Jason Isbell’s wife, Amanda Shires, is a highly-accomplished country music singer-songwriter in her own right. Starting her career with The Texas Playboys as a teenage fiddle player to founding the alt-country band Thrift Store Cowboys, Shires is now a critically-acclaimed Grammy-winning artist and creator of the new collaborative movement The Highwomen.
Her story which all started with a fiddle, has played into a life of great music and harmonized with great love alongside her husband and multi-platinum artist Jason Isbell. Tune in as we retell her beginnings to her love story and her career and get to know more about this amazing woman.
Early Life: ‘It starts with a fiddle’
Amanda Shires was born on March 5, 1982 in Lubbock, Texas. Her mother, Marguerite Fallon, was a former nurse and rodeo barrel racer, while her father, who was unnamed in all sources, was a wholesale nursery owner. She had a younger sister named Ashley Shires.
After her parents’ divorce, Shires spent her childhood alternating between the cities of Lubbock and Mineral Wells. When she was 10, she got smitten with an inexpensive green and orange fiddle from a pawn shop in Mineral Wells while she and her father were out shopping for hunting gear. Her father agreed to buy it on the condition that she actually learned how to play it – and she did.
At 12, she started taking lessons from Lanny Fiel in Lubbock, where she joined his Ranch Dance Fiddle Band. It turned out that Fiel knew Frankie McCourter from the Texas Playboys, the former backing band of legend Bob Wills, which started with her taking lessons from McCourter to later on playing at the band’s shows. At around 15 or 16, Shires joined the legendary band.
Back in high school, she also performed in different orchestras and symphonies. After graduating from Lubbock High School, she attended South Plains College School of Music in Levelland, where she founded the Thrift Store Cowboys with Daniel Fluitt and Colt Miller. The West Texas Indie rock band earned rave reviews from their live sets and also captured a loyal college audience.
Shires continued her studies at Texas Tech University and in 2004, she graduated with a degree in Geography. And in 2011, she attended a small liberal arts university, Sewanee: The University of the South, where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry in 2017.
Marriage and Family: The Start of a Long-Lasting Love
Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires’ marriage has been one of the celebrated stories in country music. They had their fair share of struggles, but they have come to build a love that would last a lifetime.
In a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, Isbell and Shires recounted the start of their story. According to Isbell, he first saw Shires at the 2003 Austin City Limits Festival, where she played with Billy Joe Shaver. But it wasn’t until a year after that the two officially met in Athens, Georgia where Shires was playing with her band. Shires didn’t have any idea who the Drive-By Truckers were, and it was one of her friends who pointed out Isbell to her, noting that he was famous.
When Isbell went to introduce himself to her, she replied saying how he was supposed to be famous. And for good measure, Shires also made him autograph a Polaroid picture for her, which now hangs in their bathroom as a souvenir and a gentle mocking of Isbell’s so-called fame.
The two eventually started dating in 2011 after occasional collaborations. But the days of their early courtship weren’t all sweet and easy as Isbell still deeply struggled with substance abuse. According to Isbell, during shows, they’d just pass a bottle around between the band, then after, he would go on for two or three more. Then one day, Isbell had a drunken musing with Shires that he needed to go to rehab, to which Shires replied that the next time he’d say that, he would be held on to it.
And she did. The night before Isbell left, the two just had the worst night with him wanting to do every drug and drink everything. At that point, Shires didn’t want anymore to do with him, but Isbell won her back with letters as he worked through rehab. He also sent her pictures and progress updates.
After finishing rehab, the pair moved in together in Nashville. And on July 10, 2012, Isbell proposed to Shires when he visited her at Sewanee: University of the South. The pair got married on February 23, 2013 with Todd Snider officiating the ceremony. They welcomed their first child Mercy Rose on September 1, 2015.
Career: Fiddler to Critically-Acclaimed Grammy-winning artist
Jason Isbell’s spouse, Amanda Shires, started her career with the legendary Texas Playboys as a fiddler. Then she went on founding her own band, the alt-country and West indie band The Thrift Store Cowboys in 1999, which earned a loyal following back in her college days.
She released her solo debut album “Being Brave” in 2005 which was mostly instrumental. Upon relocating to Nashville in 2009, Shires hit her fans with her second solo effort, “West Cross Timbers,” followed by “Sew Your Heart With Wires,” which was a collaboration with Rod Picott. Shires released two more albums and a single with Jason Isbell before finally making her Billboard debut in 2016 with “My Piece of Land.” The album landed on rock, Americana, and independent album charts.
A year later, “The Nashville Sound” earned Isbell and the 400 Unit along with Shires a Grammy award for Best Americana album. She also won the Emerging Artist of the Year Award at the 2017 Americana Music Honors & Awards.
Then in 2018, she released her Dave Cobb-produced album “To The Sunset.” And in 2020, she was back with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit for “Reunions,” which peaked at number 9 on the US Billboard 200.
Through the years, she also had the opportunity to tour and collaborate with notable artists like John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider, Shovels and Rope, Gregg Allman, and Justin Townes Earle.
A New Collaborative Movement: The Highwomen
In 2019, Amanda Shires created a new collaborative movement with Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby called The Highwomen, whose mission is solidarity with other women in country music. All of these women were successful artists, but they decided that they were better together.
The idea was inspired by an informal research project she had while on tour. Shires found out that most songs played on the radio were by men. Additionally, when she requested songs by women, she was directed to polls in station Facebook pages with female artists pitted against each other. And only one could win and get played.
In a world dominated by men, The Highwomen is here to actively make a change. They are here to confront the struggles of many female music artists trying to make a name in the industry and help them rise above it.
They released their lead single “Redesigning Women” last September 2019 under their self-titled album.
Jason Isbell’s wife is truly a force to be reckoned with. Tune in with us for her latest releases.
Amanda Shires, Jason Isbell