The best songwriters use all the tools at their disposal to craft their music. Among tools like instrumentation, timbre, and arrangement is story, a sometimes-overlooked device for writing incredible music. Amanda Shires is no stranger to story and demonstrates her aptitude as a writer in her emotional single, “The Problem.” The song tells a specific story, but not in an “on-the-nose” fashion; instead, it feels like a memory, slightly faded and filled with more feelings than information. Upon the single’s release, Shires stated, “This song is about making tough decisions and not having to go it alone.”
Delivered as a conversation between Shires and husband Jason Isbell, “The Problem” has a dreamy quality due to its winding melody and a cloud of reverb glowing over the studio production. With a similar atmosphere and feeling as The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever,” it acts as a testament to Shires’ knack for skillfully navigating lyric, tonality, and instrumentation to spin a narrative with a brooding unrest beneath the surface. Take a moment to hear one of the best writers in roots music today with this live performance of “The Problem” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Photo credit: Alysse Gafkjen