Montana born-and-raise, singer-songwriter Stephanie Quayle recently released her brand new "Stand Back" EP, a collection that features powerhouse vocals and heartfelt lyrics. Having written her first song when she was only 12 years old, she has honed her storytelling craft into a compelling and remarkable project. Throughout her upbringing, she tells Examiner that work ethic and an inherent love of music was central to her life. "My mom says I came out of the womb singing," she quips.
"Looking back at the freedoms I had as a child, I don’t think that would ever happen again," she says of her humble childhood, laughing. "I probably would never let my kids do what I got to do. In the mornings, if I wanted to, I could go throw a halter on a horse and jump on and ride before school. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of chores. We had the vet clinic. My stepfather was a veterinarian."
She adds, "We [did] everything from cleaning the chicken coop, cleaning the horse stalls to having to walk the dogs. I never experienced boredom. There was always something that could be done. I loved growing up that way. I had a goat. I had rabbits. It was cool."
Her current single is the empowering "Stand Back," a track she notes as really resonating with both her female and male fans. She explains, "Empowering women has been a trait of mine since I was a teeny, tiny human. Since I was a little kid, I’ve always been outspoken and [made] sure no one was getting taken advantage of. I’ve been called a crusader. I’ve been called all kinds of names, in a good way."
"Country music is such a strong storytelling genre of music. Women bring the boys. I think men like a strong woman, and women like strong songs to back them up. It’s a wonderful marriage between the song and the fan. Nothing is more exciting than watching my female fans sing this with all kinds of sass. [It’s also cool] to watch it impact the male fans. It’s funny how many guys have reacted to the ‘I’m a player, too, baby’ line."
Of course, the song's theme stems from personal experience, "I’ve had my fair share of not-so-nice guys [being] not-so-nice. It’s a fun way to speak to my younger self, ‘Imagine if you had this song.’"
Throughout the songwriting process, Quayle loves the therapeutic nature of the craft. "It’s the one place where you can let it all hang out. You can expose different parts of yourself you might not be able to verbalize," she voices. "When I take my personal experiences and make them universal, I write because I want it to be something that [appeals to everyone] so the listener can take that song on as their own. Even if the lyric isn’t exactly how it played out in their life, there’s that connection and understanding. I also have a lot of songs that I just need to get it out. Sometimes, those turn out to be phenomenal songs and surprising songs, and sometimes, [they’re] songs that you just won’t ever let anyone here." [laughs]
While her songs might come from her personal life, she makes sure to dust off the emotions before heading into a songwriting session. "At this point, because I’ve been honing on the craft, I think usually have that worked out before I go into a session," she says. "I tend to allow all that energy, whether it’s anger, hurt, frustration, fear, sadness, and push it into the song. I do the same thing with performances. If something has happened the day of a performance that was maybe not exactly what I had [planned], I don’t ever look at it as a bad thing. I use it. It’s just more fire in the belly."
On the seven-song EP, Quayle co-penned six of the songs. Her favorite? She replies, "That’s so hard. My favorite is different at each point in the day or moment. I do find myself very drawn to ‘Stand Back.’ It’s all kinds of sassafras. I get to pull out the big guns on that song. Vocally, it is a very challenging song. So, I really enjoy that process of singing that song."
"It lets me sing from my toes, you know?" she adds.
If she were to recommend a song for a fan to listen to for the first time, she is rather torn on two in particular. "Well, let’s think about this. I would say ‘Last Stop.’ The reason I say [that one], which is the first cut on the EP, is [it’s] a love song in a very not-I-Love-You kind of way. I wrote that song with Lukas Bracewell and Jim Riley specifically with the intention of all these guys get these rockin’ full of grit songs and also have the love vibe. I was like ‘we just need a kickin’ song.’ I love love. I’m all about it. The thing I get such a kick out of that song is that such a different way of saying it. It’s also got a little piece of Montana in it. ‘The last best place’ is a reference to my home state."
"If it was from a standpoint of background and vocals and musicianship all across the board, it would have to be between ‘Last Stop’ and ‘Stand Back.’"
As far as songwriting heroes go, she notes one iconic musician right off the bat. She answers, "Willie Nelson is one of my favorite writers. He has not only mastered everything from artist, performer, songwriter, but he has simplicity. His words are something I envy, look at and admire. For someone more contemporary, I love Connie [Harrington] and Jessi Alexander. They wrote ‘I Drive Your Truck’ [by Lee Brice]. I really like their sensibility. Incredible."
With current females facing an uphill battle at radio, Quayle admits that that doesn't phase her. "I truly believe that it’s time. I love the challenge," she gushes. "It’s cyclical. You can see where it cycles. I was just voting for the CMA Awards, and I was looking at how it’s all men. It think it’s time. I think the girls are gonna be rising. [laughs] We’re coming!"
For a curveball, Examiner asked her about a song she would have on repeat for the rest of her life, if given the chance. She contemplates, "Well, that’s going to be a song attached to a really good memory. That’s like the best question I’ve ever heard. I’m going to be writing this question down. For the rest of my life? That’s a really long time. I’m one of those people that if I like a song, I listen until I literally wear it out. I will play it over and over and over and over and over again. Then, I’ll be like ‘OK, I’m done with this song.’ I’ll go back to it but I always play it a hundred times on repeat."
"In my mind right now, I’m bouncing between rock and country. You really did a doozy on me. We’re going from Loretta Lynn and ‘You’re Not Woman Enough To Take My Man’ to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. That’s so wide. There’s a song out right now that I’ve been listening to quite a bit. If I had to listen to it for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t hate it. It’s a band called Johnny Swim. They’re not country, but they’re from Nashville, though. They have a song called ‘Heartbeats.’ There is a lyric in the song that goes ‘I wanna go where they say it isn’t possible.’ This is kind of a song I listen to before a performance that gets me all mentally in the right place."