By Richard Skanse

“Hey, do you know anything about bubble machines?”

Amanda Shires is on the phone from her home in Nashville, wrapping up a 45-minute interview by coming back around to the matter that was foremost on her mind at the start of the conversation: planning for her daughter Mercy’s very first birthday later that week. She says it’s to be a pretty low-key affair, just family and friends hanging out and eventually “watching some ‘Roll Tide,’” because Mercy’s daddy Jason Isbell is a ’Bama man. But it sounds like Shires may yet call an audible.

“I think I might want to get a bubble machine, because I know Mercy would love it so much … but also because I would love it so much.”

Shires’ desire for celebratory bubbles of one sort or other actually seems perfectly reasonable, what with her child’s first birthday kicking off a banner month that will also feature the release of both her fifth solo album, My Piece of Land (Sept. 16), and her debut on a John Prine album, sharing a duet (Joe Maphis’ “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Loud, Loud Music”) on her hero’s new covers album, For Better, Or Worse (out Sept. 30). “I probably will not know what to do with myself when that day comes,” she muses with palpable holy-crap sincerity, though a peep at her tour schedule shows that what she’ll actually be doing that very night is sharing a stage with Prine at the Ryman Auditorium.

Shires may still pinch herself a lot more often than she’d care to admit, but it’s not like she just shot into that A-List Americana orbit from clear out of nowhere. The 34-year-old native West Texan has been performing on stages (and with plenty of legends, to boot) since her teens, beginning with her stint as the youngest-ever member of the Texas Playboys in the mid-90s. She continued to hone her fiddle chops through college and her early 20s as both a member of the Lubbock-based Thrift Store Cowboys and as a side musician — up until Billy Joe Shaver suggested she should explore songwriting and singing; the outlaw country legend had taken a shine to a couple of vocal tracks Shires somewhat hesitantly included on Being Brave, the mostly instrumental debut she quietly released in 2005. A move to Nashville to distance herself from the safety net of easy pick-up gigs proved the perfect catalyst in waking her muse, with 2008 yielding the album she considers her true solo debut, West Cross Timbers, which was followed soon after by the equally noteworthy Sew Your Heart with Wires, a terrific duo album with singer-songwriter Rod Picott. The former featured “Mineral Wells,” a stunningly poignant reflection on the impact of her parents’ divorce on her formative years: “Something happened in 84 / ended up with two places to be from / The only tree with leaves in Lubbock / with roots in Mineral Wells.

That early song — which she recently re-recorded for her latest album — set the bar mighty high for everything of Shires’ that came after it, but it was no anomaly; she went on to match or surpass it throughout both 2011’s Carrying Lightning (“When You Need a Train It Never Comes,” “Shake the Walls,” “Swimmer, Dreams Don’t Keep”) and 2013’s Down Fell the Doves (“Bulletproof,” “Drop and Lift,” “Look Like a Bird.”) Between magazine cover stories in both Texas Music and Lone Star Music, national attention from outlets ranging from NPR to the Wall Street Journal, and even a little big-screen time alongside Jim Lauderdale and Neal Casal as one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s band members in the otherwise admittedly awful 2010 flick Country Strong, Shires earned her spot at the Americana cool kids’ table long before her February 2013 marriage to fellow rising star Isbell by the Right Reverend Todd Snider. That she somehow found — or rather, made — time to pursue a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of the South’s Sewanee School of Letters right in the middle of all this only made her career achievements even more impressive. The Grammy-winning Isbell may have made the bigger splash in recent years, but sorta like Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did only backwards and in heels, it bears noting that Shires held her own on the same field while simultaneously wrestling with Ulysses.

My Piece of LandEarly last year, though, Shires finally reached a point where she had no choice but to slow down, at least for a spell. Only it wasn’t fatigue, writer’s block, or even James Joyce that sidelined her; it was just a little Mercy. Mother and child had yet to meet face to face when Shires began recording My Piece of Land with Nashville producer Dave Cobb, but given that she wrote most of the songs during her third trimester when active touring was no longer an option, the entire album plays like an open-book peek into the psyche of a young woman on the brink of a life-changing transition. Though the music and arrangements feel decidedly less dark and haunted than her last two albums, the lyrics are far and away the most emotionally raw, personal and vulnerable that she’s ever shared. Rife with moments of hormonally-charged anxiety (“Slippin’,” “I Know What It’s Like”), bittersweet reflection on the past (“The Way It Dimmed,” “Harmless”) and restless anticipation for the future (“Nursey Rhyme,” the one song directly addressed to her still in-utero daughter), it all comes to rest — like Shires herself — in the clear-eyed, open-hearted denouement of “You Are My Home.”

Three weeks before the album’s release and the launch of its corresponding 45-date tour (her longest extended run since her pregnancy), we caught up with Shires to talk about life with Mercy, finding balance (and boundaries) in a two-artist marriage, how all that higher-learning of late has affected her songwriting, her enduring obsession with Leonard Cohen, and why John Prine, above and beyond just being one of her all-time favorite artists, tops her list of dependable famous friends to have on speed-dial in the case of emergency.

The last time we talked was for the cover story Lone Star Music did on you back in 2013. It doesn’t seem like much has really changed in your life since then, has it?

No, nothing! [Laughs] It’s just been the same, same thing every day.

Kidding aside, congrats on the new album — and for making what appears, based on the ample evidence on your Instagram, to be a very cute kid.

Ah, thank you so much. I really like her.

You kind of have to, though, don’t you?

Yeah. Well, you never know! Like, I didn’t know what I was getting into!

Well, it seems you’ve made it through Year One ok, so so far, so good. But I’ve noticed that in every picture you’ve posted of her on social media, Mercy looks like a veritable Jason Isbell Mini-Me. Is there more of you in her than first meets the eye?

Yeah, definitely. Well, I just really think she’s just an excellent mix of us both. She got my awesome brown hair, and his awesome blue eyes, and a little bit of his temper but my sense of humor, I think. But I don’t know … Jason would probably disagree completely.

I assume that between the two of you, she’s already experienced a little bit of life on the road. Does she tour well?

Oh, she’s great. When Jason goes on the road and I go with him, she’s gone with us, and we take a nanny to watch her and stuff when we’re onstage, so we don’t have to leave that to crew people or roadies or like, random strangers. [Laughs] But she’s really great at it. The more difficult thing I think will be in October, when she’ll be on the road with Jason in the comfort of a bus instead of with me. But that will be good for her, you know, because it’s not really the best situation for her to travel in a tour van, which I’ll be doing with my band for my own tour. And that’ll be a first for me, to be apart from her for that long. But right now I’m confident that everything’s going to go great — and also hoping that FaceTime and everything works.

You and Jason obviously don’t tour as a “husband and wife act,” but you have played a lot of shows together in each other’s bands over the years. Will this be one of the first times you’ve both been on the road but going in different directions? 

Oh no, we’ve always done that; we’ve just joined up with each other when we can — like if I’m playing a show and he’s off, he’ll come play with me, and if I’m off I’ll go play shows with him. So we sort of go wherever the other person is. That’s how I came to think of that song, “You Are My Home.”

On that note, I understand the songs on this album were all pretty much written in the later stages of your pregnancy, yes?

Well, one song I didn’t write during that time was of course “Mineral Wells,” which I had written for an earlier record. But yeah, I wrote all the other ones after I wasn’t touring anymore. During pregnancy, you have to start being really careful after a certain point where you shouldn’t be on planes and such. So I just took a break at home, did some nesting, and then was left to face my situation, and that’s how those songs came about.

Do you feel Mercy’s presence in all of them?

Not like her influence, necessarily, but she’s in there, in the sense that the situation and the environment influenced a lot of it. Like just thinking of her coming into the world, and the world in general, and my relationship with Jason … all those things, definitely.

But do you think any of these songs — apart from “Mineral Wells” — could have come to you outside of having gone through that whole experience?

I think the only one that could have would be “Harmless.” Because I actually started writing that a while before I wrote for this record, but my computer got coffee spilled on it and I couldn’t remember any of it, other than a couple of the verse lines. But I came back to it later when I was playing the ukulele and somehow remembered the melody, and then I rewrote the words to it.

So that one kind of came from a different place …

Well it’s not that far off of a place, because it’s a semi-autobiographical song, so it still comes from the place of my own experiences. But it’s just an issue that I had had earlier.

But there was never an issue of it not fitting on this record.

No, because in some ways, it does fit. Because there’s … sometimes you think about how you’ve got a lot of self doubt, and a lot of … you know, I don’t know how to explain this, but I’m going to do my best. Let’s say you’ve got like a 44-inch waist because you’ve become pregnant, and then you’re like thinking, “Oh, what if somebody leaves me,” or, “Remember that time I might have done something like this to somebody else …?” So I think it was definitely hormone induced, I guess. But that song was real personal — that’s why I’m having a real hard time describing it.

It’s obvious there was a lot of heart and soul searching on this record, and like you say, a lot of moments of self-doubt. But for all that anxiety that informs a lot of these songs, it seems like there’s less, for lack of a better word, menace on this album. There’s discomfort and uncertainty, but nothing that sounds overtly disturbing or sorta creepy, which was kind of an undercurrent that ran through your last two albums. It’s like you’re in the same room as Carrying Lightnin’ and Down Fell the Doves, but you found the light switch.

Right, right. I feel like that, too. It’s like … I don’t want to say it’s less imagination, but I had more of my own experiences to draw from, rather than draw from other people’s tales and other people’s stories.

Do you feel like that’s a place that you could still go back to? 

Oh I could definitely go back there. There’s a few songs that didn’t make the record because they didn’t fit. But yeah, definitely. But you know, since it became so much about what was going on in my mind at the time and from where I was standing … I just wanted to keep it there.

What song really got you started writing in that frame of mind?

It started with “Slippin’,” and then it was “Nursery Rhyme.” And the last song I wrote for it was “I Know What It’s Like.”

They’re not sequenced as such on the record, but in terms of the big picture, “Slippin’” and “Nursery Rhyme” really do sound like thematic bookends — in that one’s imagining the worst case scenario, that paranoia that everything you have can slip away in an instant, and the other one’s looking forward to that light at the end of the tunnel, anticipating meeting your daughter for the first time.

And that’s such a strange thing, too, because they were in order. But that’s exactly what I think about when i think about the emotions you feel and deal with when you’re pregnant. Because they’re so extreme; you feel extreme joy and extreme hope and excitement, and also all the other things — the doubt, the “holy crap, what am I going to do with myself, what’s my identity now?”

(Photo by Josh Wool)

(Photo by Josh Wool)

As you’ve mentioned, you revisit “Mineral Wells” on this album. Was that strictly a matter of maybe wanting a few more people to hear that song, or did it just really seem to fit for you? I would hope it wasn’t because you thought you didn’t get it down right on West Cross Timbers, because that original version still holds up beautifully. And it doesn’t sound to me like you’ve necessarily changed it here to any significant degree.

I was just writing and thinking about home and stuff, and that one came back around because I still need that song, you know? It still means something to me, and I didn’t want it to go away. So in a way I wanted to bring it back (on record), because I still play it at every show. And then the other huge thing for me is that I learned so much from this whole last year and a half from bringing a child into the world and everything. The song is about how it was for me growing up and splitting my time between Mineral Wells and Lubbock, you know. And then I moved up to Nashville and I wrote it, but I still think about my home all the time, and that’s all my inherited childhood things that come into play my whole life every day. And now after this whole experience, I’ve found my family and I’ve found my place in the world, but I know that I couldn’t have the home that I have now and the life that I have now without having all of that that was before it. So it sort of feels like it was a stream that meandered and finally wound its way back up in a circle. It just all returns somehow. Like I think about Mercy and how she’s going to have her own experiences now, her Mineral Wells — even though hers will be Nashville.

Going back to the matter of anxiety and self doubt, I want to address the elephant in the room — pun intended. There’s one line on the album that really jumped out at me from the first listen, from the song “Pale Fire”: “Remember when you were a fighter, remember when I was a queen / now I’m just another rider, can’t keep up with your machine …” Am I grasping at straws in interpreting that that as being about you and Jason, specifically in regards to your respective careers? I mean in that you’ve both had a fair amount of success, but in the last three years, he’s really become sort of the Anointed One in the Americana world. As proud and happy as you must be for him, as a peer and not just his wife, does that ever cast a shadow? 

No. I think early on when we were together, it sort of would get to me a little bit, just thinking, “OK, how do I fit in here — is this room big enough for two of us to do the same thing in it?” And that’s just honestly like natural thinking. But thinking on it harder and really searching, I feel like it doesn’t matter — no matter who you are, you’ve gotta do what you were put on this earth to do, and it doesn’t matter who’s got more success or more acclaim. What matters is what is going to make your life the happiest, and what is going to do the best thing for your soul? And you know, I’m not going to quit just because I’m less popular or anything than him; I will always keep on keeping on, because otherwise I’d be the most miserable person ever. And I really think there’s room for everyone to do their art.

So that line in “Pale Fire” — definitely not about what I thought it was?

That’s more of a character sketch — and that’s actually one of the two songs on the album that Jason and I wrote together; we wrote that one, and we wrote “My Love (The Storm).” So, no. I never really got into a dark place about it, about he and I — but I did think about it sometimes. Like thinking, “Will I get the same chance as him? Or will people never take me that seriously because I’m a woman?” There’s all kinds of things that go through your head, but you know, there’s so many things that get in your way more than just another person’s art.

I actually haven’t seen the song credits yet, so I didn’t realize Jason co-wrote that song with you. But I do remember you saying the last time we talked that the two of you never really wrote together. 

We still don’t. We did those two because they came around by accident, but we like to write our own separate things. But there’s really no pressure for us to write together, so it sort of just happened.

That said, once you did end up writing those two songs together, did you find it to be an easier process than maybe you both thought it would be? Or was it, “OK, we pulled that off, but let’s definitely not try that all the time.”

No, it’s like, “Let’s do it when the moment hits us to do it.” Or maybe if one of us is like, “I have this idea about something that we could write together,” like if I think he has a perspective that might be cool.

Do you have any co-writes with anybody else on this record?

Nope. Just with him on those two songs. See, that’s the reason: I’m not that great at co-writing with other people. It’s hard for me to open up and try to put words with the pictures that I see in my head. But I’ve known Jason for so long that when I say, “It’s got too many ’s’ sounds in it,” or just weird stuff like that, he understands what I’m getting at. Or I can say “That is completely idiotic, I can’t believe you said that” — and I couldn’t really say that to someone I don’t know.

Something I could really ask either one of you is … When you’re a songwriter in a relationship or married, especially to someone in the public eye who runs and works in the same circles, when you touch on a matter really close to home, does every line carry an extra weight of, “Am I sharing too much here? Is this going to be a problem?” 

You know, sharing too much would never be an issue for either of us, I don’t think. Only because if he was going to share too much and it was going to be something gross about me, he would be the one person who could do it poetically. Whatever the subject is, I think we really encourage each other to be brave and to follow the song through. And at the end of that, we let each other critique our work, and they get to know what we’re thinking before the public, so there’s that. We can always be like, “I really hate that you wrote that about me, but … oh well.” [Laughs]

But it really does ease it if you get to read it first. Because you know, there’s a little bit to that song [of Jason’s] “Cover Me Up” that’s not completely the most beautiful memories, but it’s out there for everybody to hear. And the most important thing is that other people can relate to it, and it’s not like we’re living in this glossed-up, polished world. It’s honest.

When you do listen to each other’s songs for the first time, are there times where the one listening is like, “I hate you right now.” Not because the song is too personal, but because it’s just so annoyingly damn good? Like the first time he played you “Elephant,” it had to have been hard not to want to just get up and leave the room. 

Yeah, I do do that, for sure. But then I go in quickly with, like, “That second line there, I think you meant to use this preposition … ” [Laughs] Or something like that. And he does that to me, too. He’ll go, “I really like that, but your phrasing’s way off on this part.”

So it helps to be able to nit pick.

Yeah. But it’s not like in that spirit; it’s more like, is there anything on first listen that’s like a red flag, or something I should make sure I want to keep or not. And it’s just an opinion; you don’t have to follow it. But sometimes he’ll point out something to me that I didn’t mean to do, like “oh shit, you’re right, I totally change tenses.” And sometimes you mean to and sometimes you don’t, but you just need to be aware I guess sometimes.

My Piece of Land is the first record of your own that you’ve worked with Dave Cobb on, but he’s worked a lot with Jason before, and you played on those records, so I imagine that was a pretty familiar environment for you. Based on your own experiences in the studio with him, what is his touch that has made him such a sought-after producer in Nashville over the last few years? 

His touch is … one of the things that I know from working with him is that you don’t really learn your songs beforehand; like, you don’t make demos. And so there’s a lot of keeping the emotion behind the song in the recording when you go in and sing it, because it feels more natural just performing the song for him and the group of people that you’re in the room with. And the other thing is really just that his instincts are dead on, and he’s relentless when it comes to listening to music. He’s always listening to music, always thinking about music, and he’s one of those people that hasn’t lost the want to hear more music, you know?

The song “When You’re Gone” to me has a really prominent, up-tempo Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac vibe to it, both instrumentally and in the chorus. Was that there by design when you wrote it, or did that all come about in the studio when everyone started playing it together?

That’s awesome. But no — in fact that’s the first time I’ve heard that, but I like it. Honestly I haven’t talked a whole lot about the record yet, so it’s fun to do! But I just started writing that one alone in my room on my tenor guitar, and when we went into the studio we just all got our instruments out and started playing it, and it sort of built itself. I guess because the chorus was so loud when I was singing it into the microphone …

The rest of the band had to ramp up to match it?


Shifting gears a little, when we last talked three years ago, you were up to your neck writing a paper on Ulysses …

Oh my god … thank God that’s over.

So when did you finally get your Master of Fine Arts? 

Uh … I’m halfway through with my thesis. [LaughsUlysses and all the course work is done. But the thesis I’m going to hopefully be done with in the spring. It’s just my own collection of poems, lyric poems, things like that. So it’s like writing a book of poetry, and it’s halfway done. And you know, I really tried to have it done by the time this record was done, so I could be working on something else now besides my thesis still. But that didn’t work out, because as it turns out, babies take a lot more of your time than you’d think. Especially in the first three months. But now it’s finally starting to get a little easier.

Well now that you can at least see the finish line, can you tell yet if all the hard work has paid off any? Or is there still a question of, “How am I going to apply what I’ve learned here to what I do for a living?”

Oh I’ve already been using it. Definitely. I feel like I’ve become quicker editing, and I feel like I have the ability to be more exact wth my word choice, or a little bit more confidant and have reason for why I keep things or discard things. But I know I’ll really feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s finally over and I’ve turned it all in. And I’m looking forward to seeing what’s on the other side of it; like, what’s next? I know it’s a silly thing to anticipate what you could do, but it’s nice — it feels like a fresh, clean horizon.

Speaking of masters of the fine arts — what was your introduction to John Prine? 

Oh my god, I can’t even remember the first time I heard him. I think he’s just been a part of my life the whole time. He’s just got so many amazing, amazing songs. But I do remember the first time I actually met him, and that was so terrifying.

When was that?

It was … what year is this? 2016? In 2014 I met him. That’s when I had my first few shows with him, and I was so excited, but I was so nervous, too. Because he’s amazing, but I didn’t know him, so you know, he could turn out to be the world’s worst asshole. But thank God he’s not; he’s same person offstage that he is onstage. And I’m so grateful that he would give me the chance to play for his audience. And I’m honored that he would even take time to watch my shows. “Mineral Wells” is his favorite song of mine. And I guess the third day, after I’d been trying to talk to him … well I couldn’t talk to him, but he’d have me up there to sing with him, and I was singing that song “In Spite of Ourselves” with him onstage, and every night I had messed it up. I mean, everybody knows all the words to that song, but I’d mess it up again and again, just because he was right there. So one night I was like, “This is it, John Prine, I’m re-doing it, right here, right now.” And he let me, and ever since then it’s been OK — probably just because I went ahead and made a big fool out of myself in front of everybody.

What line in the song was tripping you up?

“More balls than a big brass monkey.” I finally just asked him, right onstage, “What the hell does that mean?” And he was like, “I dunno, it was something my grandma used to say.” [Laughs] But I just kept on messing it up. I’d be like, “He’s got balls like a … honky-tonky?” I would just fill it up with other words because I just couldn’t get my mind around it for some reason.

But two years later you’re singing with him on his new record, so it’s all good. 

Oh yeah. In fact I think I’m seeing him later this week. But the best thing is, on the last day of that tour, I got a picture him wearing … I gave him a cute little pajama onesie, and he wore it and I got a picture of him in it.

You gave John Prine a pair of onesies?

Yeah. Well, I mean OK, back before they were all popular and a thing …

I didn’t know they were a thing …

[Laughs] Well I was at the Target, and I saw like a lion onesie and a tiger onesie. And I got one and was wearing it on the tour, in the van you know. And at one of the shows, John said, “I bet I could wear one of those.” And I said, “I’m going to go to the store and get you one!” And he said, “I won’t wear it unless it’s sock monkey ones.” I was like, “OK.” And well, it turns out they make a sock monkey onesie.


And so for my parting gift for leaving the tour, I had it ready for him on his dressing room table. And he put it on and tried to distract me while I was doing my opening set for him, and it was hilarious and awesome, and I have pictures!

Going all the way back to your Lubbock days, you’ve actually had the opportunity to work and spend a lot of time on the road with a lot of really great songwriters. I’m curious … your personal relationships with them aside, out of all these artists you’ve toured or worked with — from Billy Joe Shaver and Rod Picott to Todd Snider, John Prine, Ryan Adams, and of course Jason — is there any one out of that bunch that you felt a particularly strong kinship with, just in terms of sharing a similar approach to writing or level of discipline? 

I would say it’s gotta be Leonard Cohen, but I haven’t met him yet.

I love that you say “yet.”

Yeah. It’s going to be him, I just know it. We’re going to have that thing, I know it.

You actually had a song about meeting Leonard Cohen — or at least about wanting to — on Down Fell the Doves. Apart from just being a fan, what exactly is the connection you feel with him as a writer?

Because he has a background in poetry. And I like how he can write light into all of his dark subjects. And I love that he can … that he’s, you know, it takes him a long time to write a song. Because it takes me a long time to write a song. There’s so many people that just seem to just spit them out so easily.

Are you saying you’re not prolific?

I mean, I am, in that I get a lot of ideas, but I just spend too much time or, well, not too much time, but a lot of time working on them. I’ll write so many verses before I really like even part of one. But I don’t know, I just feel like I’d be the most kin with Leonard Cohen. And I don’t know if that’s just based on like my crazy attraction to him, or — I don’t know what it is, but it’s something!

But as for the others that I have met, apart from them all being some of my favorite songwriters, there’s not really any one of them where I’ve felt like we shared a sense of — what did you say? Discipline and method? I don’t know. Ryan’s pretty prolific, and Jason’s discipline is ridiculous. But I think the person that’s maybe the most like me personally, like the same onstage and off and with the same level of empathy for others, who really tries hard to put themselves in other people’s shoes — that would have to be John Prine. I mean, if you ran into him anywhere, he’d talk to you, or if you had a flat tire and needed to be picked up, he’d come rescue you. And I feel like, you know … Todd can’t drive, so you can’t really count on him. [Laughs]  And Ryan’s always busy or wants to talk about something else. And of course I can’t pick my husband — that’d be really rude.

You Are My Home: "I still love Texas," says Shires. "And I miss a lot of things about Texas people and the way that they communicate, you know? There’s not a lot of people that use their words as weirdly as us Texans." (Photo by Josh Wools)

You Are My Home: “I still love Texas,” says Shires. “And I miss a lot of things about Texas people and the way that they communicate, you know? There’s not a lot of people that use their words as weirdly as us Texans.” (Photo by Josh Wools)

I noticed you’ve got some dates coming up that Rod Picott is opening for you. I take it that friendship has remained strong over the years? 

Yes, it has. Definitely. He’s an incredible songwriter and a world-class human. I’m really trying to tour with people that I admire and whose work I really like. So that’s why I’m taking Rod and Lilly Hiatt — just folks who, you know, I want to hear their music and see them play, but I don’t always get to anymore. So it’s sort of selfish.

One of the date’s Rod is playing with you is Oct. 8 at Sam’s Burger Joint in San Antonio, and the next day you’re playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Outside of touring, do you still fell a strong pull back to Texas these days? 

Oh yes, I still love Texas. And I miss a lot of things about Texas people and the way that they communicate, you know? There’s not a lot of people that use their words as weirdly as us Texans.

You clearly haven’t lost your West Texas accent. But in the nearly 10 years since you’ve been gone, do you think you’ve become any more … Nashvillian?

Crap, I don’t know. I still haven’t ever learned my way around here. I still use my GPS, because somewhere in my heart I’m always like, “Eh, someday I’m going to live back in Texas again.” But more Nashvillian? I guess with time they just sort of let you call yourself from here. But I’m not from here. But after a few years they quit saying “Welcome to Nashville.” I’m past that part. Oh, and one thing that’s really different from Lubbock that I like is that there’s summer rain storms here that are really beautiful, and I don’t really fear for my life from being hit by a tornado as often. But I’d still like to get a second house one day and have it be anywhere in Texas, wherever I could get Jason to move to. Nothing feels better than going home.

I might be mistaken, but won’t this be your first time playing the ACL Festival? 

It’s the first one where I’m playing my own music. The first time I played it was with Billy Joe Shaver. And that was actually the first show that Jason ever saw me play. We didn’t meet then and we didn’t know each other, but he saw me play that show, and apparently told his friend, “I’m going to marry that girl one day.” And his friend said, “Aren’t you already married?”

Sounds like that song: “It could have been harmless …”

[Laughs] Yeah! Exactly.