Amanda Shires has never been afraid to showcase her personal life, which has made both her and her husband Jason Isbell entertaining follows on social media. And she’s also outspoken about their politics and personal opinions.
In the past few months, Shires has been especially vocal about women’s reproductive rights, particularly abortion rights. She’s never been shy to share her personal experiences with the issue — and she’s willing to write about it, even if it alienates some of her fans.
“I’m privileged enough that what little of a career I have, I can’t really fuck it up,” Shires tells SPIN over the phone from her Tennessee home. “What was gonna happen? Less people are gonna come? Good. I didn’t want y’all there anyway.”
Last November, Shires teamed with Isbell to release “The Problem,” which is “about making tough decisions and not having to go it alone.” The just-released “Our Problem,” written prior to “The Problem,” serves as a bigger conversation — a group of women supportively discussing another woman’s abortion, offering them all a “better sense of community.” For the song, recorded remotely, she joined forces with Cyndi Lauper, Peaches, Angie Stone, Lilly Hiatt, Linda Perry, K. Flay, Morgane Stapleton, Nona Hendryx and Valerie June, along with Sheryl Crow on bass and Isbell on guitar.
The topic is especially salient now: Jan. 22 marks the 48th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that gave women in the United States the fundamental right to choose whether or not to have abortions.
“This song started with the idea of me having this conversation with my friend, and her being super supportive during my experience of having an abortion myself,” Shires says. “The idea started with that because she didn’t really believe the same things I believed, but was still found a way to help and be a good friend.”
“It’s hard to find any political allies sometimes when you’re a woman because it is hard to make decisions to talk about topics that are divisive,” she says. “And to make those choices, when you know that the risk is to your own working career. I was telling my husband that the time was now to put the song out and wanting to help the folks in the greater South, where I live. We started talking about the problem in our personal experiences with making that [abortion] choice. We decided to write it into the conversation and a different setting to maintain the vulnerability and the fact that we should all be allowed to make choices with our own bodies. And it’s silly that we even have to say that.”
Shires’ passion for the issue has been strengthened during the COVID era. She says that she recorded 18 new songs in the past week (“I don’t know what happened; I got inspired”), with one touching on what encompasses womanhood and the rest “more dimensional” and “celebrating, being a 38-year-old woman and encompassing more than just motherhood.” She says that the best of the batch will make it on an album that she’d like to release this year. Though her husband ribs her about being “positive to a fault,” Shires feels that, even with its difficult start, 2021 has better days ahead.
“If we can hang in there and keep trying and keep talking and not let things slip or become complacent, I think we could have some kind of renaissance in a way,” she says. “But that might be a little bit too romantic. It’d be really nice if Black people could go out without having to worry about getting attacked. And to be a girl and not have to worry about how you’re going to afford birth control.”