Eleven years marked the distance between Amanda Shires’ debut album, 2005’s “Being Brave,” and the release of last year’s “My Piece of Land.” A lot can change in that time.
“I think the folks that come to my shows are actually coming to see me perform now,” Shires says, speaking on the phone during a break in touring. “These days we’re playing bigger places than bars, so we’re no longer having to fight for attention. Now you just have to get used to people holding their cellphones up, recording and having a device between you and them.”
Shires’ latest stop in the Triangle is far removed from the bars along downtown Raleigh streets where she played years ago. Taking the stage to perform Sunday night at the North Carolina Museum of Art, the fiddle player continues to tour behind the strength of “Land,” which has become her most successful album to date – it even helped land her a nomination for Emerging Artist of the Year at the upcoming Americana Music Honors & Awards.
Shires gave birth to her first child in late 2015 and she toured through much of her pregnancy, only coming off the road once a doctor told her it was no longer safe to fly at seven months. Stuck at home alone while husband Jason Isbell continued touring, the singer used the ensuing anxiety for inspiration in the songwriting process, and once those songs were finished, she turned to a friend whose name has become synonymous in Nashville with quality albums: producer Dave Cobb.
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“We developed a relationship by working together on Jason’s records (including the 2015 award-winning ‘Something More Than Free’), so working with him was real easy as I already knew him. I’m always surprised by Dave Cobb’s instincts, how when he hears a song, he immediately knows what to do. It’s easy, there’s no arguing and the whole process is fun. At the end of a week or two you have an album, and you just think, ‘Wow, that was painless.’ ”
Since the birth of her daughter, Shires is dealing with another complication: when both mom and dad are on the road – often together – how do you ensure that your child is getting enough attention? And who do you trust to make sure the little tyke isn’t picking up bad habits from the roadies? Having become a professional touring musician in her early teens with the legendary Texas swing band The Texas Playboys, a situation Shires describes as “like touring with seven granddads,” she knows that it is possible under the right conditions.
“I guess I lucked out that my husband actually likes being a parent, you know? We take turns looking after the baby, and then when we both have to be onstage we have a nanny who helps bathe her and put her to bed. We tried it before without a nanny, but then we figured out that the road crew isn’t the best group to leave a baby with; we had to find someone with more experience,” Shires says, laughing.
“It’s doable, like how any mom and dad goes to work in the morning and leaves their child behind,” Shires says. “You’re doing it for hopefully the right reasons: to keep food on the table and to keep buying the diapers. It’s a fun time right now, because she’s not in school, and we all just get to be together.”
Who: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, with Amanda Shires
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: N.C. Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh
Cost: Sold out