There are times, in this not-actually-a-job, that you find yourself reading over an interview with an artist that you’re currently a little bit infatuated with, and it turns out that in her words she is as playful and mischievous and wild as her music, and you wonder how it is you and your silly little blog manage to convince these people that you’re actually doing them a favour.
Texan multi-instrumentalist (I think, although it’s mostly fiddle) Amanda Shires will be in the UK and Ireland over the next couple of weeks touring last year’s Carrying Lightning. Let me do you a favour, now, and insist you get along.
How did you get started writing music and performing?
My Dad was at a pawn shop shopping for new hunting knife. I saw this fiddle hanging on the wall. It was infatuation. By some miracle my father found it in his heart to buy it for me. That’s where it started. The progression went from breaking all the strings the next hour to getting a teacher a few months later, to playing with The Ranch Dance Fiddle Band, then The Texas Playboys…..then many many others…then a big move to Nashville to start over and try and make a new name as a singer/songwriter artist ……waiting tables, recording West Cross Timbers…then a duo record with long time touring partner Rod Picott that release is called Sew Your Heart With Wires, then recording my newest record Carrying Lightning…..and performing and playing with some of my favorite artists Todd Snider, Justin Townes Earle, Jason Isbell, and others…..and then here we are.
Three words to describe your music…
landscapes, love, misery
I find it refreshing that you don’t like to explain the stories behind your songs in detail. Why do you think this is important?
I like the listener to bring their own feelings into a song. To me, music is somewhat like a coloring book. There’s the lines and then you color it how you feel. I don’t want to take away how someone relates to music. I want a song to put you in a moment. I myself appreciate when I don’t know the full story of a song. I like to feel like there’s something or someone out there that feel exactly like I do …. Or I like to pretend the song is about lasers and ewoks…
What influences you?
I am influenced a lot by personal experience as well as the experiences of family and friends close to me. I find influences in nature and books, too. Influences and inspiration can come from anything. I mean sometimes I get to the bottom of a wine bottle and poof! There’s a song.
What releases/shows do you have planned at the moment?
Well, right now I am finishing up a run of shows on the west coast…opening for Hayes Carll. Then, next week I am in the UK! Following that I land in NYC and begin an east coast run. My plans are to continue writing and make another record and continue touring and maybe one day have a house to live in.
Will this be your first time in Scotland? What do you think will appeal about your music to a Scottish audience?
It is not my first time to Scotland. I came a couple of times accompanying a fabulous singer/songwriter, Rod Picott. I can tell you though that the last time I was in Scotland I wrote a song called “Sloe Gin” which is on my new record Carrying Lightning. I remember it was in St. Andrews…that’s a really pretty place.
As well as making glorious music in your own right you also teach and back up other musicians. What are the different challenges that come with helping interpret somebody else’s work?
Teaching: Challenges in that area for me are finding multiple ways to communicate specific ideas. Sometimes one explanation doesn’t resonate with a person. When that happens, you are forced to come up with a new metaphor or a new angle to try and get a piece of information to click with a person.
Side player: For me the challenges in being a side musician are again with communication. If the artist you are accompanying has no knowledge or vocabulary associated with a violin terminology or make up, then you have to try and understand or interpret directions like “Can you play a little more agitated? or angry? Or, can you do it more like the way chocolate milk looks? It’s easy when a person has an idea like “I’m looking for something more like Lindley.” Or, “Can you do triplets here and go to a low register here?”. MY FAVORITE scenario is when an artist says “Play whatever you want.” This for me is great because I get to use my best judgment for the treatment of a song. I myself, when I have a side person, I like to leave the interpretation up to them. I feel like I chose a player because I already love what they do and bring to the music. I also feel like I am not an expert on any instrument, so if it’s not a fiddle I am not really entitled to make calls on how and what a steel player should play. I’m not sure if that makes sense…but what I mean is that I feel like I trust a player to make music and be musical…it’s more fun and spontaneous that way, too.
You seem to be really into Twitter and other forms of social media – do you think they’re a good way to interact with fans and friends? Do you feel under any pressure to present a certain persona there?
I like social media. I’m in the car, planes, trains, and waiting in lines a lot of the time. I find social interaction entertaining. It also feels good to feel like you have some connection with friends, family, and fans when you are far from home. To feel connected to anything is sometimes a chore for a lot of folks probably. I don’t really feel any pressure to create a persona. I do follow my grandfather’s advice though… “Make the story better if it’s a little dull!”
And what are you listening to at the moment?
Leonard Cohen, Ryan Adams, Todd Snider, Centro-Matic, Richard Buckner
Amanda Shires on tour:
TOMORROW! Turner’s Hill (West Sussex), House Concerts
15/04 Kirktown-in-Lindsey (Lincs), Town Hall
17/04 Kinross, Green Hotel
18/04 Glasgow, Woodend Bowling and Tennis Club
19/04 Leicester, The Musician
20/04 Bedford, Holy Moly’s @ Esquire
21/04 Sheffield, Greystone’s
22/04 Nottingham, The Maze
25/04 Bristol, St Bonaventure’s
26/04 Plymouth, The B-Bar
28/04 Ratoath (Co. Meath), The Venue Theatre
29/04 Carrig-on-Bannow (Co. Wexford), Colfer’s
30/04 Dublin, Whelan’s (upstairs)
02/05 Rathfriland (Co. Down), The Bronte Centre
03/05 Belfast, McHugh’s Basement
04/05 Kilkenny, Ryan’s Bar
05/05 Kilkenny, Cleer’s
06/05 Kilkenny, Ryan’s Bar
[Kilkenny dates part of Kilkenny Roots Festival]
[Image credit: Joshua Black Wilkins]