Makin’ Tracks: Tenille Arts’ ‘Jealous of Myself’ Is a Moody Masterpiece With a Classic Misdirection
On Jan. 14, songwriter Emily Weisband posted a TikTok video of a new song and asked her followers to play publisher and suggest who should record it. The responses brought a string of worthy targets: Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Camila Cabello, Lauren Daigle, Demi Lovato and Danielle Bradbery, among others.
Additionally, Tenille Arts offered her own ideas about whom Weisband should have sing it: “Ummm, you. Or me. Lol”
Weisband didn’t know it at the time, but Arts — despite the “Lol” — was very serious about “Jealous of Myself.” “That melody was stuck in my head the minute that I heard it,” Arts says. “I kept going back and watching that TikTok over and over again.”
“Jealous of Myself ” became her newest single when Dreamcatcher Artists released it to country radio via PlayMPE on Oct. 14, exactly nine months after Arts first heard the TikTok.
The song’s actual birth came a day prior to its TikTok debut, when Weisband and Old Dominion’s Trevor Rosen met Big Loud writer John Byron in an upstairs writing room at his publisher’s offices. Byron went into the appointment with an agenda. He had previously lost an eight-year relationship, and he had also recently discovered that his ex had started seeing a man from Colorado who was now moving to Nashville to be near her. Byron was bummed, and his disappointment led to that “Jealous of Myself” title.
“I was very jealous of him,” concedes Byron, “but I was definitely more jealous of me when I did have her. So when I thought of the title, I wrote it down.”
He also held it for that Jan. 13 appointment with Weisband, believing she could provide a woman’s perspective for the idea’s inherent vulnerability. It got a positive response when he introduced it, and while they continued winding through other potential titles, they kept coming back to “Jealous.”
Initially, Byron and Rosen mapped out a musical direction on guitar. “We were trying to just start somewhere with some chords,” Rosen recalls. “But then at one point, Emily walked over — he had a piano sitting there — and she just sat down and started playing. It’s incredible how when she just starts singing whatever comes off the top of her head, we’re like, ‘Oh, my God. That’s it.’ It was magical.”
At some point, they came up with the full hook, “I’m jealous of myself when I had you,” and they determined to make it a mystery for the first-time listener by creating a storyline that would sound initially as if the new girlfriend was the target of the jealousy.
Rosen landed on the opening line, “She’s a little bit younger,” which established a path for the story. “That is such a good misdirection,” says Rosen. “It sounds like it’s a younger girl, but it’s the picture of ‘me’ when I was younger. So everything else sort of started to fall in around that.”
The mystery, and the jealousy, fits in a surprisingly melancholy musical package — surprising, since the bulk of Weisband’s chord progression is major chords, but the flow feels more moody, like a minor key.
“I tend to play different voicings of major chords, so sometimes they’ll sound a little more like longing than just the basic major chord,” she says. “There’ll be like one little note off in the chord that kind of makes it feel a little more dissonant because [I think] the full range of human experience is like this bittersweet, tension thing.”
The melody followed in bittersweet suit. In the pre-chorus, it hangs on the seventh note of the key, one that begs for resolution. But it simultaneously falls in the middle of the chord, literally creating heartbreaking dissonance with two of the three notes in the triad.
Byron played piano for a piano-vocal demo at the end of the session, with Weisband delivering a smoky vocal on the floor, hunched over a microphone she clutched with both hands.
“When Emily sings, she does whatever she needs to get into the real emotion,” says Byron. “She gets down on her knees and starts wearing into this song, and it’s just breaking my heart because the title is already near and dear to me. And so she’s ripping my heart out.”
They determined that it needed an extra diversion after the second chorus, so Weisband added a soaring vocal section on the fly. When it was completed, Weisband was anxious to have people hear “Jealous.”
“Writing songs, to me, has been my healer throughout my life, and that’s why I do it,” she says. “If it’s my healer to write it, then it’s going to heal somebody else who listens to it, you know? I kind of feel that way about every sad song I get to be a part of writing; it’s absolutely a part of the healing.”
Once Arts heard it on TikTok the next day, her team reached out to the writers, and a few weeks later, she enlisted producer Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift, Keith Urban), who had produced three tracks on her 2021 album, Girl to Girl.
“One of my favorite things that he said to me last time we were working together was to sing the verses like you were telling a story and then to sing the choruses like you’re a singer,” she recalls. “The amount of emotion that he was able to get out of my vocals in the past, I just knew that he was going to be able to pull that out of me.”
OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder had recently mentioned to Chapman that ’80s pop sounds were beginning to feel in vogue again, and when Arts mentioned that she thought “Jealous” needed an ’80s sort of sound, Chapman thought it was an astute read. He had keyboard player Dave Cohen apply an era-appropriate electric piano, and he gave it a slow build.
“A lot of songs in the ’80s kind of bloom like that, and it’s because people’s attention spans were a lot longer,” reasons Chapman. “I thought, ‘If we’re going to be in that world, let’s really unfold the track the way those songs are treated. Let’s not only hit the piano tones and drum sounds, but let’s hit the architecture of how those records are made as well.’ ”
He also chose to record it like a pop song, building it one track at a time with drummer Aaron Sterling, who also programmed a bass part; Cohen; and guitarist Kevin Kadish. Chapman, Arts and Sara Haze added backing vocals, which grew in prominence as the song progressed. And late in the process, Arts and Dreamcatcher founder Jim Mazza visited Chapman’s studio, convincing him at that point to add atmospheric steel guitar to lend a little more country and a little more pain.
“This is one of those songs where it’s like, ‘All right, producer, don’t screw it up,’ ” Chapman says. “ ‘You got a great song. You had a great direction for the artists, and you got a great vocalist who’s going to crush the vocal — don’t screw it up.’ And in this one situation, I don’t think I did.”
Arts debuted “Jealous of Myself” during a CMA Fest performance in June, and fans asked afterward where they could purchase it. It has since become a featured song in the set, and she’s optimistic that it could become a standout on the airwaves, too, once it gets exposed there.
“It’s a true country song to me,” she says. “It’s a story song, it says something new that really hasn’t been out there, and I think Nathan’s production is so different and unique. And that’s been the response that we’ve had from country radio, that it doesn’t sound like anything else out there right now. I hope that’s a good thing and that we can have another No. 1.”