On Wednesday, Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell kicked off Literary Hub’s new video performance series in support of Mighty Writers, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that teaches reading and writing to thousands of low-income and marginalized students every year.
Shires played fiddle and sang three songs off her album To the Sunset — “Parking Lot Pirouette,” “Break Out the Champagne” and “White Feather” — with guitar and backing vocals from Isbell. Between performances, the two chatted about their favorite teachers and the best writing advice they’ve received throughout the years.
“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was when I was studying at Sewanee University in the south,” Shires said. “My professor, Andrew Hudgins — who is a fantastic and wonderful poet — told me that a lot of times when you’re writing, the actual start of where you think the start is isn’t at the start. Like, your first paragraph, your first few verses, first lines or whatever it is…usually, you’re doing the work to get to the start. After having thought about that some, internalizing it, I found it to be true, and so now it’s easier for me to get rid of that beginning, working stuff and get to the actual start.”
Shires performed on Isbell’s latest album with the 400 Unit, Reunions, released this past May.