Music by Nashville chanteuse Shannon LaBrie defies genre and brings to life insightful stories of a woman who remains true to herself in a life where uncertainty is certain. She instantly became a favorite among music fans and critics alike with her powerful 2013 debut Just Be Honest. With the hit lead single, “I Remember a Boy,” the independent release reached inside the Top Ten on iTunes and the Triple A Radio charts. Famed music blogger Bob Lefsetz wrote, “This track affected me. Made me believe like the great singer-songwriters of yore, maybe this woman has something to say. That in this crazy, mixed up, shoot-up world she can illuminate her story and people can relate.”
In February 2016, LaBrie returns with her introspective sophomore album, War and Peace. Tracked live over two days at Nashville’s House of Blues Studio D with producer Tom Michael, War and Peace is an emotionally-charged collection of deep Americana soul that gives voice to the love and losses Labrie experienced throughout her life.
“When I listen to music,” Labrie says, “a lot of times, it’s to make me feel good. But a lot of other times, it’s to make me not feel alone. I started writing this album after a loss that put me at war with everything in my life. At times I was unhinged from reality and lost as a woman in every way. These songs are small doses of the war I feel inside and the peace I long to find.”
The title track is inspired by her boyfriend’s unwavering commitment to their relationship following the loss of their unborn son — a tragedy that continues to shake Labrie’s heart to this day. “There were nights when I’d lose it,” she admits. “He would tell me, ‘There was a point in the night when I’d look in your eyes and know I lost you.’ I feel very fortunate that we made it through the past five years, and that he so was willingly and emotionally invested in so many of those nights.”
LaBrie continues to explore love in the stirring rocker “It Took My Whole Life.” The smooth and steady “Crumble” addresses how consuming love can feel, and the soulful “Ain’t Just a Feelin’” captures the solace love provides. “There was a time when love was a far-off dream,” she says. “Feeling good, feeling like a woman, feeling beautiful wasn’t something that came easily. For a while, it didn’t come at all. ‘Ain’t Just a Feelin’ came from a moment when I was able to step out of the sadness and just be happy.”
LaBrie calls out American politicians in the fiery opener “It’s Political,” which has potential to become one of the nation’s next big political anthems. She sings, “Hysterical; You’re just another average TV show; A team of writers and a pot of gold; You’ve never had to pay.” “Today’s politicians are in a game against each other, and I honestly don’t think they give a damn about the American people,” she says. “They are after a pot of gold, and in the end, we will have to pay for their greed.” In “American Dream,” LaBrie celebrates feeling thankful to live in a country that offers its citizens a life of endless possibility as a basic human right.
The dynamic “Against the Wall” is LaBrie’s social commentary on the harmful effects of social media. She sings, “I’m not dead; I’m just looking at you; Feel my pulse; Feel a touch of truth; Against the wall; I can’t breathe; Something real is what I need.” “Your ‘friends’ on the other end of the status line don’t have to look at your reality,” LaBrie says. “They only have to look at the ‘reality’ you chose to portray.
She explores the impact of living with someone’s secret in “Weight of Your Words,” while “For You” celebrates living on one’s own terms and not by the pressures and expectations of others. “I got so caught up in what others expected of me that I lost sight of who I actually was,” LaBrie says. “I have to do what I believe is right, regardless of the backlash, both personally and professionally.”
Anchoring the soul of the album are the deeply emotional “Alcohol” and “Heaven Crashed Down.” “Alcohol” is a moving ballad about trying to save a loved one from a life of addiction, but in trying, only kills the savior. LaBrie sings, “Like a dead man holding me; We’re buried six years deep; I can’t escape from this disease.” “Addiction is an infectious disease that affects everyone around the addicted,” LaBrie says. “You don’t realize it when you are in the midst of it, but at some point, you find yourself addicted to the vicious cycle as much as the one addicted is to the substance. My addiction to trying to fix him was just as life-altering as his addiction to alcohol.”
In “Heaven Crashed Down,” Labrie gives a visual account of the painful loss of her father, who died in hospice of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma when she was just 13. She sings, “I hated everything but time; Especially those dark green stairs; They’d be the last stairs he’d ever climb; And the first stairs he’d ever come down dead.” “In a way, it’s also a confession of losing a belief system,” she says. “They’d say, ‘He’s in heaven,’ and ‘We rejoice with you.’ As a kid, those statements felt crueler than comforting. It was hard to process the slow decline of my dad physically and then finally watch him breathe his last breath.”
Closing the collection is the jazzy love song “Then There’s You,” which features celebrated Nashville act Gabe Dixon, and starts as a day-to-day account of love. “By the end of the song,” LaBrie says, “you have lived a long life together and have come to a beautiful conclusion that ‘life’ and ‘love’ are just words. It’s the one you love who gives those words life and meaning.”
The Austin Chronicle calls LaBrie, “a true guitarist singer/songwriter whose soulful voice’s sensual honey-crisp highs brings to mind the late, great Jeff Buckley.” She has opened for Dixon, Phoenix, ZZ Ward, The Head and the Heart, The Wild Feathers, Michael Franti and Valerie June. Her résumé includes South By Southwest, the Austin City Limits Festival, Road to the Hangout and Road to Bonnaroo. Other music by Labrie includes EPs Songs From The Smoakstack and War & Peace, the latter of which was recorded with producer Paul Mahern (John Mellencamp, Neil Young and and Lily & Madeleine) in Bloomington, Indiana.