Live On The Bridge


Amanda Shires

Americana singer-songwriter Amanda Shires, performs songs from her newest album To The Sunset, and is interviewed by Jon Hart here at KCPT.

AIRED: February 09, 2019 | 0:26:46

(soft country music)

♪ I was young, spring had sprung ♪

♪ I wanted out of Alamogordo

♪ Kept the party dress in the glove compartment ♪

♪ Of my green-and-white Ford Bronco ♪

♪ A gust of wind came blastin' in ♪

♪ The gas station where I was workin' ♪

♪ He was twenty-three, he was on leave ♪

♪ And the rest gets a little blurry ♪

♪ Maybe it was circumstance

♪ But I saw my chance and I took it ♪

♪ Through a sunset, shiftin gears ♪

♪ Til there's somethin' better shinin' diamond clear ♪

♪ Shinin' diamond clear

♪ We didn't have much in common but I had fallen ♪

♪ I was thirsty and he looked like water ♪

♪ When I started to show, he proposed ♪

♪ For a while we were in tall cotton ♪

♪ He started comin' home high and then came the fights ♪

♪ And I did what I had to do

♪ Through a sunset, shiftin gears ♪

♪ Til there's somethin better shinin diamond clear ♪

♪ Lookin for happy ever after

♪ Forever and ever and ever and ever again ♪

♪ We started over in Kansas City ♪

♪ Stayed too long at your Aunt Debbie's ♪

♪ A lotta workin late, a little Section Eight ♪

♪ And the burden gets a little less heavy ♪

♪ Sometimes it was treadin water ♪

♪ Guess it is sometimes for all Eve's daughters ♪

♪ Lookin for happy ever after

♪ Forever and ever and ever and ever ♪

♪ Love showed up and I let him in ♪

♪ And if I had to do it all again ♪

♪ I'd hit the sunset, shiftin gears ♪

♪ To the somethin-better shinin diamond-clear ♪

♪ I'd find my happy ever after Forever ♪

♪ And ever and ever and ever again ♪

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- [Interviewer] Welcome back to Kansas City,

you lived here for a while.

- I did, it's always great to be back.

- Got some family here so that's good.

I believe since we saw you last,

2017 emerging artist of the year Americana Music Awards.

That's pretty good.

I think you got more press for what you wore that day.

- What did I wear?

- Didn't you wear the...

Oh that was actually the CMA's.

- Oh right yah.

- The CMA's, you went to the CMA's and wore

mama wants to change that Nashville sound.

- And I got voted the worst dressed on Eonline

and the best by rolling stone.

(audience laughing)

- How'd that make you feel?

- Well nobody watches E is what I felt like.

And then also felt like

I can wear a shirt.

All these other dudes are wearing shirts.

- Changing the Nashville sound,

you've done that with this record.

The stated goal is to bring some sunshine into the world

and here you are.

You've done records that a lot of them have been

fiddle tunes, Americana feeling,

and this one's been compared to REM,

The Smiths and Echo and The Bunnymen.

- We've done it.

We've done it.

- That's pretty crazy.

I was thinking about this record

and how it wasn't all that long ago,

you're not very old.

Ten years old, Mineral Springs, Texas

violin on the pawn shop wall.

- I was 10 years old

and I don't know how old I am right now,

I'd have to look at Wikipedia.

I don't know.

I don't know if that was a question or a statement.

- Dad got you the violin,

mom got you the lessons

and five years later

you are touring with the Texas Playboys.

- I think that was just a result

of all my stuff always working

and living near Tommy also for a minute

and being willing to take the third part

which is at least one part in a harmony.

- Do you learn more about music or about life

touring with those guys?

- Life I think quicker, yah, yah, definitely.

- First shot of whiskey?

- Yep.

- I think most people

get it out behind the football stadium in high school.

You got it touring with The Texas Playboys.

- Now everybody knows that I had my first shot of whiskey

with a bunch of 70 year old men.

My reputation's gonna be...

You only get one.

- There is nothing wrong with that.

Actually the one that--

- And it was good.

- I would say that if you're looking

for stories of personal behavior,

it might be a little bit more shocking,

the one that sort of struck me

was when you were watching Billy Joe Shaver on stage

and there was a violin up there that wasn't being played.

- I just ran up there and jumped up there

and stole it and started playing it

and then that's how I got the gig.

- Ended up joining his band.

- [Amanda] Yah.

- Could've been arrested.

- Yah well, he's been arrested.

- So it would've been a respect thing.

- Yah, totally.

Then I started playing with him

and he heard one of my songs

and told me to go be a songwriter

and I thought I was getting fired.

I was like, I love my job.

All I want to do is just play the fiddle

and then a year later I packed up a U-Haul

and we drove 16 hours to Nashville

to pursue my dreams of becoming a waitress.

- Mission accomplished.

Somewhere along after you got to Nashville

you ended up in a backing band

for Gwyneth Paltrow in her Country Strong.

- Yah, that was odd too.

I had to learn how to play the baritone guitar

for that I just remembered.

Anyway, there was an audition and I tried out

cause I had nothing else to do and then they picked me.

- Not bad.

Eve's Daughter is actually your moms story.

- It is, combined with other stories of everybody

trying to get equal pay and such,

all of us women.

But it is my moms story as the basic outline for it.

- Her story is really inspirational.

She put aside her own dreams

and took jobs to keep the family going

and my understanding was that she is

bail bondsman and a fish monger.

- Yah.

- And then after the kids are grown

she goes on and gets her doctorate.

- Uh-huh.

- [Interviewer] That's pretty unusual.

- Yah, she's a pretty tough lady.

- [Interviewer] Hopefully pass that along.

- I hope so too.

I hope that gene is right here.

- [Interviewer] Your dad has a song on the album too

in a way.

- Oh yep he does, that song Paying Attention.

My dad has this friend named John.

His names not John, I just changed it in the song.

They were friends forever and he had mental issues

but he thought they were harmless and my dads off season

job that he does is gold dredging in Alaska

and they're out there getting gold off the bottom

of the Bering Sea.

My dad let John borrow his truck

and then he went up to the town

and needed to cleanse himself by fire I guess.

You can hear it on a record called To The Sunset,

wasn't I paying attention.

He lived.

- [Interviewer] That's amazing.

That parts amazing.

I hope he's doing better.

The songs and the song writing,

you've got a little one, Mercy

and she wants to help all the time

and her helping songwriting maybe she helps inadvertently,

but when she tries to help

maybe it gets in the way a little bit.

How do you deal with songwriting?

- I moved all of my things into my clothes closet

and wrote the whole record there.

- My understanding is that these are marathon sessions

like 10 in the morning till midnight.

- I'm a slow writer so I have to do 10 or 12 hours

to get things to what I feel is right

livable and

it took a lot of time,

but as a result of that time

I think that I got a lot more focused

and in a place with myself where I was more

self-confident in the way that

I felt more confident in my process

because I live with Jason Isbell

who can spit out a song in 20 minutes.

For a while I felt that maybe I was doing it wrong,

but doing it this way I learned how to just,

okay, this is how I do it.

- And own it a little bit.

- And then I started hearing the sounds for the record.

I went into this closet,

started writing and started hearing sounds.

- And the sounds that you were hearing

weren't the sounds that you've heard in the past.

- They weren't voices.

- I'll come back to that in a minute.

I'm still hung up on the closet.

Let's go back even farther.

- It's not a Kardashian closet.

It's an Americana closet with shoes

and laundry everywhere.

- You got an MFA in poetry

and one of the things that the process helped you with

was showing people unfinished work.

- That was definitely a start

where I got more comfortable with it,

but I don't think I really was comfortable with it

until I started taping it to the walls of the closet

and then the bathroom and then the bedroom

and then down the hallway.

Sometimes you don't want to show your work early on

and now I just don't care.

- You've got a deal with Jason that you don't talk to each

other about your songs until you're given the okay right?

- If you're looking for advice

or if you're looking for critique

or if you're stuck.

- You've also had conversations about song writing

with John Prine.

That would just terrify me.

- I feel like this conversation is one sided.

I should be asking you some questions.

- Feel free.

- I did talk to John about songwriting.

He was writing Tree of Forgiveness

when I was finishing writing my thesis.

We were overseas

and he liked the aisle seat

and I liked the other aisle seat

and then it led to talking about songs

and modern versions of the thesaurus,

like an app for that.

- You've been known to read the dictionary.

- I read it for fun, 1940's ones.

- I don't just go oh I'm gonna go read the dictionary,

but I keep one around at home.

I don't know, I do that.

- Alright, I'd love to hear another song if we could.

- Okay.

I didn't know what to say about the dictionary.

It's interesting.

So many words get lost as the language changes.

What are we doing?

- Swimmer.

- Swimmer. Let's do Swimmer.

♪ You're swimmin in the daydream ♪

♪ And I'm just watchin

♪ From the bank

♪ You're covered in sun and I forgot my camera ♪

♪ Wishin it was real

♪ And I look for you when I sleep ♪

♪ But it's no good cause dreams don't keep ♪

♪ From here the world's spinnin and I swear I'd drown ♪

♪ Just to have you

♪ Come hover over me

♪ Speak somethin close to me

♪ Oh, it's gettin late

♪ So I look for you when I sleep ♪

♪ But it's no good cause dreams don't keep ♪

♪ April was the last time I think I saw you ♪

♪ You were carryin lightnin

♪ The way you walked into the room ♪

♪ If I was a flower I would've opened up and bloomed ♪

♪ I say I don't care, but I'm a liar ♪

♪ Look how easy a heart can catch on fire ♪

♪ I say I don't care, but I'm a liar ♪

♪ Look how easy a heart can catch on fire ♪

- You mentioned that when you were in the closet

you started to hear these songs

and that it was at least a little bit different

than what you've done in the past.

- Yah, usually I just take a song into the studio

and this time I had ideas of what I wanted it to sound like

from the beginning.

I called Dave Cobb and scheduled a meeting,

a pre-production meeting,

which was really just a lunch at Chuy's in Nashville

and we talked about what I was trying to do

and the sounds for the different songs.

It was the first time I've ever done that for sure.

- You've spoken in the past about how

maybe not the most technical person

so you almost need somebody who can read your mind

and Dave Cobb seems to be that guy.

- He's the perfect translator for sure.

If we're having a conversation and we're talking about music

and you're trying to compare it to something

like I would like it to sound more

like it's in an aquarium or more like it's

real hot outside and sparkly.

He'll pick two or three things

that he thinks I'm talking about and figure it out.

If he can't find it

he'll make other people try to do it.

Try this on the piano.

Play the synthesizer.

- What's really interesting in a way too,

violin is your first instrument,

your first go to for finding melody and personal expression.

This sound that you're describing is maybe not

completely conducive to the violin.

- Right, right.

What I was having a hard time with when I was putting

violin on it is that it wasn't blending with all the

other textures really.

Dave one again brought out some petals and made it

all work so I didn't have to abandon the violin,

which was not gonna happen anyway.

- Basically, it's essentially like guitar pedals?

- Yah, totally.

It sounds great.

- Thank you, thank you.

- Back in Radio Studio A too.

- Yah, that place is awesome.

- I've asked several people this,

but do you feel the weight of history

when you're in that room?

- If I think about it too hard, yah.

- [Interviewer] You try not to?

- I do that sometimes when I go in

and when I'm leaving.

Let myself take that part in,

but I don't need anymore scrutiny when I'm trying to record.

Or what's the word I was looking for?


- Yah, yah.

You take these songs from your life sometimes.

Sometimes from the lives of others,

wherever inspiration comes from.

Break Out The Champagne.

There was a particular instance that brought that.

- There are three vinyets in the song.

Different settings where something happens.

The first one my best friend was telling me about

how the world was going to end.

She read something in the newspaper.

The second one was when I was in a plane

that lost an engine and we went

landing in an abandon airfield in Maine.

The third one is just a friend talking about a breakup.

- Was it nerve wracking when they lost the engine?

They announced that to the...

- Oh yah, yah it was.

It was, of course it is.

It got quiet and they took away our booze

and we all sat there in quiet.

- What did you think when they took away your booze?

- You know what I thought?

I thought, that sucks, this sucks.

What a way to go.

And then we landed and the fire trucks happened.

I think to deal with that situation,

I just rewrote it in my mind,

like we all like to do when things.

I don't know.

In my mind rewrote it like that's not what happened

and we all got champagne

and then court marshaled shortly after.

- You would think if there was a potential you could die

that maybe there'd be a complimentary drink

in there somewhere.

- I don't know what was going on.

I don't know.


Planes going down, can't afford to lose wine.

But the point of it is for all those things to happen

is to have fun with it

and notice that it won't last forever.

- That's what you had as an idea going in.

It feels like everything's been so hard and so difficult

and sometimes it's about the personal choice of attitude.

- I have a question.

Can I say an acronym?

Are these letters S-H-I-T on this station or no?

- You can do it.

It's whether or not we'll get in trouble.

- We don't want you to get in trouble, okay.

I'm not gonna do it.

I was just gonna reference a line.

Ship High In Transit.

- Okay, there you go.

The new album is Too The Sunset.

We'd love to hear another song if we could.

- Should we do the one we talked about or not?

Let's just do Leave It Alone

- Okay cool.


Playing the piano is Peter Levin.

Playing the bass Macy Taylor.

Playing the guitar, rockin the hair, Zach Setchfield.

Playing the other guitar, rockin the other set of hairs,

Seth Plemmons.

- I'm sorry, I laughed.

- Get it together this is live.

♪ Careful there, you're gettin' too close ♪

♪ What you think you're feelin' is crushin' at most ♪

♪ But I already know

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ Hands find the places where they've never been ♪

♪ To know for themselves new surfaces and mine ♪

♪ They've got a mind of their own ♪

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ Oh, let the night start unfoldin ♪

♪ Get to the part where the space between us closes ♪

♪ Where we lean into the gold-blue sky of mornin ♪

♪ With the words we can't find like bees inside us swarmin ♪

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ Storm rock the window panes every day ♪

♪ Shades of neglect in fish tank-green ♪

♪ And I envy your clothes

♪ How'd they get to be so close ♪

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ Strange as a snowfall on the plains ♪

♪ Your eyes glitter like an eagle's cage ♪

♪ Glitterin

♪ Glitter in the knowin

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ Oh, let the night start unfoldin ♪

♪ Get to the part

♪ Where the space between us closes ♪

♪ Where we lean into the gold-blue sky of mornin ♪

♪ Where the words we can't find like bees inside us swarmin ♪

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ I can hear you thinkin in the dark ♪

♪ The noise of your nerves are all question marks ♪

♪ And I

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ I can't leave it alone

♪ I can't leave it alone

- I was thinking when I was listening to the record,

so much of it is running the violin through pedals.

Did you have to reinvent these songs a little bit

to play them live?

- No, but playing live is suppose to change.

The record and the recording are fun,

but the songs are alive themselves

when you're in a live setting.

- The version you just played for us

felt like a different song, both lovely.

- Thank you.

- Absolutely great.

- You're so great.

- Good band.

Thanks for coming in taking the time off

from what's clearly a really busy day

to share music with us.

- [Amanda] The pleasure is all on this side

of the microphone.

- Amanda Shires live on The Bridge.

- [Narrator] Music programming for The Bridge is brought

to you in part from the generosity of these members.

We would like to thank them for their support.

- Thank you.

- Thank you - Thank you very much.

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call 800-418-1988 or go to


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