Last week, Amanda Shires released her seventh solo album, Take It Like A Man. The album chronicles the past several years of her life, from the achievements of founding the Grammy-winning The Highwomen to the lows of domestic issues with her husband and occasional bandmate Jason Isbell to her fight for reproductive rights and near-fatal entopic pregnancy and beyond. In a new interview with CBS Mornings, Shires reopened the wounds that led her to make the album.
From her recording studio in Nashville, TN, Silverneck Studios, also known as “the barn of internal wandering,” Shires takes interviewer Anthony Mason through a space that reflects the singer-songwriter’s fierce independence. The room is dotted with canvases of interpretive art and lit by an array of disco balls as she dons a painted-on Salvador Dali-esque mustache to work on her next piece. The studio is familiar to viewers of Isbell and Shires’ quarantine-era I So Lounging streaming series.
From her early beginnings picking out a fiddle in a pawn shop at ten years old to playing with septuagenarians in the Texas Playboys, Shires charts the inception of her trauma of being cast as a side player. She first broke through that barrier in 2011 with her solo debut, Carrying Lightning, and didn’t look back through The Highwomen or Take It Like A Man. Shires was inspired to form The Highwomen for her and Isbell’s six-year-old daughter Mercy after hearing 22 straight songs by men on a country music station.
“I’d like to hear a song, you know, where a girl sings,” she called and told the station. The self-titled debut album from The Highwomen—which also features Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby—hit #1 on the Billboard Country chart in 2019.
Her marriage to Isbell also served as a major inspiration for Take It Like A Man. Beginning in 2019 while Isbell recorded his album Reunions, the two grew apart as Jason withdrew into his music, Shires said.
“It was just a war in the studio. It was like a war he was having with himself and with me,” she recalled. “Suddenly in our house, he lived in his own invisible house and there was no windows and no doors and you couldn’t get to him. Like he was there, but he was just impenetrable.”
Shires ultimately got into the house, but not without using her own creative talents as a weapon in the so-called war.
“And you’d think you would get in it by writing your confessional songs like ‘Faultlines’ and texting it to him at 2 a.m.,” she said sarcastically. Amanda originally planned to leave “Faultlines” off the album, but Jason said to leave it on, noting, “It’s true and it’s a good song.”
The two ultimately reconciled, though not until after Shires moved out of their home for ten days during the recording of Reunions.
“I think we’re in a good place, and we’re happy,” Shires said. “I think we’re still in love.”
Watch Amanda Shires’ feature interview on CBS Mornings. She’s gearing up for a headlining solo tour, set to begin on September 9th in Asheville, NC.
Amanda Shires on her art, vulnerability and finding herself again | CBS Mornings