Shortly before the pandemic brought travels to a halt, Buford Pope found himself on a bar stage in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Far from his native Sweden, he couldn’t have felt more at home as wove through an impromptu set, drawing on the rich and introspective country songs he’s penned in English for so many years. Only during the encore did the spell come unraveled, as his audience urged, “Why not sing us something in Swedish?”

At that moment, Pope felt like a stranger. Not to America’s musical heartland, but to himself. Despite his eager audience, he lacked a song of his own to share in his native tongue. That changes with A Brand New Leaf, Buford Pope’s self-produced ninth album and one of his most personal. Leading in with “Josefin”, his first song in Swedish, Pope pays tribute to beloved musician Josefin Nilsson, who hailed from his home island of Gotland. While he returns to English in the tracks that follow, this unexpected opener sets the tone for an album brimming with emotion and insight. “A Brand New Leaf has been a turning point, from singing in my own language to handling my own production,” says Pope. “For me, country music has always felt like coming home. But never have I brought so much of my own home – or myself – into it.”