"There is an ancient tradition that I read about where when a woman finds out she's pregnant, the other women in the village would send her off into the forest by herself so she could spend time in the wilderness, until she heard a song. That song would become the anthem of the child. At birth, throughout life, marriage, and death," Williams tells ET.
"I really loved that idea, but I was so crazy busy on the road that I didn’t know how to begin to hear [my son] Miles' song," she adds. "But when Miles was a week old -- all pink and squishy and with that new baby smell -- I was rocking him out in the screened-in porch of our house in Nashville. I was using my hand to pat and keep the rocking going together in time. It was a warm July afternoon, and the melody just kind of came to me. It was windy that day, and I almost wonder if the wind didn't bring it my way."
Venus will mark Williams' first solo effort since the end of The Civil Wars, and since becoming a new mother.
"I never realized how much free time I had until I became a mom," she confesses. "I used to think I was so busy. Then I became a mom. What did I do with all that free time before? Now, I'm lucky if I remember to put mascara on both eyes. I think becoming a mom has made me more OK with the messiness of life, more curious, more driven and more focused - hopefully more soulful somehow. I don't waste time anymore. Every minute I'm writing in the studio I'm away from my son, so I try to make every second count."
Fittingly, Venus will be released on June 29, just one day before Miles' third birthday. The album is available for pre-order now and beginning on Tuesday, June 9, "Sweet Love of Mine" will be available for instant download with album pre-orders, along with "Until the Levee," "What a Good Woman Does," and the lead single "Woman (Oh Mama)."
"I took the best parts of what I learned in The Civil Wars and brought my love of Massive Attack, Annie Lennox, Portishead, Kate Bush and hip-hop and made something that was completely different," Williams says of the album. "The process of writing these songs changed something in me. It wasn’t just the songs, but the hard work at staring into the broken parts of my life and figuring out how to carry on after that. How to build new, not just build the same thing again. That made me realize that life still goes on and I’m braver than I thought I was. I saw my life going one way and then it went totally haywire, but I think I’m going to look back and see that this was a necessary change."
Venus was born from the end of her GRAMMY-winning partnership with John Paul White, and from personal struggles within her marriage to music producer Nate Yetton. But Williams also drew inspiration from a superstar friend: Justin Timberlake.
"His unseen fingerprints are on this album," she says. "Justin and I met back in 2011 when we were both on Letterman. Over the years, we've kept up with each other and become friends. He was a great sounding board, and he was ultimately the one who introduced me to Matt Morris. Matt went on to not only co-write most of the record with me, but co-produce with Daniel James and Charlie Peacock, and co-executive-produce the album with me and Nate.
"I used to feel guilty because I've always felt I created better when I worked with other people. But working on my own album, I found that I really do better work when I work in tandem," she notes. "I can't just do great creative work with anyone, though. Whoever it is has to be an intuitive, active listener. Thankfully I found a few to add to my tribe of kindred spirits. When someone is drawing the best out of me, I’m drawing the best of them. And I'm drawing the best out of me."