Throughout the history of country music, its trailblazing women have told their unabashedly honest forlorn tales of being cheated on. Loretta Lynn’s self-penned “Fist City” is her feisty warning to a flirty stranger, Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” asks women to never leave their husbands despite their transgressions, and Carrie Underwood’s scorchingly vengeful “Before He Cheats” tells men to think twice before committing infidelity. But not many songs tell it from the viewpoint of a cheating wife.
Enter: Mae Estes’ “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Cheatin’.”
Premiering exclusively on The Boot, Estes’ latest offering chronicles the story of a potentially unfaithful wife who ponders cheating on her spouse with another man. “Potentially” is the keyword here. While she doesn’t act on her impulses, she explores the idea in a very open conversation with her husband.
After imploring him to finally “turn off that TV,” she confesses, “I been thinking, thinkin’ ‘bout cheatin’ / Though I don’t have a reason to cross that line I just had to tell you / Cuz it’s something I never thought I’d do / Ain’t thinking about leaving / But I been thinkin’ ‘bout cheatin’.”
‘Thinkin’ ‘Bout Cheatin” was written by the Arkansas native alongside Autumn McEntire and Alex Kline over Zoom in March 2021.
“I brought the idea in after an actual conversation with my husband. I told him he didn’t have to worry about me ever cheating on him because if I ever felt compelled to do so, I would tell him before I did it,” Estes tells The Boot. “Then, Alex, Autumn, and I tried to imagine how that conversation would go if it were a country song.”
“There’s a sense of humor to the story in the song,” she says, “But ultimately it’s based on my ideal marriage, where even when the conversations are hard, the respect for each other is strong enough to have them anyway. Most of my music in general covers uncomfortable topics that I like to call ‘ugly’.”
Sonically, the perfectly-textured neotraditional country song harkens back to the genre’s classic sound traditionalists love. Over organic instrumentation, Estes shares the very honest and transparent side of her heart.
“Does it break your heart hearing every word / Do ya wish that you woulda brought it up first If it makes you mad, give me your worst / Baby tell me does it even hurt,” she sings candidly over the lonesome wail of a steel guitar and simple, windblown acoustic guitar strums and drum beats. While the plot goes against the stereotypical narrative of a good ol’ wife, Estes isn’t afraid to take her storytelling to uncharted territories, albeit with lightheartedness and fun.
“All of my favorite country songs and singers were unapologetic about the material they covered if they believed it needed to be said and I’m definitely trying to do the same as I develop my own career,” shares Estes. In fact, because this song’s narrative is so unorthodox, it ended up ruffling some feathers when the singer teased it earlier on social media.
“It was offensive to some, which honestly maybe excites me even more. To me, it says more about those offended and their uncomfortableness with being honest with themselves instead of the song itself actually being offensive,” adds the Arkansas native. “It’s funny because the entire song is a conversation and she’s even telling her spouse that no cheating has actually occurred.”
This sentiment is clearly spelled out, or sung aloud, in the second verse of the song. “No I haven’t met nobody / But lately there’s been a few times / A stranger has looked at me / In a way I kinda liked / Ain’t no motel keys or sneaking around / Just temptation that’s weighing me down,” Estes admits in candor.
Nonetheless, the singer is proud of what she and her producer Paul Sikes have created together, and they should be. “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Cheatin’” is traditional country perfection that transports listeners back to the time when the genre’s pioneering women like Kitty Wells, Dolly Parton, Lynn, and Wynette told their plain-spoken truth over rootsy instrumentation brought to life by Nashville A-team session players.
“It’s an ode to traditional country music and a great song to two-step to. I can’t wait to hear (good or bad) what country music listeners think about cheating,” Estes adds with a quip.
Listen to “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Cheatin'” above before it drops everywhere on Wednesday (May 11).
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