Music & Nightlife

Singer Amanda Shires explores “home” while juggling school, career and motherhood

Amanda Shires
Amanda Shires

Amanda Shires has a lot on her plate.

She released her fourth album, “My Piece of Land,” in September after spending much of the year playing fiddle and singing harmony with Grammy-winning husband Jason Isbell. She hopes to finish her MFA in poetry in the spring. Her daughter Mercy, just turned 1 and she’s touring for the first time extensively without the little girl in tow.

“I have to go three weeks,” she said as the tour was ramping up. By the time she reaches Charlotte on Saturday she’ll have spent some time with the family – a reoccurring theme on “My Piece of Land.”

Lines like “The only tree with leaves in Lubbock/With roots in Mineral Wells…I’m another one still thirsting for my home” address children of divorce living in two homes.

“I have to claim both places as home,” says Shires, who lived in Mineral Wells, Texas, which gives the song its name, “before my mom drove off into the night.”

With parents who still don’t talk to each other, Shires remains in the middle.

“I was just working through my own inherited sense of home and thinking about my daughter and what hers is going to be like,” she explains. “I was thinking about how much we travel and don’t spend at our homes. I came to a place where it was more fluid than the actual definition of home.”

“Home is with the two people I love. It’s not about the address and physical location,” she adds.

That idea of home stemmed from Shires being sequestered alone in Nashville in the last weeks of her pregnancy.

“I was touring up to the 33 week mark. I started having to go to doctor appointments twice a week because I had hypertension,” she explains. “I was nesting, trying to distract myself from the big reality of bringing a child into the world.”

“There’s not a lot of people I know that do it like this. Will I still be able to do my work?” she wondered as she was picking weeds in her yard and eventually in her neighbor’s, cleaning out cabinets, detailing cars, and moving artwork into the garage for what she calls a “garage gallery.”

“I ran out of things to do and started writing to try and work through some of it, I guess,” she recalls. “I got a couple of songs down and scheduled time with (Grammy winning producer) Dave Cobb (Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson).”

She recorded “Land” at 35 to 37 weeks pregnant.

“Three days after recording it, I had her,” she says.

With an immobile infant she thought she’d refocus on finishing the MFA she started in 2011.

“I pictured it being me and Mercy and I’ll feed her three times a day. I had no experience with kids,” she says. “I had to ask for an extension.”

A year later, she’s excited about getting back to school, her career and her family.

“If I could I’d tell my last-year self, ‘It’s going to be OK. You can do it. You aren’t going to lose your identity.’ I was worrying a lot about that,” she shares. “How I could still pursue my career and also be a good mom?”

“My Piece of Land” is arguably her best work. Those years studying poetry show in the lyricism and visual detail. It doesn’t hurt having Isbell at home.

“It’s nice to have somebody that will question you, that cares that you’re making your best work and that’s their only motivation,” she says. “I need somebody to call me out if I’m writing some weak-ass lines.”

Amanda Shires, who Charlotteans saw back in March on stage with her husband Jason Isbell, headlines her own show this week with opener Lilly Hiatt (John Hiatt’s daughter)

WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave.

TICKETS: $15-$17

DETAILS: 704-376-1446; www.doubledoorinn.com

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