Rising Country Artist HunterGirl, Runner-Up on American Idol, Talks About Her Debut EP Tennessee Girl And Her Songs “Ain’t About You” and “Bad Boy”

(photo credit: Kristin Barlowe)

HunterGirl is a talented singer/songwriter who has just released her debut EP called Tennessee Girl. This EP marks an impressive debut for this young country artist, who was the runner-up on the hit TV show American Idol in 2022. She’s now signed to 19 Recordings/BBR Music Group/BMG Nashville, and she’ll be opening for country star Luke Bryan on his tour this summer.

HunterGirl (whose birth name is Hunter Wolkonowski), co-wrote all six songs on her  EP. This includes her powerful, heartfelt song “Ain’t About You,” which entered the Billboard Country Airplay chart earlier this year. Other highlights include the fun, playful single “Bad Boy,” the thoughtful, reflective song “Clockworks,” and the uptempo “Bad Decisions.”

In her new bio, HunterGirl says, “Tennessee Girl shows the different sides of my personality. I separate songs into two categories in my head, Blue Jean and Leather Jacket songs. Blue Jean songs are the ones I write in my bedroom opening my diary to the world. Leather Jacket songs are where I want to feel tougher and have fun. Most people have only seen the Blue Jean side of my personality, but with this 6-song EP, I have the chance to show the full picture of me as an artist.”

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with HunterGirl, who discusses her debut EP, Tennessee Girl.

On her EP, HunterGirl collaborated with hit writer/producer Lindsay Rimes (who’s worked with Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini and Nate Smith). She wrote three songs with Rimes and her longtime ftiend, Joybeth Taylor.

HunterGirl grew up in the city of Winchester, Tennessee, where she began singing as a young child, and by age 9 she was writing songs. Notably, she wrote a song called “Red Bird,” which she later performed on American Idol. When she was on American Idol, she made a strong impression and received great exposure, which led to her signing a label deal. She also met judge Luke Bryan on the show, who became a big supporter of her.

Here’s the video of HunterGirl’s single, “Ain’t About You.”

Besides joining Bryan on his concert tour this summer, HunterGirl recently made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry, performing her songs “Ain’t About You” and “Hometown Out Of Me.” She also played Nashville’s CMA Fest, and was Country Now’s guest host at the ACM Awards’ Red Carpet.

We are pleased to do this new Q&A inteview with HunterGirl. She discusses her new EP, her songwriting, and being on American Idol.

DK: You’re from the city of Winchester, Tennessee. How did you get started with singing and writing songs?

HunterGirl: I started singing when I was about 3 years old…I would go around my mom’s house singing about anything and everything. Then I started writing songs when I was about 9 years old. I always loved music from a young age.

DK: Two years ago, you were the runner-up on American Idol. What was it like to be on the show and get that exposure?

Here’s anpther excerpt of our interview with HunterGirl, who tells how she wrote her song, “Ain’t About You.”


HunterGirl: It was incredible to be on American Idol and get to be out in California. It was my first time out there. And I learned so much from the judges, from the band. the producers and the other contestants. It was definitely a whirlwind. It was so much fun, and I learned a lot of about myself as an artist and as a songwriter.

DK: On American Idol, you sang a song you wrote, “Red Bird.” Can you talk about writing this song, and then singing it on American Idol?

Here’s the video of HunterGirl’s single, “Bad Boy.”

HunterGirl: When I was little, my mom told me that whenever I saw a red bird, it meant someone was watching over me. So I’ve thought about that since I was a little girl, and I always I wanted to write a song about it.

“Red Bird” was the song that got me through the show, and when we got to the finals, I sang this song and dedicated it to my family. At the time, I didn’t know other people said that about cardinals and red birds and people watching over you, until I released the song. Then it was incredible to see this support once I released it. It’s one of my favorite songs to play to this day.

DK: On American Idol, Luke Bryan became a big supporter of you, and you’ll be opening some shows for him on his new tour. Can you talk about your friendship with Luke Bryan?

HunterGirl: Yes, Luke has been such a mentor to me and a champion for me since I was on the show. And even when I got off the show he was checking in on me and making sure I was doing good. I’m so excited to be on tour with him this summer. I remember having his CD in my car, and it’s a full-circle moment getting to be on tour and getting to see his fans. When I found out that I was going to be on the tour, I called up my mama and daddy and started crying (laughs).

DK: I like your song “Ain’t About You,” which you wrote by yourself. What inspired you to write this song?

HunterGirl: With “Ain’t About You,” I never thought that anybody would hear that song. I wrote it in my bedroom after a really hard day. I’d been wanting to do music since I was a kid, and nothing at the time was working out for me in Nashville. And I had just played a show and got back to the house, and I sat there on the floor and pouring my heart out. I was worried about everything…if I was gonna make rent next week.

You know it’s so hard, comparing yourself to other people and wondering if I was on the right path. But it was the easiest song I ever wrote, because I never thought anybody would hear it. I was 100% honest with where I was at, and I wrote that song a few weeks before American Idol happened. When I wrote it, I didn’t know being on Idol was around the corner, and I was asking God to let me know if this was my path or not.

Here’s the audio of HunterGirl’s song, “Clockwords.”

DK: You’ve just released your debut EP, called Tennessee Girl. Can you talk about the making of this EP?
HunterGirl: I’ve always dreamed of getting a record deal, so having this EP come out is a full circle kind of thing. As I was choosing the songs for this EP, I wanted to show everybody who I am as an artist but also as a person. I wrote on every song on this record and I feel like I was 100% honest with everything that I’ve said on it. I’m looking forward to seeing what everybody thinks…I hope they like it as much as I do.

DK: Your new song “Bad Boy” is fun to listen to. Can you talk about writing “Bad Boy”?

HunterGirl: When I went into the studio to write “Bad Boy,” I just wanted to have fun and see what happened. It was one of my favorite days I’ve ever had, getting to write the song. I’ve had the idea…the band has just finished a show, and a guy pulls up on a motorcycle and I start singing the line, “Really got it bad for a bad boy.” And I recorded it on my notes app on my phone. Then I went to the studio with my producer Lindsay Rimes and wrote this song. And you know, my taste in men is very questionable (laughs). If there’s mean looking one in the corner, I’m like “Oh my gosh, he seems no nice.” Or if he has a bunch of tattoos and looks super jaded, I’m like, “Oh my God, I can fix him” (laughs). I had a lot of fun writing this song.

DK: There’s another song I like on your EP: “Clockworks.” What inspired you to write this song?

HunterGirl: I wrote that with Lindsay Rimes and my best friend, Joybeth Taylor. When I went into the studio that day, it was the first time I met Lindsey, and Joybeth had this idea for the song called Clockworks. My grandpa had passed away five years ago, and when she said that title it made me think of him. I feel that life moves so quickly, and sometimes we forget to live in the moment. So I wanted to write a song where it was a constant reminder that you take the trip while you can, and tell everybody you love them while you can. This song is one of my favorites because it feels like every show that I have is a constant reminder to live in the moment.

Here’s the audio of HunterGirl’s song, “Pretty Much.”

DK: On your new EP, besides the songs we’ve discussed, what are your other favorite songs?

HunterGirl: One of my favorites is “Pretty Much.” It was the last song added for the EP, and it’s about worrying about how you look, and wondering if you’re saying the right things and trying to be perfect. Since I was younger, I always worried about what everybody thought about me, and I didn’t really take a second to wonder what I thought about me. And writing this song, I was really honest and I opened up about things. One of my favorite lyric lines in the song is, “Who decided what pretty was?” I hope that the girls who listen to this song know that they’re beautiful and they’re strong, and they were made perfect just the way they are.

DK: I want to ask you about your live shows. You’re opening shows for Luke Bryan, and you recently performed at the Grand Ole Opry. Can you talk about your live shows and your tour this year?

HunterGirl: I love getting to play the live shows and seeing the fans and sharing music. It’s one of my favorite parts of doing all this. I’m looking forward to the Luke Bryan tour, and then doing shows on my own, and opening up for other artists that I look up to. I love to use my brain in a different way…thinking about the live shows and taking time with my band. So I’m excited to be on the Luke tour and all the other shows this summer.

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima