For about two years now, Shelby Lee Lowe has kept us on our toes with a consistent stream of releases that have kept him at the forefront of the conversation of the brightest rising traditionalists in country music. A series of singles and an EP have kept us entertained, but to close his 2021 on a high note, Lowe is offering something a bit bigger; his sophomore album, Stubborn Heart.
Released five years after his self-titled debut, Stubborn Heart is chock full of good-timing tunes, steel guitar and a few tugs at the heart strings along the way. In those five years, Lowe has seen his fanbase steadily grow and has honed in on who he wants to be as an artist and what he wants to say.
We caught up with Lowe to talk all about Stubborn Heart, several of the songs on it, his growth over the last five years and more!
PC: You released your last EP, Something in Me, last October, continuing a steady stream of releases you have maintained for well over a year. How important has it been for you to continuously offer new music to listeners?
Shelby Lee Lowe: Over the last several years, I’ve been writing some of my favorite songs, so of course I’ve been excited to release as many of them as I can. I don’t like going too long between putting out new music, I don’t want my fans don’t forget about me.
PC: Over the course of your career, you have largely released singles and EPs. Why did you feel it was a good time to release a full album with your new album, Stubborn Heart?
SLL: Before Stubborn Heart, the only other album I had released was my debut album in 2016. I had enough songs for a record and I felt that it was time to put out another full-length to showcase who I have become as a songwriter and artist. A full album is just more special than an EP or single, and it feels good to have another one.
PC: “Stubborn Heart” leads off its album on a country-rocking note. Why did you decide to have “Stubborn Heart” lead off the album and serve as the title track?
SLL: “Stubborn Heart” has been my theme song since I wrote it. It’s about chasing a dream no matter what, and believing in yourself even when times get tough. As soon as we wrote this song, I fell in love with it and thought “Stubborn Heart” would make a good album title. The way the song kicks off felt like the opening song for me.
PC: “An Empty Glass” is the only cover song featured on Stubborn Heart. What went into the decision to cut the Gary Stewart classic?
SLL: Gary Stewart’s “An Empty Glass” has been one of my favorite songs for a while now. The production and his performance make it one of the saddest and most beautiful songs ever in my book. I also love covers I’ve heard by Stoney LaRue and some other artists. I had been playing “An Empty Glass” live some, and friends of mine convinced me to record my own version of it. I’m glad they did. I think we did a good job of paying tribute to the original while putting my own country spin on it.
PC: You released “Miss Tennessee” as a single in February, and it has since earned over 130,000 Spotify streams. What do you think it is about “Miss Tennessee” that has connected with listeners the way it has and continues to?
SLL: “Miss Tennessee” has become a popular song for me here in Tennessee especially. I’ve been asked to play it for beauty pageants, and it even gets used at high school baseball games where I’m from. It’s a laid back country song with relatable lyrics about a girl that’s like most country girls from any state.
PC: “Front Porch Conversations” is a song that covers loss and serves as your only solo write on Stubborn Heart. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the song?
SLL: I was sitting alone at the kitchen table picking guitar one night after the kids went to bed and this song idea just came to me. I wrote this song about a dream I had about my granddaddy after he passed away. My grandparents meant a lot to me, and this song has meant a lot to me and my family.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from Stubborn Heart after listening all the way through?
SLL: I hope listeners will have a good time listening to Stubborn Heart. I hope songs like “Just Don’t” and “Big Women with Bad Tattoos” makes them laugh and songs like “Front Porch Conversations” and “An Empty Glass” makes them feel something.
PC: Prior to the release of Stubborn Heart, you released five of its ten songs as singles. Can you talk about that release strategy and why it was right for this project?
SLL: My manager, producer and I wanted to gradually promote the record and keep momentum flowing towards the big release all year. If nothing else, it gave me something to talk about as the year went on and kept fans engaged.
PC: It’s been five years since you released your debut, self-titled album. In the time that has followed, you’ve released several singles and EPs, along with Stubborn Heart, that have earned hundreds of thousands of streams, earned you over 25,000 monthly Spotify listeners and landed you on major curated playlists with some of the biggest names in the genre. What has your steady rise been like for you, and what has it meant to tangibly see that success?
SLL: My team of supporters and I have been working nonstop trying to create and promote my brand of country music, and it really feels good to have some metrics of steady growth happening. Of course, I’m never satisfied and I have some pretty lofty goals set for myself, but I am forever grateful for the people that are listening and supporting me over the last few years.
PC: Over the course of the five years since you released your debut album, what is the biggest thing you’ve learned about music/yourself that you’re able to use moving forward?
SLL: I’ve learned a lot about who I want to be as an artist and what direction I really want to go in. I’ve also learned to appreciate the small victories when you are an independent artist and to take every opportunity that comes your way. I’m still learning how to balance making a living playing music with my family life. I’m also still learning how to make money and spend less of it! Guess you could say I’m still a work in progress.
PC: Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of 2021 and going into 2022?
SLL: The last couple months of 2021, I’ll be raising a new born baby girl, so I plan on having my hands full. I do have some shows booked, but I plan on really ramping up my shows in 2022. I’ve recorded more music, and hopefully in 2022 I’ll be finding an outlet for those new songs.
*Shelby’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*
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