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Amanda Shires: Her Life and Music


creative. My dad—there’s definitely an art to his job—grows flowers and my mum used to be a painter and clay sculptor, and she’s also a nurse too. I think music, or the artistic side of it probably came somewhat from all of them, but there is no music in my family.” She adds: “I’ve got a backup plan, but I don’t really hope to use it; it’s just to keep my mum happy.” Amanda plays both the fiddle and ukulele with impeccable skill,


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and acquired her first fiddle (a lime-green Chinese instrument) at the tender age of 10 from a pawn shop in Mineral Wells, Texas— one of two places she called home growing up, following her parents’ divorce when she was 5-years-old: “My dad was buying a new knife that had a compass on the end of it. It was pretty cool, shopping around and then I saw this fiddle and begged him for it. He wasn’t…a person who would ever get me anything any time but for some reason, he liked it too. He was like: ‘Oh, I’ll get you that.’ I’ve no longer got it, but I wish I did.” “I got a new fiddle,” she continues. “The last fiddle I had, Rod


[singer-songwriter Rod Picot] accidentally tripped on the cord and broke it last February.” Amanda’s career in music began when she was 15-years-old,


joining the surviving members of the Texas Playboys; the former backing band to western swing legend, Bob Wills, where she played fiddle. The Texas Playboys, amongst others, still continue to be a musical influence in her own solo career, as she tells me: “I have some old musical influences like the Texas Playboys…new, modern music…Richard Buckner, A.A. Bondy. I love Ryan Adams and I love singer-songwriters; people that can write really well. I still like Elton John. I like everything; I like all kinds of music.” In her later teen years whilst still studying at college, she went


28 Maverick


met up with gifted singer-songwriter and musician, Amanda Shires in Sheffield to talk about her life, inspirations and her 15-year career in music. Sitting upstairs at the Greystones, Amanda tells me how she got into music.


“I stumbled into it,” she says. “My family’s pretty artistic and


on to join Lubbock, Texas-based alt.country band, the Thrift Store Cowboys in 1999; (a band she is still presently a part of), which to date, have released four albums independently: NOWHERE WITH YOU (2001), THE GREAT AMERICAN DESERT (2003), LAY LOW WHILE CRAWLING OR CREEPING (2006) and LIGHTER FIGHTER (2011). In 2005, Amanda released her solo debut, BEING BRAVE—a


predominantly instrumental record—before re-locating to Nashville, Tennessee in order to grow as a singer-songwriter. It was there that she eventually recorded her ‘true’ solo debut, WEST CROSS TIMBERS (2009), released on Silver Knife Records; an album which very much introduced Amanda’s distinct musical style to the rest of the world. Throughout her 15-year career, Amanda has performed and


recorded with a number of well-known artists and musicians, including Texas legends, Billy Joe Shaver and Gary P. Nunn; indie rock hero, DeVotchKa; Alabama singer-songwriter, Jason Isbell and his band, the 400 Unit; Oregon singer-songwriter, Todd Snider and, on a number of occasions, collaborated with singer-songwriting maverick and guitarist, Justin Townes Earle. In fact, she actually appeared on the front cover of his 2008 debut, THE GOOD LIFE. I ask her what it was like working with him. “He’s someone who I consider to be one of my friends,” she


says. “…one of the first people I met in Nashville and we hung around together; played shows every Wednesday or so outside of Nashville. Working with him…it’s easy for me because he sort of just trusts you and picks the person because he likes what they do. He just tells you to go for it, or if he’s just not feeling something, he just comes right out and says it, like: ‘Why don’t you just lay out something in that part?’ He’s really easy to work with because he seems to know what he wants for himself, and then that makes it easy. He already has the boundaries to find for himself; you sort of play around with what sort of space is left. He’s cool like that.” Since 2006, Amanda has toured extensively with long-time friend


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