Amanda Shires was a bit a closet case making her fifth solo album, To The Sunset, whose "Parking Lot Pirouette" video premieres exclusively below.
The singer, songwriter, violinist and Master Fine Arts degree holder tells Billboard that much the album, her second with producer Dave Cobb, was literally written in the closet the Nashville area home where she lives with husband Jason Isbell. "I started at my desk but wasn't getting anything done," Shires says. "So I started moving my stuff into my clothes closet. I sat amongst my shoes and paper and a paper shredder for a month from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m, sometimes midnight. The isolation helped me hear all the sounds for the record — hearing things, basically. If you're alone with yourself long enough I feel like you can hear it better."
The exercise let Shires achieve her sole goal, to "make awesome music," and the 10-track To The Sunset rides an eclectic range; there are punchy hard rockers such as "Eve's Daughter," rolling Americana on "Break Out The Champagne" (Shire's daughter Mercy Rose's favorite "because she gets the chance to say s***") and "White Feather," alt-rock flavor with "Take On The Dark" and the twisting "Mirror Mirror," plus the pop-leaning tracks like "Swimmer" and "Charms." The airy, vibey, "Parking Lot Pirouette," meanwhile, is Isbell's favorite song on the album, according to Shires. "His guitar playing is otherworldly and amazing," she says. "I'd been at the studio all night, and that night driving home — it's an hour between home and the studio — I got the melody idea. Driving back to the studio the next day I got two verses and told Dave I needed to work on something for a minute so I could go finish it. I finished it up at the top RCA."
Of the video, Shires says, "I made this video on my phone and I’m proud it. My intention was to make something that matched what I saw in my head when I wrote the song. Really it’s a look through memories."
Besides having him play on the album, Shires says Isbell's presence was also inspiring as she was making To The Sunset, especially as he was in the midst his own Grammy Award-winning hot streak after 2015's Something More Than Free and last year's The Nashville Sound. "This one is the first record I've let Jason see in its infant stages," she says. "Until this record it was really hard for me to share things, but this time I let him see my whole process how I get to the song, and I was more comfortable with my process and learned to accept it and there was nothing wrong with it. It was nice to be in a place where it feels safe to do your own thing and know it's OK." That, in turn, contributed a different kind energy to the album than Shires has had before.
"I think it's upbeat because the confidence," Shires explains. "I wasn't always confident with my songs; It's hard to be super confident with songs when you're living with a songwriter like Jason Isbell. But as I was going I found it gave me more confidence and led to more uptempo stuff. That's a positive change. Even if it's not well-received or anything, I feel like the big win is just being a more comfortable person in the world."
With To The Sunset out Aug. 3, Shires returns to the road July 24 for a U.S. tour with dates — including some with Isbell and his 400 Unit — running into late September.