Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Amanda Shires on Going Solo, Songwriting and Texas

Josh Wool
"I don't know what it is to be a mom and an artist but I do know I still want to be an artist."

From Texas Standard:

Buddy Holly. Joe Ely. Butch Hancock. Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Terry Allen. And the list of musicians from Lubbock goes on. Over the years, music journalists have wondered what it is about this city that makes it produce so many musicians.

Amanda Shires, the current queen of Americana music, says that the answer is actually quite simple: there’s nothing else to do there except make music.

Shires grew up between Lubbock and Mineral Wells and her fiddle became her ticket out of the town. She toured with the Texas Playboys at age 15 and Billy Joe Shaver in her early 20s and eventually broke out as a solo artist.

Today, Shires lives in Nashville with her husband and fellow musician Jason Isbell, along with their daughter, Mercy. She wrote most of her latest album, “My Own Piece of Land”, during the final weeks of her pregnancy.

She speaks to Texas Standard about finding the balance between being a mother and a musician and about how her childhood in Texas influences her songwriting.

On writing music during her pregnancy:

“During that time, I think I was trying to, I guess, make an insurance for myself. I don't know what it is to be a mom and an artist but I do know I still want to be an artist … And I just wanted to write. I felt like doing the thing that I loved to do would somehow get me through it.”

On how Billy Joe Shaver convinced her to go solo:

“We’d listened to every song ever and he’s like, ‘I know you have this record you sell at the merch table next to my records and we should put that in, I should at least know what it sounds like.’ And I was like, ‘Oh geez no.’ So he put it in and he listened to one of the songs, a song called “Hearts are breaking,” and he’s like ‘you don't need to be a side person you need to be a songwriter.’ And at first I thought he was firing me, like politely, but he was sincere and it took about a year for that to develop into ... a thing that I could believe in.”

On the difference between Lubbock and Mineral Wells:

“I spent a lot of time on the Brazos River out there and [Possum Kingdom] Lake and six hours away there’s Lubbock, Texas, population 200,000. And it never rains and all the trees are imported. They’re completely different; there’s not a river, nothing. When I moved to Nashville I didn't realize how much of me was related to geography and setting. I really missed it and I missed my family and then I made up that song, ‘Minerals Wells.’”

On whether she’ll live in Texas again:

“I am hoping to at least have a home in Texas that we could have some sort of dual residency. And [Jason] really likes Texas and he really loves it even more now that he’s gotten to spend a lot more time there. It’s a special place, Texas. And you know maybe we'll get lucky and make enough money to buy another house out there.”

Written by Molly Smith.

Leah Scarpelli joined Texas Standard in September 2015 from NPR’s Morning Edition, where she spent seven years as a producer, director and occasional reporter of music and arts pieces. As Texas Standard director, Leah is responsible for the overall practical and creative interpretation of each day’s program: choosing segue music, managing the prep of show content, and providing explicit directions for the host and technical director during the live broadcast. She graduated from Ithaca College in New York with a Bachelor of Science degree in Television and Radio. She enjoys riding her Triumph motorcycle and getting out for hikes in the Texas countryside. Her late grandfather was from Yoakum.
Related Content