Sunny Sweeney never wanted to get divorced again.
“My first marriage was really quick, and I was really young,” Sweeney, 46, tells PEOPLE in a revealing new interview. “So I got married the second time thinking that he was definitely the one. I mean, I would have never done it otherwise.”
But the ACM-nominated recording artist who has seen mainstream country music success with songs such as “From a Table Away” and “Drink Myself Single” did in fact get married again in 2011, only for the marriage to ultimately fall apart seven years later.
“I’m obviously not proud of it, and I definitely didn’t tell a lot of people,” she says quietly of her second divorce. “Being on the road really sucks, you know? I mean, I love being on the road. It’s the only thing that I actually love unconditionally. But being on the road is very hard on a relationship. It’s literally what’s taken away my relationships from me. You can’t nurture anything when you’re gone as much as we are.”
And it’s this undeniable truth that Sweeney found herself revisiting during the creation of her current album Married Alone, which not only has the Texas native near the top of the Americana charts courtesy of the single “Easy as Hello,” but also had the songstress facing the pain of her past in a somewhat therapeutic way.
“I feel like this album, and the song ‘Married Alone’ itself, is a really different way to look at a marriage falling apart,” says Sweeney of the song she co-wrote alongside Hannah Blaylock, Josh Morningstar and Autumn McEntire and performed alongside the legendary Vince Gill. “It’s basically like you’re watching your marriage fall apart in the song. That’s what my ex-husband and I did. We watched our marriage go to shambles right in front of us. And every day I was gone, it got worse.”
Granted, Sweeney says she still talks to her ex, who she refers to as “not a bad guy.” In fact, it was he that she called earlier this year to tell him that she had a new album coming out, with some of it ultimately about him.
“We’ve been friends for a really long time,” explains Sweeney, who has long leaned on the lyrical life lessons offered up by artists such as Tom Petty, Waylon Jennings and Loretta Lynn. “It just didn’t work out. I want him to be happy and he’s happy. And he’s happy that I’m happy. We just don’t have to be married anymore.”
Nevertheless, the Married Alone album goes deep into Sweeney’s past, especially in the cutting lyrics of “A Song Can’t Fix Everything.”
“It was the end of 2017 and I had just moved out,” Sweeney remembers of the premise of the song she ended up writing alongside Lori McKenna. “We had decided we were getting a divorce and I was just sitting in this new apartment by myself. I had nothing and there I was, thinking to myself that I couldn’t believe I was going through another divorce.”
She lets out a little laugh.
“If I was going to have a pity party, I was going to have a pity party,” says Sweeney, who is set to make her 61st appearance on the Grand Ole Opry on Christmas Eve of this year. “I put on Tom Petty and for 45 minutes, my life was perfect. And then the music stopped, and I was still going through a divorce. That was where my mind was when we started working on ‘A Song Can’t Fix Everything.'”
Today, Sweeney admits that her mind is in a far better place these days.
“I had the strength and the ability to make myself leave and walk away from a situation that I wasn’t happy in,” says Sweeney. “I know a lot of people that can’t do that. I’m very grateful that I got out of something and walked away from something that was not for me, and not for him too. It wasn’t fair to him for me to be married to someone that I didn’t want to be married to.”
And now, the two are friends.
“I wish no harm or ill will or anything on him,” says Sweeney, who finds herself in a relationship again. “I think sometimes it takes everything to fall apart in front of your face to see what was always meant to be.”