Shannon LaBrie is a strong woman, the kind of woman you want with a guitar in her hand and a microphone in front of her. Incredibly smart songwriting with vocals so strong, it’s as if they have a spine of their own. As a songwriter, think Kim Richey or Gretchen Peters. As an artist, think shades of Ann Wilson of Heart.
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If you don’t know who LaBrie is, you should. If you’re already aware of Shannon and her music, you’re about to experience a transformation few artists ever achieve. Her new album Building is nothing short of breathtaking and is going to affect people in ways not even she could ever have planned. That may sound like a prediction, but it’s not. It’s a fact.
Partnering with American Songwriter for an exclusive premiere of her seven song gem before she sends it out into the world on September 25th, LaBrie was excited to dig into the songs and the stories from which they came. Co-writing the bulk of the album with 2020 Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame nominee Tia Sillers, who boasts “I Hope You Dance” on her songwriting scorecard, the two came together during dark and desolate times in each of their lives. The universe doesn’t often make mistakes and as it turned out, their union was a blessing for both of them.
“Our publishers connected us to write, I want to say about two years ago,” remembers LaBrie. “We met a few months after her husband had passed away. Now we’re good friends but she told me later she went into that first co-write thinking ‘man, I don’t want to meet somebody new,’ because you know, meeting somebody new takes effort and work.”
As it turns out, meeting somebody new was exactly what each of them needed. More specifically meeting each other was what each of them needed. First through music and then through friendship, the two ended up pulling each other up off of their knees.
Connections are big with LaBrie, most notably connections with her heart. An artist who naturally writes from a vulnerable spot, LaBrie holds close the people and things that mean the most to her which in turn, produces the magic you hear in her songs. Case in point, the story behind her guitar strap and her 1953 hollow body Gibson guitar.
“My Dad passed away in 2001 and we were very close. He definitely got me. I was a lot for my Mom to handle but my Dad always got the crazy artist girl in me. He was a great songwriter and before he passed away, he taught me what a verse, a chorus and a bridge is in a song. I still have the first guitar my Dad got me and his leather guitar strap, I play with that at every show.”
It’s not just his hand on her shoulder in the form of a guitar strap where that story ends. While LaBrie may have moved to Nashville by herself years after his passing, he sent a Godwink her way to let her know he was coming along for the musical ride.
“When I moved to Nashville, I was looking for an electric guitar and a friend of a friend had a husband who collected guitars. Her husband had passed away and she didn’t know me, but she thought he may have had one that sounded like what I was looking for. She ended up bringing me this beautiful 1953 hollow body Gibson and it had my Dad’s name on the headstock. She had no idea. So, my guitar is named Bob, that’s what’s on the headstock, and I always feel a little like my Dad gave me that guitar.”
With a base like that, it’s almost as if only good things could come from that and they have. In the years since LaBrie has called Nashville home, she has toggled between performing live (in town and on the road) and consistently writing with some of the best songwriters the world has to offer. As those dates piled up, LaBrie grew stronger as both a writer as well as a performer.
“The last couple years I’ve focused on writing a lot. I’ve also done a lot of my performing solo, without a full band, which really made me grow vocally. I hear this album compared to my other two albums and my voice sounds so different to me. It sounds stronger and more like who I am as a woman.”
Who is that woman? Building provides the answer to that question. That woman is a strong, confident, sophisticated woman who isn’t afraid to tear off the scab and let her heart bleed. A woman whose voice commands your attention as it grabs you and pulls you into whatever three-minute story she’s singing. That woman is the kind of artist who flies in rare air and deserves no less than 100% of the spotlight.
While Building offers a variety of stories and emotions (along with a uniquely killer cover of Tom Petty’s “It’s Good to Be King”) what might be the album’s most impactful song shines through like sunlight slicing open a darkened sky. Literally.
“Tia and I wrote ‘Raising Hallelujah’ after she told me this beautiful story. She’d had the worst morning dealing with all the terrible things you have to deal with after somebody passes away with the banks and stuff. She had a bad morning, so she went on a hike and it started to storm but a small sliver of sky opened up, the sun came through for a minute and she described to me saying it was like it was raining hallelujah. Right there I said, ‘oh my gosh, we are writing that song right now.’ There’s a line in the second verse that’s Tia’s line that goes ‘love is a lightning strike, it’s a death defier.’ I love that line so much. That song could have so easily been a ballad but with the band it became so powerful. It just bleeds strength.”
With songs like “Firewalker,” “Angels Fall” and the title track, LaBrie’s album Building is built on hope. Ever the optimist, that’s exactly the way she planned it.
“More than anything, I want this album to encourage people and I want it to make people feel like they can overcome anything. I want people to look up in the sky when its stormy and raining and know with all their heart that the sun will come back around. I want it to make people feel loved and not alone.”