Amanda Shires
Gig Seeker Pro

Amanda Shires

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009

Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter




"American Songwriter’s Top 50 Songs Of 2013"

37. Amanda Shires, “Devastate”
Desire is a storm brewing in a lover’s eyes—an old metaphor but one that finds new menace in Shires’ song about romantic insecurity. “Why wait for landfall? Go on and go,” she sings, and her violin braces for the wind and rain to come. “Devastate” does exactly that. - American Songwriter

"Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing"

After a concert in Florida, a man calling himself Tiger Bill offered up-and-coming singer-songwriter Amanda Shires some curious trinkets. Among them was the tiger claw that inspired this darkly funny, haunting tune about said tiger claw's legend. According to ancient lore, it's supposed to make the person in its possession bulletproof. Shires follows that legend to natural questions, like, "Does 'bulletproof' also mean one can't be killed by fire or knife, or hatchet?" It's not the sort of question that might typically lead to great music, but Shires isn't a typical songwriter. As she shows on her new Down Fell the Doves, she's at her finest when her poetic songs get a chance to flirt with the dark and bizarre. --Kim Ruehl, Folk Alley - NPR

"Is Amanda Shires the Sexiest Violinist Since Thomas Jefferson?"

Not only is “Devastate” the title of a song on Amanda Shires’ new album, it’s an apt description of what Shires does with her music. The Texas-born singer, songwriter and violin player writes searing lyrics that she sings with a little catch in her voice, as if she’s willing her heart not to break mid-song.

“Devastate,” a gritty fiddle-laced rocker that Speakeasy premieres today, comes from Shires’ fourth solo album, “Down Fell the Doves.” It’s a lovely collection of 11 new songs, most of which feature her husband Jason Isbell on guitar, that include a soulful love letter to Leonard Cohen and a fierce meditation on invincibility. Though Shires is happily married (she and Isbell exchanged vows in February, and their Twitter conversations are a reason to follow both), she said “Devastate” comes from a place of insecurity.

“Have you heard this one? ‘Relationships sink when there are too many passengers.’” said Shires, who appeared with Gwyneth Paltrow in the 2010 movie “Country Strong,” and has toured and recorded with Isbell, Todd Snider and Justin Townes Earle, among others. “I don’t know where it came from or who said it first. It’s that way for me with ‘Devastate.’ Myself, when I am completely happy I fear the worst is inevitable (that must be some kind of cherophobia or something). Maybe sometimes you start to believe that your lover, husband, boyfriend, whatever, has someone else on his mind. And she’s probably better than you in all the places you aren’t.” - Wall Street Journal: Speakeasy

"Carrying Lightning"

Don’t be surprised if Amanda Shires looks familiar. You may have seen her playing fiddle in the Texas Playboys as a mere teen, or more recently onstage with Jason Isbell. Perhaps it was alongside Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong (assuming anyone actually saw that film)? Or maybe, like me, you remember her draped over Justin Townes Earle on the cover of The Good Life.

Well, on May 3rd, Ms. Shires will be stepping to the forefront with the release of Carrying Lightning, her newest and most accomplished release. Lead single When You Need a Train It Never Comes is a beauty, and the kind of song Dolly Parton spoiled us with in the 70s. Throw in the fact that she’s a great devil on the fiddle (and none too hard on the eyes) and Amanda Shires figures to be this year’s breakout star from the old school ala Elizabeth Cook. She’ll be at SXSW serving as both the aforementioned Isbell’s hired gun, as well as full-blown solo artist. Definitely worth checking out - My Old Kentucky Blog

"NO Depression"

"it's those soft-yet-strong pipes of hers that make people sit up and pay attention when she sings" - Kevin Oliver


Amanda Shires
West Cross Timbers

Songs (and albums) can be like people – both can be products of their respective times. Sometimes transcend- ing their eras, sometimes not. (Lis- tened to those Rod McKuen, Flock Of Seagulls, or Vanity 6 records lately? Thought not.) Then there’s music that belongs to no time, sounds that could’ve been recorded 35 years ago or last month that sounded swell then and sounds fine (if not better) now. Amanda Shires is a fiddler/singer from Lubbock, Texas who made her bones with legendary songwriter Billy Joe Shaver and indie rockers Thrift Store Cowboys. Her self-released West Cross Timbers is straight-up country music, though much closer to the Lone Star variant (Shaver, Willie Nelson, Butch Hancock) than to Nashville. She sings like a very young Dolly Parton and her songs evoke windswept Texas plains and the hearts and lives of people travel- ing them. You can practically feel the hot wind, but her voice will cool and comfort you. - ICON Monthly


“I remember sitting in an airport waiting... she played so pretty that Kenny and I missed our plane. America needs pizzicato.” -Chris Isaak - Chris Isaak


Amanda Shires
By Rick Cornell, September 2009
Album: West Cross Timbers
Song: Upon Hearing Violins

Home: "My current home would be a rental car; I haven't been anywhere for 14 straight days since April 3rd. Technically, my bills are at a PO box in Nashville. And my heart is in Lubbock, Texas."

Influences (musical and otherwise): Bob Wills, the handsome Faron Young, George Jones, Cormac McCarthy, red wine, McKinney Sisters, Method Man

Bio: When one's first instrument is a pawn-shop violin, a musical path might already be starting to unfold. First, the fact that it's a pawn-shop violin probably suggests that it will really turn out to be a fiddle (consult some country song lyrics) and your music career will swerve roots-ward. Such was the case for Amanda Shires, not yet 10 when she acquired that instrument. And her path's been a fascinating one. Playing with a kids western swing band led to her performing with the surviving members of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys. She went on to join the Lubbock, Texas-based alt.-country band the Thrift Store Cowboys, and she's worked with Texas heroes Billy Joe Shaver and Gary P. Nunn.
More recently, she toured Europe a couple of times with Nashville singer-songwriter Rod Picott, with whom she recorded the duets album "Sew Your Heart with Wires," released last fall. And still she found time to record and release "West Cross Timbers," her second album but her first singer/songwriter album. Her official debut was an instrumental record full of fiddle tunes. Or, if you prefer, pawn-shop violin tunes.

CST's Take: Even if, inexplicably, you don't like fiddle or ukulele, you'll stay for Amanda Shires' singing voice and songwriting voice.

Country Standard Time: When does a violin become a fiddle. And I suppose it works both ways: when does a fiddle become a violin?
Amanda Shires: A fiddle becomes a violin when you can't afford it. I just say that because I've had a lot of accidents with mine onstage. Even like two weeks ago I was playing, and it fell off where it was supposed to be.

CST:: Please talk about the different roles that you play in the music world - session player, duet partner, solo artist - and the pros and cons of each of those.
AS: There are a lot of pros to being a side person. You're told you're going to make this much. You have a place to stay. You're gonna get your per diem. You're playing music, which you probably like to do if you're in that line of work. The cons are the fact that you're dispensable. People can tell you, 'Um, we don't like the way you - well, anything really.' Maybe they just don't like fiddle anymore. They've decided the new cool, hip thing is Dobro, so you're dispensable. For duets or duos, the pros would be that you have a partner to share everything with, you know? You share in the glory, but you also have somebody to complain to. The cons would be - what are the cons to that? I don't know. We'll have to ask Brooks & Dunn. (laughs) 'What went wrong? Why are you breaking up?' They had an interview where they said they were never ever going to break up after they got their first Grammy or whatever. The pros to being a solo person would be, let's see, you get to do whatever you want whenever you want. Then you have the con, which is all of it lies on you. All the failure. Not all the success, really. But mostly all the failure falls on your shoulders. The success is you and your team. (laughs)

CST:: We are going to talk about "West Cross Timbers," of course, but I don't want to neglect "Sew Your Heart with Wires," the album you made with Rod Picott last year. For those who might not have discovered it, can you offer a description?
AS: "Sew Your Heart with Wires" is a record where Rod and I wrote all the material; it was all co-written. It's completely acoustic, and it was recorded live. Some songs we did 36 takes. Some songs we did 110 takes. Then 111, and it still sounded like we needed to do 112. Some of them we did in one take, you know. It's just real sparse. We did it because we found that we could write together. And we were touring so much together that people were saying 'why don't you guys make anything together?' Then this light bulb went off, and we said 'why don't we make anything together?' (laughs) So, we decided to start working on it, and it came out really good. It was a fun project, and I'm a huge fan of Rod's writing. I couldn't have asked for a better duo project than that.

CST:: Okay, think about the first song that you ever wrote and then think about the song that you wrote most recently. What are the songs, what do you remember most about each situation, and how has your writing approach changed?
AS: The first thing is that my age has changed. (laughs) I have more experiences. And the first song sounded a lot like Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Now I've read a lot and probably experienced, well I'd like to think, a lot more. My earlier stuff was way more naive.

CST:: Do you remember sitti - COUNTRY STANDARD TIME 2009


Spotlight: Amanda Shires

July 1, 2009
Richard Skanse
Spotlight: Amanda Shires

If there’s such a thing as a “typical” road that most young singer-songwriters take from picking up their first guitar to releasing their debut album, it goes something like this: You get enough songs together to shyly test out at some open-mic nights, eventually segue into happy-hour gigs, opening slots or shows of your own on slow nights at a local club or coffee shop, build a small following, save up some cash or find an investor, hit the studio and, voila — debut album. For all intents and purposes, your music career starts now.

Amanda Shires took a somewhat more scenic route. In the 18 years between picking up her first instrument (a pawn shop violin) and recording what she playfully insists on calling her “first” solo album, this summer’s West Cross Timbers, Shires played with a kid’s western swing band, performed onstage with the surviving members of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, taught fiddle at Playboys singer Tommy Allsup’s summer music camp, toured and recorded three albums with the Lubbock-based alt-country band the Thrift Store Cowboys, knocked out a solo record of instrumental fiddle tunes and recorded a duets album, 2008’s terrific Sew Your Heart with Wires, with Nashville-based songwriter Rod Picott (with whom she’s also toured Europe — twice).

Somewhere in there, she also got to open for and meet her hero, George Jones, and swap Bob Wills/Playboys stories with Chris Isaak and his drummer during a chance encounter at the Denver airport. He talked her into playing a couple of requests on her fiddle, which earned her a fun little anecdote and celebrity blurb for her Web site: “She played so pretty that Kenny and I missed our plane,” goes the Isaak rave. “America needs pizzicato.”

Add it all up, and it’s clear that Shires — though hardly “getting old,” as she puts it — has a lot more miles on her career odometer than the average 27-year-old rookie singer-songwriter. Which goes a long way toward explaining why West Cross Timbers, though charmingly naïve and vulnerable around the edges, plays more like a confident stride forward than a tentative baby step. Songs like the opening “Upon Hearing Violins,” a spry, catchy breakup anthem, and the darker revenge fantasy “I Kept Watch Like Doves” skip lightly but assuredly down well-trodden confessional roads, pointing early on toward a solid but not otherwise remarkable introduction. But then you come to “Mineral Wells,” and all of a sudden Shires sounds like a writer with hundreds of songs and decades of seasoning under her belt.

Fittingly, it was the last song she wrote for the record. And it’s her favorite, too.

“Yeah, that’s the one that I think shows me at my best,” she agrees. Not surprisingly, it’s also the most explicitly personal, addressing with striking lyrical economy (and an equally minimalist arrangement) the subject of her parents’ divorce when she was a toddler and its longstanding effect on her own identity. “Something happened in ’84/Ended up with two places to be from/the only tree with leaves in Lubbock with roots in Mineral Wells.”

“I was born in Mineral Wells, but I have to claim to be from both Mineral Wells and Lubbock, or somebody gets pissed off,” she explains. “My dad lives in Mineral Wells, and my mom lives in Lubbock. The song started out being about them, in the verses, but then in the choruses it started being more about leaving where you’re from, or divorcing where you’re from. Not in a mean kind of way, though; it’s just kind of about wanting something that you can’t have at the moment. It’s about missing something … a loss.”

Mineral Wells and Lubbock share equal claim to Shires’ music roots. It was in Mineral Wells, on a trip to visit her dad, that she felt love at first sight for that fateful pawn shop violin (“It just looked real exotic and mysterious to me,” she says. “I’d never really asked for anything before, but I begged for it.”). Her dad caved and bought it for her, but it was her mother, back in Lubbock, who had no choice but to sign her up for private lessons. “I sounded horrible,” Shires explains.

Her teacher was Lanny Fiel, who’d spent years in Nashville playing rhythm guitar with Jimmy Buffett before coming back to Lubbock and eventually starting the Ranch Dance Fiddle Band, a sort of School of Rock with a concentration in traditional western music. In addition to opening shows for Allsup and the Texas Playboys, Fiel and his young students performed concerts and dance workshops at area elementary schools. “We were kids teaching kids,” Shires says, “because if that oral tradition doesn’t continue, it could get lost really quickly, you know?”

Shires later paid loving tribute to that tradition on her 2005 instrumental album, Being Brave, and her fiddle-band roots still show through the cracks of West Cross Timbers, most notably on the closing cover of the 1920 tune “Wh - TEXAS MUSIC MAGAZINE Richard Skanse


'West Cross Timbers' has all the fundamentals that Hank Williams possessed: A killer tune, swathes of heartache and bursts of happiness. Hailing from West Texas, and playing fiddle from an early age, Shires is backed by a band who enhance every moment to perfection. With ace touring partner, and co-writer, Rod Picott for help, and heavyweight endorsement from Chris Isaak and Justin Townes Earle, she has a magical formula.
***** 5 Stars - SPIRAL EARTH UK


Down Fell The Doves (2013)
Carrying Lightning (2011)
West Cross Timbers (2009)
Sew Your Heart With Wires (2009, with Rod Picott)
Being Brave (2005)

Other appearances:
Sweeten the Distance (2011) - Neal Casal
"Nothing' Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now" - Justin Townes Earle
"Light Fighter", "The Great American Desert", "Nowhere with You", "Lay Low While Crawling or Creeping" - Thrift Store Cowboys
"Here We Rest" - Jason Isbell
Southeastern - Jason Isbell
"Welding Burns" - Rod Picott
"Agnostic Hyms" - Todd Snider
"Oh Be Joyful" - Shovels and Rope
"Mutt" - Cory Branan



Texas-born singer, songwriter and violinist Amanda Shires performs as a solo artist, and as an occasional member of Jason Isbell's 400 Unit.  She began playing the violin at age 10; performed with the Texas Playboys in her teens and released her debut solo album, Being Brave, in her early twenties. In 2013 Shires married fellow musician,  Jason Isbell, and released her fifth album, Down Fell the Doves. 

Band Members