Feature Stories

Bonnie Whitmore Is a Country Gal Gone Sad

Bonnie Whitmore ventured out of a lifetime of country music influences to make a rock record. It's a record that gives voice to the singer-songwriter and the Denton native's angry inner woman. She says the album, F#@k With Sad Girls, will pull some of her fans out of their comfort zones. 

“Let’s just say there’s a lot of balls in this record that haven’t been there before,” Whitmore says over the phone from Austin. 

Due in October, F#@k With Sad Girls is an homage to pissed off women in American music, a record that slides from doo-wop to unhinged heavy rock. The songs are not typical country fare either, with lyrics about feminine independence, emotional masochism and that oh-so-salient title track. “The song just pushes the boundaries on what people consider to be attractive and beautiful," she says. "And not having to necessarily conform to what it has been and what it should be and what I want it to be.”

It’s also a crowdfunded album for which 25 percent of proceeds after reaching her goal went to Planned Parenthood, drawing some social media criticism from some of the more religiously conservative Texas country fans.  “It’s such an unfortunate thing that such a pretty girl has to give money to such a terrible organization,” one commenter wrote on her Facebook page. Whitmore deleted the comment, along with a few more along those same lines.  

F#@k With Sad Girls is the third album by Whitmore, 33, an Austin musician with deep roots in the Texas country and Americana music scene. Her mother is an opera singer; her father, a folk singer who formed a traveling band with Bonnie, her sister, and her mother while she was still in elementary school.

As an adult, Whitmore has come to the conclusion that she’s not likely to settle down and start a family, choosing instead to put all her energies into her music. F#@k With Sad Girls, she says, is her answer to a society she believes expects her as a woman to do those things without question. “When I came to my own realization of what I’m willing to sacrifice — essentially having a relationship or a family in order to pursue this — it gave me the freedom to choose to do the art that I want to express,” Whitmore says.

Some of the songs on her previous albums have been described as, among other things, the whiskey-soaked darker side of country music.  So while F#@k With Sad Girls is a departure from the country sound and closer to the rock ’n’ roll that Whitmore grew up listening to when she wasn’t touring with the family, it clearly runs along the same emotional lines as some of her earlier efforts.

“I’m not going to be the pretty little girl,” she says. “That’s not what I want to be, or what I feel like I need to be anymore.”  The inspiration for the album was, in Whitmore’s view, the need for a “visceral, guttural, feminist, angry woman” in modern music.

“Like where is the Liz Phair of today?” she wonders. “There’s sort of a lull right now.”

And what’s she so pissed off about? There’s the assault on reproductive rights that’s happening around the country, she says, along with the "rape culture" that protects attackers. And that fact that women are always expected to smile, be cheerful in order to be loved or listened to.

“But no one really wants to fuck the sad girl/No one wants to see the cracks the makeup doesn’t hide/When she's no one's girl, or little pearl, who wants to see the inside?” she asks on the title track.
“I’m not alone in admitting to being a sad girl,” she said. “That’s kind of the whole thing. It’s OK. Let’s stop hiding in the shadows and have this confirmation and be there for each other and get better and do better and be better people because of it.”
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