The pairing of Amanda Shires and producer Lawrence Rothman is an unlikely one. On paper, Amanda's Americana-leaning solo records (including her work with The Highwomen), and Lawrence's art rock production style make almost no sense, but that's the beauty of it. The two partnered during the early pandemic on remote writing collaborations, and later on full band sessions at Nashville's famed RCA Studio B and Amanda's barn turned home studio. I caught up with Amanda and Lawrence to talk about their partnership and the process of making her new album, Take It Like a Man.

I was thinking about why people work together, choose each other, and how these pairings make for good music. I'd love to focus on the relationship aspect of artist and producer, and how the two come together.

Amanda Shires (A): That's fun. I’m going to let Lawrence lead, because Lawrence came into my life via Lawrence first.

Lawrence Rothman (L): I discovered Amanda before Amanda discovered me. I first caught wind of her beautiful music via The Highwomen. I had heard that record [The Highwomen] and thought it was a masterpiece, from top to bottom. Some of my favorite songs on it were the ones where Amanda was singing the lead vocal, so that brought me down the rabbit hole of Amanda's music. Record after record I was discovering a gem that I had never known about. I loved the focused intent on great lyric writing and poetic lyric writing. Lyrics are my number one thing, as far as what grabs my attention. The richness and the softness at the same time in her voice; I was very, very drawn to it. When it came time for me to make my album [Good Morning, America], I wanted to have a few features on it. My voice is so low, so I like to team up with people who have higher-ranged voices. Sometimes that can be a male voice or a woman's voice. A couple of the people who I reached out to on my short list luckily responded and wanted to get involved on singing on my album. Amanda was one of the first people I reached out to, and one of the first people to come on board. I sent her a song called "Thrash the West." She responded to it, went into the studio, and sang on it.

A: This is where I come in to interject. I got "Thrash the West" during COVID lockdown. I'm not really one for checking my emails, and then, during lockdown, I was struggling a bit. I'd already been intent on not going into the studio ever again. That was my choice, and I was happy with my decision. But, during that time, I was thinking about how John Prine never let anything cross his desk without giving it a listen, because it disrespects folk's art and time. So, I listened to Lawrence's song "Thrash the West." There are not many voices that inhabit that low range. On top of that there was the production; the sound of the strings, and the string parts, really got to me. The sonic landscape. Then the subject matter. So, since they [Lawrence’s preferred pronoun] asked me to sing on it, I said, "Okay, maybe I can do that." When I went to the studio and heard it – not just on my computer speaker – that's when I was all in with the sounds that Lawrence was making. Eventually I sent them a song, and they were like, "We should get in the studio." Then there was another song, and we decided to do a trial date. I didn't want to put all my hope and faith into making a record, because I wasn't ready to make one at that time. Mentally, or in any way. We did a trial day and that went well. From there, my joy was rekindled, and my love for music was rediscovered. Creativity begat more creativity, and it didn't stop.

You were writing together remotely?

L: We loosely wrote a song via text before we met. It was a wonderful thing to write with somebody that I didn't know well, but to get to a spot where we delved into a lyrical theme that was close to me. We started with a story from my childhood. It went well. Then we did this trial day, and on the trial day we tracked "Fault Lines," "Stupid Love," and "Don't Be Alarmed" that all appear on the album. At the top of the day, I knew it was going to be a great session, but I...

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