Although we recently lost perhaps our favorite Nashville artist with the conclusion of Those Darlins, Music City is far from done growing artists that PHILTHY loves to love. This Friday, April 1st, Nashville singer/songstress Shannon LaBrie will release her second full-length, War & Peace, an album that’s largely inspired by social and political thought and that is quite a bit different from her 2013 debut, Just Be Honest. The album even features recent PHILTHY crush Shannon Hayden, who plays lead guitar, cello, and mandolin on two tracks.
I recently got a chance to chat with Shannon LaBrie, (who is apparently now my BFF… yeah, look it up on Twitter…) and she tells me that she’s still loving the Nashville scene, although admits that, with the cultural hype it’s currently enduring, it can get a little cramped: “I’ve lived here for eight years and I love it and it’s home to me. Artists aren’t out to get each other here. Although a ton of people are moving here from LA, so it’s getting a little overly congested.” In addition, she also tells me she’s an absolutely massive fan of the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection: “By the way, Philly is like my favorite city in the US. I love the architecture in the buildings there, and I love the people that are there, and Federal Donuts are the best donuts I’ve ever had in my life.”
Since releasing her debut, Shannon has accomplished a lot, like opening for acts like Phoenix, The Head and the Heart, and PHILTHY-favorite ZZ Ward, numerous festival appearances, and making it into the iTunes charts, but when I ask her about her own personal career highlights, she’s quick to discuss renowned critic Bob Lefsetz’s assessment of her track “I Remember a Boy,” in which he said, “This track affected me. Made me believe like the great singer-songwriters of yore, maybe this woman has something to say.”
“Definitely one of the biggest highlights is when I released ‘I Remember a Boy,’ and Bob Lefsetz wrote about me. My phone kept ringing and my friends were like, ‘Did you know Bob Lefsetz wrote about you?!?!?!’ And I would be embarrassed because I didn’t even know who he was at the time. But that was a really big highlight, and playing the Austin City Limits Festival was really great, too.”
Shannon’s latest, War & Peace, contains traces of her earlier work, but she would seem to drag that aesthetic in a fairly different and fairly dusty direction. The tracks primarily deal with the politics of culture and the experience of living as a human, unafraid to confront the unpleasant atrocities of each. Sonically, the album boasts a hyper-soulful brand of Americana, not terribly dissimilar to all of the great ‘90s alt rock songwriters who managed to get Generations X and Y to actually look into more traditional music for the first time. When I ask Shannon about how she feels the two albums compare she tells me they feel very distinct.
“It’s so different. My first album was my first of everything, including my first studio experience, so the recording process was slower and much more polished, with a pop sound to it. For this one I just went into the studio and played it live. I rented out a studio for two days and did it in two days. This record is the result of the past three years; I’ve played 250 shows, I’m a much better musician, and the songs are a lot deeper, a lot more raw. I mean, I wanted to hear the squeak of my stool [laughs]. But I think it’s just a natural progression. I’ve just fallen into my lane. I mean with the first record, that was very much who I was and this is very much who I am now.”
At the moment Shannon LaBrie has a small handful of dates beginning in April and running through June, that will have her in North and South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and Alabama, but when I ask her what’s next for her and what she’s most excited about in 2016, she says that it’s all about touring and that she definitely hopes to be in our neck of the woods in the near future.
“Hopefully I will be touring like all the time. I would like to have like 200 dates this year. I mean, it was three years ago with the last record. I’m not like starting over, but I’m like having a coming out party again [laughs]. The biggest goal is to be touring. I kind of hate the time between recording the record and touring. I’m excited to be on the road. If I could play 250-300 shows a year, I’d be a happy woman.”