Elvie Shane captured the hearts of country music fans with his tender promise to his stepson "My Boy" in 2021, but now he's back with a new single, "County Roads," that's also commanding attention.
Written by Shane, Dan Couch and Oscar Charles, "County Roads" is a raucous, coming-of-age country-rock ode to rural life. Country radio heartily approves – "County Roads" was the second most added (behind Luke Combs) its first week at country radio.
"There's quite a lot of distance between the different facets of my brain," Shane jokes about the sonic difference between his chart-topping debut ballad and its follow-up rocker. "'My Boy' is a huge foundational part of who I am and how I was raised. My mom and dad really taught me what it's like to love someone unconditionally. But, it may have painted a better picture of me than who I really am at my core."
Shane isn't saying he's a bad guy – just that he is "definitely not the poster child for parenting."
"I just try to do my best," he says. "But I think that it's important with my music for people to be introduced to me as a person. I think 'County Roads' shows a little bit of the mistakes made, the lessons learned, the rowdier side of things."
"My Boy" and "County Roads" are from Shane's debut album "BACKSLIDER" that is available now.
"County Roads" lyrics include: I got a public education, but it didn't come from class|It came from long rides home on a bus in the back|Where we learned how to cuss from them high school kids|Throw a punch, take a punch, steal a kiss.
The song is reminiscent of Shane's childhood in Grayson County, Kentucky. He wanted to juxtapose "County Roads" with "My Boy" to show that people can be rowdy and covered in tattoos but still be there for their friends and family.
"It's all about not judging a book by its cover," he says.
When Shane signed his record deal with Wheelhouse Records, he thought he was bringing a full album primed for release with him. The label disagreed and told him they thought "My Boy" was his only radio-ready song. He was irritated at the lack of support and set out to find his voice. Now he sees the unwelcome guidance as a blessing.
"It gave me an opportunity to really go out and find the origin for what I want to put out in the world," Shane says. "What inspires, what pushes the boundaries and what says, 'Hey, this is what we lean on for the rest of the project?'"
He found Couch and Charles, who not only co-wrote "County Roads" but also produced "BACKSLIDER." Shane released the 15-song collection in October and ended 2021 on a slew of "best of" lists, including Rolling Stone, Billboard, RIAA and he's a member of CMT's Listen Up Class of 2022.
Charles and Shane took their time assembling a studio band they felt would set the right tone for "BACKSLIDER." They worked with some new players and some of the musicians from Shane's regular crew in the recording studio. And Shane jumped in on a few instruments he wasn't familiar with, but the singer believes the "blips" are essential to the soul of his project.
"It's just a representation of who I am," he says. "I'm super proud of the job that all those guys did."
Shane had a concept in mind when he recorded "BACKSLIDER." The album begins with "I Will Run," a soaring, emotional circular song celebrating his love for his wife, Mandi, while acknowledging his life before she was part of it.
"I start the record with where I've come from and then go back in time to what I like to call the dazed and confused years," he laughs.
The album's next five songs -- "Love, Cold Beer, Cheap Smoke" through "Rocket Science" – reflect his coming of age years. He skipped writing about college because he's saving that inspiration for his next album. Then he picks up with what he calls the "Mandi years," which is "My Kinda Trouble" through "My Boy." The third section is all about Nashville and what he loves about country music.
"A lot of topics that I love in country music are those 'she's gone' songs, and stylistically like 'The Race Is On' by George Jones," he says. "It's because of how metaphorical it is, but also the prose is right on the nose too, you know?"
He tried his hand with those techniques on "Heartbreaks & Headaches" and "My Mississippi," but the last song on the album is his "absolute favorite."
Shane wrote "Miles" with Jonathan Sherwood and Luke Preston, and it features his mother.
"We try to be as honest in the writing process as we can with every, every song," he says. "But sometimes you have to change the road name or the girl's name or whatever to make it rhyme. With 'Miles,' I just didn't care. I just was honest."
The songwriting process was a journey that Shane had to finish alone. It began as a tribute to his dad that evolved into him angry at the man for his shortcomings. His dad was a truck driver, and he realized the common ground they shared between their occupations as a truck driver and traveling musician.
"Those same struggles are very prevalent in both lifestyles," he says.
He learned how to sing harmonies with his mom growing up, so for her to join him singing harmonies on "Miles" made the song even more sentimental. The seven-minute ballad ends with an extended instrumental that he calls a "big closing of the curtains."
"I'm in love with this stuff," Shane says. "I love, I love, I love music. I love this record. I love the process. I tried to cut the record in a way that if no matter what they picked for a single, I would be like, 'Okay, that's fine with me.'"
Shane named the album "BACKSLIDER" in a nod to his Christian upbringing. To him, the word means human. It's a nod to the experiences he believes everyone shares, and he tried to reflect those familiar stories in the album's 15 songs.
"No matter how good we all try to be, we're not," he says. "We can't be that every day. You just have to wake up the next day and try to be better than you were the day before. Whether you're from Kentucky or New York City or Afghanistan, I feel like human experiences are probably pretty universal with the mistakes you make and the recklessness of youth and first love and loss and lessons learned. To me, that's what these songs are about."