Song premiere: Jennifer Nettles addresses 9/11, immigrants in moving 'King of the City'

Wendy Geller

Grammy-winning artist Jennifer Nettles is one of the few country stars who live in New York City. As a tribute to her home, she has a timely new song “King of the City”– a composition inspired by the story of an immigrant window washer who perished in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Nettles is set to release the song officially on Friday in advance of the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but Yahoo Music has the first listen for fans to enjoy.

“It has been so long since I started writing this song, but I was only able to finish it in the last year,” says Nettles. “I was inspired by the political tensions in our country right now. I want to humanize the immigrant story as an American story, and allow people a different narrative from what they might be seeing on the news or in their communities.”

“King of the City” tells the story of Jose, who went from delivering pizzas to a job where his “throne sits downtown in the air.” While describing his terror and shock during the initial attack, it also declares: “It’s true I wasn’t born here/But my heart is sworn here/To hold up your dreams with my own.”

Nettles, who lived in Mexico and studied Spanish and anthropology in college, now resides in an apartment that overlooks the Freedom Tower site. “September 11 was such a tragedy that everyone rallied around,” she says. “We all hurt on that day, we were all Americans and all patriots, and the immigrant story is the real American dream—to come and build your life in this place.”

“What I like to do as an artist is not wave a flag and scream in your face,” she says. “I like to sit in the corner and say, ‘Look over here, here’s a different story, another way to look at this.’ The places I want to address are places of pain, to say, ‘Where does it hurt? Let’s talk about that’—and we are hurting as a country. So I hope that within the Latino community, people feel validated and seen with this song, and I hope that within the country at large it sends a message of unity.”

Last year, Nettles released two new albums and starred in the Emmy-nominated special Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love. This summer, she returned to the stage in a production of Mamma Mia! at the Hollywood Bowl; it was her co-star in the show, Latin superstar Jaime Camil, who first proposed the idea of Nettles performing “King of the City” on Univision.

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