Country singer-songwriters Ernest and Hailey Whitters have an EP of duets coming this fall. They announced the project, Countrypolitan, by releasing an enchanting version of one of the biggest country music duets of all time: Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's “Islands in the Stream.”

When the pair decided to put together a project in the tradition of the genre's great duet albums, they knew they wanted to do a cover. "Ern brought up the idea of "Islands in the Stream," Whitters recalls in a press release, "and, of course me, being a huge Dolly fan, [I] was all about it."

Adds Ernest, "I had mentioned an "Islands in the Stream" cover because of the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton comparisons we both get. I wish Kenny Rogers were still alive so I could shake his hand, and I hope he would approve."

The production on Whitters and Ernest's cover is classic and honors the original, yet also feels new and fresh. "Jacob Durrett laid the foundation for the re-imagination of this song," Whitters says, "and I think he brilliantly found a way to reinvent the song in a way that can appeal to a newer, younger audience of country music listeners while still maintaining the integrity and feel of the original version.

"In both the visual and sound of this song, we wanted it to be bright and happy while continuing to spread a message and feeling of love and unity," she adds. "I hope when listeners hear this song they can feel that.”

Whitters and Ernest's "Islands in the Stream" cover — accompanied by a vibed-out music video directed by Harper Smith — is one of seven songs on Countrypolitan, due out on Sept. 17. Whitters came up with the idea for the project "as I was going down the rabbit hole listening to old country duets," she says, but she held onto it until she found the right collaborator.

"It seemed like, back in the day, everyone used to release collaboration records: Dolly and Kenny, Loretta and Conway, Tammy and George ... You don't really see full-length records like that anymore, and I was thinking it would be fun to do a project like that in today's modern era," she explains. "I sat on the idea waiting for the right partner, and the first day Ern and I wrote, it just felt like a natural fit.”

Adds Ernest, "This is such a cool side project because I love old-school music. It was fun to write with that in mind, but still with a fresh perspective. The production on this project is awesome, and the band was great. There are real strings, real fiddles. It feels like it all came together in the blink of an eye.”

Already in 2021, Whitters released Living the Dream, the deluxe version of her sophomore album, 2020's The Dream. Nashville native Ernest, meanwhile — a songwriter whose credits include Sam Hunt's recent single "Breaking Up Was Easy in the '90s" — is looking forward to joining Chris Lane on his Fill Them Boots Tour this fall.

Hailey Whitters Ernest Countrypolitan
Big Loud / Songs & Daughters / Pigasus

Ernest and Hailey Whitters, Countrypolitan Tracklist:

1. "Islands in the Stream"
2. "Say Anything"
3. "String Me Along"
4. "One Less Whiskey"
5. "White Limousine"
6. "Every Piece of Me"
7. "Neon Silver & Jukebox Gold"

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