Shueyville-born musician Hailey Whitters is joining Shania Twain’s tour — but not before two Iowa shows and a pork tendy

Hailey Whitters w/ Stephen Wilson Jr.

Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon, Iowa City -- Thursday, March 30 at 8 p.m., $20-30

Hailey Whitters

Wooly's, Des Moines -- Saturday, April 1 at 7 p.m., $40-75

Photo of Hailey Whitters courtesy of the artist; pork tenderloin photo by Zak Neumann/Little Village; illustration by Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Before she tours with pop-country queen Shania Twain, Hailey Whitters plans to return to her roots.

Raised is super influenced by the people and place that raised me,” said Whitters, a Shueyville-born country musician now based in Nashville, regarding her latest album. “I found myself unintentionally [thinking] back to that place when I was writing this record… In hindsight I was probably a bit homesick, I was on the road a lot, I’d been in Nashville for 10 or 12 years.”

Her 2017 debut, Black Sheep, earned her comparisons to Lucinda Williams and Emily Saliers from Little Village reviewer Genevieve Trainor, who praised Whitters’ voice and songwriting chops. (That same year, Little Big Town released a single, “Happy People,” co-written by Whitters and Lori McKenna.)

“If Hailey Whitters really is a ‘late bloomer,’” Trainor wrote in their review, “then country music has a lot to look forward to from her.”

On March 30, 2023, the 33-year-old Whitters plays at Iowa City’s Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon, half an hour south of the town she grew up in, as part of her Raised tour, which kicked off in late February.

Raised will be a year old when Whitters finally performs the album in eastern Iowa. The last time she was in the area was in 2022 as part of her COVID-delayed Heartland tour. After a year of waiting, Whitters’ Raised tour allows her to build shows to center tracks from this latest release.

“‘Raised,’ the title track … I think that’s going to shine in a live setting,” she said, musing on some of the pieces she’s eager to bring home with her band. “‘Big Family,’ that’s one I’m excited about. ‘Pretty Boy’… that’s a piano ballad on the record and none of us play piano so I’m very curious how that one will come through.”

This stop near her hometown will be brief, but there are a few musts for the rising star during her visit.

“A pork tenderloin is always on the list,” she said. “I’m stoked to be back and to get to be there with the people who have supported me since day one, and I’ll hope I get a pork tenderloin bigger than my face.”

Her schedule will bring her to Peoria, Illinois the next day, followed by a show at Wooly’s in Des Moines at 7 p.m. on April 1.

Soon after that central Iowa stop, Whitters will prepare to join up with Shania Twain’s Queen of Me tour as an opener for the country superstar. Whitters will play on stages set before crowds of more than 10,000 people.

“I don’t even know if that’s really sunk it yet. It’ll probably hit me seeing the stage, but I try not to think about that too much because I get so nervous and anxious,” Whitter said. “It’s gonna be nuts, it’s probably going to be some of the biggest shows I’ve ever played.”

Whitters expressed a desire to give her audience a show that feels authentic and intimate, whether she’s playing to a crowd of 10 or 10,000.

“I feel very privileged to be out here, to be doing what I’m doing and it would not be possible with the people and the place that raised me,” Whitters said. “So I’m excited to bring it home and get to play it in the place and for the people.”

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 317.