If ‘My Boy’ Is One Part of Elvie Shane’s Story, ‘Backslider’ Fills Out the Bigger Picture

Elvie Shane; Jeremy Cowart
Elvie Shane; Jeremy Cowart
Elvie Shane; Jeremy Cowart

Elvie Shane’s first taste of mainstream country success came from his No. 1 hit “My Boy,” a heartstring-tugging, country-rocking ode to the singer’s love for his stepson. It tells the story of how Shane forged the bonds of family by love — though not by blood — and how his unconventional road to finding his family informs who he is as a person and as an artist.

It’s such a personal song that fans can’t help but associate Shane’s personal life with his lyrics, and they’re right to do so — but that song isn’t all there is to his story. The rest of that story is on full display in his debut album, Backslider, which arrived last Friday (Oct. 29.)

“I think the way this song works with the rest of the record is that the song is very much a part of me, but it’s only one part of me. The rest of this record is just about every other part of me,” Shane explains to Country Now. “I was very honest about where I came from, how I grew up, where I am now.”

Backslider lays out Shane’s current life stage — as a loving family man, husband and now father of two kids, after welcoming a baby girl this summer — and charts the path it took him to get there. It navigates his journey from his native Kentucky to Music City, where he hit the Nashville songwriting rooms and tried to make it in the music business. It also chronicles some darker parts of his story, where he found himself losing sight of the beliefs and values that he grew up with.

Hence the title of the record, which Shane says is a reflection on the complicated state of being not only a Christian but also a human in general.

“I took a look at the word ‘Christian’ the other day, and it was like, ‘This means to be Christ-like — this word that I’ve been told, which is something very unattainable.’ But I think ‘Backslider’’s a better word for who we are as human beings,” he notes. “I’m so super blessed, but at the same time, I’m definitely a backslider. I do things I probably shouldn’t. And I try to wake up and say, ‘I’m gonna do these things today to make my life better.’ But things get in the way and you make mistakes.

“We can’t always be at the top of our game,” he shrugs. “I think we’re all backsliders, if you really look at it.”

The Christian element of Shane’s work is present not only in his messaging, but also in the music itself. Backslider is brimming with references and nods to different genres. One song features a line of gospel standard “Amazing Grace”; another pays a nod to the bluesy sound of the Muscle Shoals Swampers. There’s even an intermediary, shorter track structured as a skit — called “Kickin’ Stones,” featuring Shane’s studio band The Fletch. Shane was inspired to pay tribute to the format that he’d learned to love from hip hop albums by artists like Eminem. The spoken word vocals on the track are Bible versions from Galatians 5:13-14, and came from a close friend of Shane’s, who chose to remain anonymous but wanted to help the singer spread a good message.

“And ‘Miles (With My Mama),’ even, though it’s very far from a hip hop song, the way that [strings] intro tips its hat to [rapper] Mac Miller, and a song he wrote that was very important to me called ‘2009.’ 2009 was a hard year for me, so,” Shane offers.

Shane’s collection of songs come from a diverse, sprawling array of influences, and he’s grateful that he was able to be so innovative during the record-making process. That freedom, he says, comes not only from his own artistic development but also from the ways in which the genre has broadened over the past few years.

“And I’d like to credit another Kentucky boy, Chris Stapleton, for doing something about that,” Shane interjects. When he thinks about the pivotal moments of his own career, he often points to the 2015 CMA Awards, when Stapleton and pop star Justin Timberlake performed a mash-up of Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake’s “Drink You Away,” catapulting Stapleton into country fame and opening the door for other more rock and soul-oriented country artists.

“I had friends that were trying to get me to come and write [in Nashville] for a long time, and I was enjoying some of the stuff I was hearing coming from Nashville country music, but the way I was writing, I couldn’t bring myself to come here,” he remembers. “But after that night, my buddy called me and said, ‘You reckon it’s time to come down to Nashville now?’” And it was.

Now, he says, he’s finding a way to be entirely himself — and tell his whole story — through his music. “I felt like I had an opportunity to be me 100%,” he says of the album-making process. “I think it’s a golden opportunity to be a country artist right now.”

Elvie Shane -- Backslider
Elvie Shane — Backslider

 

Backslider – Official Track Listing:
 

1. I Will Run
(Elvie Shane, Doug Johnson, Adam Wood)
 
2. Love, Cold Beer, Cheap Smoke
(Elvie Shane, Russell Sutton, Drew Green)
 
3. Sundays In The South
(Elvie Shane, Derrick Southerland, Albert E. Brumley)
 
4. Sundress
(Elvie Shane, Doug Johnson, Adam Wood)
 
5. County Roads
(Elvie Shane, Dan Couch, Oscar Charles)
 
6. Rocket Science
(Elvie Shane, Joybeth Taylor, Jakob Miller, Oscar Charles)
 
7. My Kinda Trouble
(Elvie Shane, Erik Dylan, Ray Fulcher)
 
8. Kickin’ Stones (with The Fletch)
(Fred Eltringham, Steve Mackey, Rob McNelley, Tom Bukovac, Kris Donegan, Matt Nolen)
 
9. Saturday Night Me
(Elvie Shane, Doug Johnson, Adam Wood)
 
10. My Boy
(Elvie Shane, Russell Sutton, Nick Columbia, Lee Starr)
 
11. Heartbreaks & Headaches
(Elvie Shane, Dakota Payton)
 
12. Nothin’ Lasts Forever (with Tenille Townes)
(Elvie Shane, Luke Preston, Oscar Charles, Matt Willis)
 
13. Keep On Strummin’
(Elvie Shane, Dan Couch, Oscar Charles, Clinton Payton)
 
14. My Mississippi
(Elvie Shane, Jakob Miller)
 
15. Miles (with My Mama)
(Elvie Shane, Jonathan Sherwood, Luke Preston)

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