Amanda Shires: ‘Home’ Means Being Content With Yourself, Wherever You Are
At the heart of Amanda Shires' new album, My Piece of Land, is a question: What is home? Shires wrote the project near the end of her time being pregnant with daughter Mercy Rose, who was born in September of 2015, when she was unable to travel on tour as part of husband Jason Isbell’s band, the 400 Unit. During the 2016 Americana Music Festival, Shires spoke with The Boot about her concepts of home and family, as well as her writing process.
"Home ... is not necessarily tethered to an address, and it has nothing really to do with the four walls that all my things occupy, and it's really more flexible and fluid ... Home is just, where is my family? And my home is with Jason, my home is with Mercy," Shires, seated in the driver's seat of her touring van, tells The Boot. "So it was sort of a realization that [Mercy's] inherited sense of home is going to be different from mine, and it's gonna be fine, because she has two parents who love her."
As if on cue to help make her point, Isbell interrupts to tease his wife and unload some gear for the show she'll be playing later that night; shortly after, one of Shires' bandmembers pops up beside the van -- only recently fixed after a burglary in Chicago -- to pick something off one of its windows.
"It's like herdin' cats," Shires says with a laugh.
Home, Shires continues, is very much a sense, rather than a place: "I think that's what home really is -- it's sort of a sense of when you're comfortable with yourself, really, and your life," she explains.
If the singer-songwriter speaks in symbols and metaphors, there's a good explanation for that: Shires is in the process of earning her MFA in poetry.
"I guess I just wanted to ... study words down to the letter," she says, adding that her graduate work in poetry has -- no surprise here -- made its way into her lyrics. Shires notes that she's "quicker to [make a] word choice" now, and has a better understanding of "precision" in her language -- something you "can't get just on instinct alone."
But while studying and writing poetry has bolstered her as a songwriter, Shires has found that music still provides certain things that poetry alone can't. She's able to turn bits of unfinished poems into songs, because in songwriting, there is the luxury of making "the mood or ... the tension however you want it to be" with instrumentation.
"I'll write stuff, and there will be something I want to expand on, and I can't do it in the poem," she admits. "And I will do it in the song."
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