"I’ve been listening to music more than ever. In the morning, it's been Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald" We chat with Shannon LaBrie
To Nashville from Nebraska. It's been quite the journey for Shannon LaBrie. Halfway through recording her first album since 2016's War & Peace when COVID-19 struck, we spoke to her about the difference of living and making music in a pandemic, and about what makes her stronger.
Hey Shannon, how the heck are you?
Hey! I’m doing ok! This year has been a rollercoaster. I started 2020 out with some big changes in my life. I had just started to recover from pneumonia and was in the process of moving to my new place when the Tornado hit my neighborhood in East Nashville. Wasn’t even a week after the disaster that COVID-19 became the “pandemic,” that we are in right now. It’s been a strange turn of events, and at many points, very painful. But, alas, quarantine has in some ways been a gift. The distance and quiet has given me space to get my bearings, get healthy again and write my heart out. Quarantine has given me a massive dose of gratitude. I’m more thankful than ever for my health, my family and to wake up every morning with a roof over my head. I’ve never felt so close to my community or more proud. In the midst of everything, beauty comes through and kindness and love always find a way to fill the void. So, to answer your question, this morning, I’m doing really great!
Where are you right now?
I’m currently quarantined at my house in East Nashville, TN.
What have you been up to today? And how different is that from what you’d usually be doing?
I went on a run, had coffee and some breakfast. Typically, pre- pneumonia and COVID-19, I’d say I wouldn’t start my day with a run but, I’m happy to have these new habits in my life. The major difference in my every day movements is, not seeing people. I’d be on tour right now in Florida, playing side by side with one of my best friends. That’s been the hardest thing to be away from. Playing live and being with friends.
Introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m Shannon LaBrie. I was born on a farm in Nebraska, grew up in the country in a very musical family. I lived in Colorado for a few years and eventually moved to Nashville, TN which is home to me now. I’ve been writing songs and playing music since I was a little girl, I’m allergic to corn, I have a dog named Bellatrix and I love to paint!
I love your new single ‘Firewalker’, what can you tell us about it in two sentences?
'Firewalker' is about finding your strength and discovering how strong you really are. It’s a mantra to me these days, every time I sing it, I feel like I’m getting a glimpse over my shoulder at all the things I’ve overcome, and that gives me power to look towards the future with more confidence, grit and guts.
You’ve been playing some virtual shows, how are you finding that?
When I first started live streaming shows, I was really nervous. I felt so uncertain and a little insecure but, after I did my first one, I ended the live stream feeling very connected and alive. Although, I miss SO much performing in person with people, virtual shows is filling that void for the time being. Still giving me an outlet to perform and connect to fans. I’m really thankful for it.
I see you played with Kyshona last night, what artists are you into at the moment?
I’ve been listening to music more than ever. In the morning, I’ve been listening to Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald. In the afternoons I’m listening to a lot of different stuff. Kyshona’s single 'Too Much', Nicole Boggs new single 'I’m Gonna Break Your Heart', and Skylar Gregg’s new song 'Long Way Back'. I’ve also fallen in love with Gregory Alan Isakov's This Northern Hemisphere and the band Joseph, just released a song called 'Enough in your Eyes' which I can’t get enough of!
It’s been four years since your last album, what have you been up to?
I toured War & Peace for about two years and then dove into writing. I’ve had a lot of changes in the past few years and as a result, am in a huge season of creating.
What can you tell me about more new music? I can’t wait to hear more.
I am SO excited about new music. I was in the middle of recording my new album when the tornado hit and then COVID. As a result, we had to put a pause on everything. Luckily, we had already recorded five songs in the studio. Just last week my team and I decided that we were going to go ahead and release that particular session this summer. Of course we will eventually do the entire record but, 'Firewalker' just felt needed right now. We wanted it out into the world to hopefully pump people up and remind them that we are all strong and survivors!! I’m really excited to get this group of songs out. It’s not a whole record, but the five songs we did, very much represent who I am and where I am going!
I usually ask, what have you got planned for the rest of 2020, but I’m not sure any of us know... so, what’s the thing you’re looking forward to doing most when things settle down?
Getting back on the road! I miss being out on tour and playing live for people. It’s one of the things that inspires me most.
Gender and diversity are much discussed in the music industry, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
I’m very thankful to the women that have paved the way before me. Although, there’s always a down side to every story, I feel more optimistic than ever about being a woman in the music industry. I’m very fortunate to have worked with incredible men in the music business. With that said, right now, I’m working (unintentionally) with an all-female team. So far, it’s been the best experience of my career.
Have you noticed a difference at all in the last couple of years?
Absolutely. When I toured my first record, there was definitely an expectation as a woman to look a certain way and put my flirt on. Not that anyone ever said that but, the expectation was always there. I’d say now, very much as a result of the Me Too movement, those expectations have faded, and now it’s just simply an expectation to do good work...less about gender or the fact that I’m a female (the way it should be).
Generally these days, success is measured in YouTube views and Spotify streams, what does success look like to you?
I love this question. I had to define “success,” for myself a few years ago. I’m a dream chaser, and dreams have no ceiling. I had to take a hard look at my life and ask, “at what point in my career will I be satisfied?” For me, I strive to be “satisfied,” in the process of everyday life. If at the end of the day, I can look back and feel good about how I spent my time, I can feel successful. “Was I kind?” did I “add something good” to my community and environment? Did I “create,” something new? One of my favorite quotes is, “nothing is worth more than this day.”
Can you tell us the best and the worst thing about your hometown?
The best part of Douglas, NE is that it is small. The roads stretch on forever, the fields and woods felt endless as a kid and it gave me and my siblings so much room to use our imagination. Not to be this person but, I can’t think of a “worst.” My childhood memories are straight out of a fairytale.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
To date, when I waited tables at Mortons. Jack White came in, and I froze for a moment.
Social media, is it a pain in the butt for artists, or a valuable tool for connecting with fans?
Absolutely it is a tool for good and right now it’s needed more than ever. Again, because of social media I’ve been able to connect to fans which, is so important. I think the “pain,” of it all is getting sucked into the scroll. I swear I can feel myself losing brain cells. It’s easy to get lost in the scanning and lose sight of its purpose. Personally, I set social media boundaries for myself. I want to make sure when I’m on, I’m engaging and not just mindlessly scrolling.
If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?
'I’m Gonna Break Your Heart' by Nicole Boggs and the Reel. It’s been in my head non-stop since I heard it and the lead guitar player reminds me of Mike Campbell from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Love this song!
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
Hmmm... “Do you think the world will come out of this Pandemic stronger, kinder, and better?” - and my answer is “YES!”
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Black... almost always. The only time I don’t is when I want a treat, I’ll get a Cuban Coffee from Crema (my fave coffee in Nashville).