By Adam Rosenfeld
Moving by yourself halfway across the country to try and make it in the music business is not an ideal scenario, but Amanda Shires found her way, against all odds.
Next week will mark the release of her sixth solo album, To the Sunset, a culmination of six months of songwriting, recording and editing. The work is a celebration of individuality.
“It’s a toast, really,” Shires said. “To all the things that make us who we are in the present while at the same time accepting ourselves as who we were in the past. It’s also a toast to all the things we don’t know yet.”
Shires, a Texas native, said she was surrounded by music from an early age and was able to pick up important aspects of the art form like melody and improvisation. Her first real introduction, though, was at age 10 when she started learning to play the fiddle.
After developing a love for music, Shires moved to Nashville and began waiting tables in order to support herself.
She funded her first two albums through tips, but by her third album she was able to quit and pursue her music career full-time.
Not only has Shires had a fruitful solo career, but she has also worked with bands like the Texas Playboys, Thrift Store Cowboys and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, the latter of which is her husband’s group. However, there is a distinction between the music that she produces while in a band and while she is solo.
“The difference is in all the bands I’ve been in, they’ve all been led by men, and with that there comes a male perspective,” she said. “The difference with mine is perspective.”
Shires describes her musical genre as “indie awesome rock n’roll kick ass as hell music” and has found inspiration in artists like John Prine, Todd Snyder, Big Star and Leonard Cohen.
Her creative process when producing new songs is one that mirrors both her artistic heroes and her musical upbringing.
“I’ll sit down with a guitar or a violin and start messing around and finding cords, and if some kind of idea presents itself, then I start working off that,” she said. “I start making notes and then editing the work, and then I’ve got a song.”
To the Sunset, which is currently in pre-release, has garnered a good reception so far, as three singles from the album have been released. Shires said this phase of the process is the most nerve-wracking because she knows that her work is about to be criticized by the public.
This fact, however, does not stifle the joy she finds in her music.
With five studio albums under her belt, this album has taken Shires in a different direction than her previous works.
“They’re all songs I made up,” she said. “But this one has a little bit more self-acceptance and self confidence in my place in the world. I usually am a songwriter who writes miserable, hopeless dark things, but I think this one has a lot of light in it.”
Shires will be at the Birchmere on August 2 and her album To the Sunset will be available everywhere August 3.