non mancano ballate honky tonk come la dolce Roses Are Blue e la romantica Love Won't Be Denied alternati a brani r'n r dalla forte carica adrenalinica come Heartbreak Thing e Come On Baby, che ricorda il sound degli amati X. Got A feeling è una ballata desertica dagli accenti bluesy mentre la sofferta Under My Skin fa venire in mente Sherryl Crow. Chiude I'm a Wave, forse il brano meno riuscito, supportato però dal suono sempre deciso ed energico della band che l'accompagna. A Nashville è nata una nuova stella dal nome di Reneé Wahl. Da affiancare a Zoe Muth come una delle rivelazioni del 2011 nel country al femminile.
(Emilio Mera) - Emilio Mera, Roots Highway

"Stop dead in your tracks..."

"Stop dead in your tracks good. Renee's voice needs to be heard!"
- Daniel Schwartz, Architecture in Sound
91.9 WMEB radio, Orono, ME - 91.9 WMEB Radio, Orono, Maine


Sworn Secrets
1. See You On The Way Down
2. Better The Devil
3. Baby Don't Go
4. Wild Living
5. Whiskey Smells Like Bad Decisions

Cumberland Moonshine
1. On Something New
2. Keeping You For Mine
3. Around
4. One More To Go
5. Under My Skin
6. Roses Are Blue
7. Heartbreak Thing
8. Love Won't Be Denied
9. Come On Baby
10. Got A Feeling
11. I'm Not Waiting
12. I'm A Wave



Nashville singer/songwriter Renée Wahl has a secret — countless secrets, actually.

In addition to her bandmates, known collectively as the Sworn Secrets, Wahl accumulated a career full of others as a captain in the U.S. Air Force with top-secret clearance when assigned to the National Security Agency.

Perhaps her duties in the world of covert operations helped her hone her authenticity as a songwriter and as a performer. So does playing the very stages in East Nashville that are the epicenter of the burgeoning singer/songwriter-centric scene that’s being described as Nashville’s New Outlaw movement. And now, the Pennsylvania native is carving out her own space at the recently rediscovered intersection where authentic Nashville songwriting meets Music Row.

Inspired by groundbreaking artists including Neko Case, Buddy and Julie Miller, Linda Ronstadt, and Ryan Adams , Wahl deftly crafts accessible songs that explore the human experience. From escaping emotional torment to finding a short-term solution to a temporary loneliness problem, few topics are off limits when it comes to Wahl’s powerful and personal approach to songwriting.

“Songwriting can be very personal, and in some ways, it can be secretive,” Wahl says. “When writing, I dig deep, and that sometimes brings up subjects that I might not normally talk about in an open environment.”

The youngest of four in her blue-collar family, Wahl earned an undergraduate degree in physics from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania and a masters in aeronautics from the acclaimed Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. While show business may be in her blood — her grandmother was a Vaudeville singer and tap/acrobat — she owes her interest in the Air Force to her grandfather, who served as a tail-gunner on a B29 “Superfortress” in World War II as part of the group that supported the Enola Gay. Another forebear took part in the American Revolution and, as an owner of two whiskey stills, later participated in the historic Whiskey Rebellion of 1791.

“I am so grateful for having the opportunity to serve my country in such a meaningful way, and I appreciate the experiences it provided me,” Wahl says. “I draw upon those, a lot actually, in songwriting. Plus, they help me deal with some of the rigors of this crazy industry.”

Also helping her “deal with the rigors” of being an independent artist in Nashville’s dynamic music industry is her drive to be as exciting on stage as she is honest in her songwriting.

Wahl also challenges herself to find the next level in her recordings. Toward that end, Wahl invited iconic singer/songwriter and producer Buddy Miller to sing on her upcoming single “Wild Living.” The song will available this fall when she releases the first of two EPs due out before year’s end. Each was produced by Patterson Barrett, who’s worked with, among others, Buddy Miller, Jerry Jeff Walker and Gurf Morlix.

In 2011, Wahl self-released Cumberland Moonshine, a full-length LP, to critical praise. She has also had cuts on other artists’ albums, including three for Nashville’s own Bill Maier. Television and film placements include a CBS-produced documentary and the Geordie Shore, British equivalent to Jersey Shore.

With the release of her highly anticipated EP this fall, secrets are about to be revealed…

Bio Credit: Skip Anderson

Band Members