by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces
One of the more pleasant late-year surprises is the release of the new EP ‘Brave’, by
Kamloops- born, Cambridge-raised Shae Dupuy. This not your typical country set as there are
swatches of pop, roots and rock that dart in and out of the mix. The first song ‘Good For Me’ begins with a staccato guitar riff and a catchy male chant, hooking the listener from the get-go and fulfilling the singer’s objective for the lead track.
“I wanted the EP to have a unique tone with some edge,” she begins, calling in from her home town. “We were doing something a little different with this record so we wanted to lead into it the right way, and Good For Me gives people a taste of the edge that we were going for. It’s also very catchy and it has those really big choruses that draw people in. We wanted to give them something different for them to sink their teeth into before they listen to the rest of the record.”
Prior to Brave, Shae released a four-song EP called ‘Breakdown’ in 2014 that contained the radio-friendly number ‘Grandpa’s Truck’. She followed that up with two subsequent singles, ‘Drink About It’ and ‘Tin Man’ that helped garner her a 2016 Country Music Association Rising Star Award nomination. Those two songs appear on Brave, but the five new tracks, co-written by Shae and recorded in Nashville, are the EP’s bread and butter. In a record filled with gems, “Homewrecker” may be the crowning jewel as the song begins with Shae’s sultry singing accompanied by a lonesome dobro, and gradually builds to a fiery climax.
“The Nashville locale really helped with the song Homewrecker where the producer and I spent a lot of time in pre-production trying to figure out what the sound was going to be,” she begins. “We wanted that nitty gritty sort of southern sound and we recorded it in Nashville for that reason. We knew there was something missing at the beginning because the Resonator guitar and the steel don’t really come in until the first chorus. It was too sparse so the producer brought in Randy Kohrs, the guy who played dobro on Dierks Bentley’s “What Was I Thinkin’”. There was just this kind of moment where everything fell together and it was exactly what the song needed.”
“It was important to record in Nashville because of the people that were there,” she continues. “For me it’s not necessarily about all of the best writers being there. There are a lot of great writers here and there are a lot of great writers in Vancouver. I just go where there are people that will write with me and a lot of times the producers will set that up for me. It’s amazing to be able to go down to Nashville but it’s not the be-all, end-all for me.”
Shae spent a few summers in Los Angeles becoming acclimatized to the music business and writing songs for different people. She found that there were a lot of great stylistic choices she could make when doing pop music. She soon realized, however, that the genre didn’t allow her enough flexibility when it came to telling stories so she headed back to greener country pastures. She does bring a little pop sensibility to the EP, however, and the results are particularly striking on the terrific track ‘Wishing On You’ which has an upbeat feel but weaves a tale of heartache.
“A lot of my songs have an underlying sadness to them but I do try and keep them upbeat for the most part. As far as subject matter goes, there don’t seem to be a lot of love songs on this record. I don’t know what it is but I’ve never been one for writing straight ahead love songs. Even if I’m one of the happiest people in the world in a relationship, it’s just never really drawn me in when it comes to song writing. I think it has something to do with growing up listening to country music. Country allows for much more of a story line than pop and I always tend to gravitate toward that. That being said, just because I don’t necessarily write pop songs doesn’t mean that I don’t love being influenced by it. It’s cool where country’s at right now because you can kind of blend everything together musically.”
Along with Good For Me and Wishing On You, the song ‘Liar’ completes a trilogy of numbers that detail the ups and downs of a relationship. In what was truly a unique musical moment, Shae debuted new videos for all three songs within a ninety-minute span. Of the three, Liar may be the most arresting as the video finds the singer delivering a sparse and emotional soliloquy in which she comes to grips with reality.
“I find that a lot of my fan base is online and not necessarily on radio, and releasing the three videos at once was a way to appeal to them,” she explains. “The three songs do form a trilogy and although they weren’t necessarily written in that order, they kind of tell a story that works well together through the series of videos. Good For You is about falling for the bad guy and Wishing For You is about realizing that the guy is not very good for you but you’re not giving up hope. In Liar there’s the admission that it’s just not working out and it’s breaking you apart.
“I wrote Liar with Jessica Mitchell down in this little apartment in Nashville, and it was very raw and honest when we did it. We thought about bringing in all of these instruments and layering it, but it took away from the sincerity and it didn’t sound like the same song to me. We ended up leaving it just the way it was with just the guitar. The guitar player and I did it together at the same time with no click track.”
Liar also offers a bit of a musical respite during Shae’s live show which features up-tempo versions of Little Big Town’s ‘Boondocks’ and Miranda Lambert’s ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’. While there’s nothing quite as raucous as these covers on the EP, Shae does pay homage to the weekend and a six-pack on ‘No Worries’. Despite this reference it does not mean that she’s jumping on the bro-country party wagon.
“No, I’m not necessarily a party girl,” Shae laughs. “It’s not meant to be a party song. It’s kind of talking about letting loose on the weekend, whether that’s with a little bit of wine or a six-pack at home, or just hanging out with friends. I do love to spend time on the weekends just taking a break because I find if you don’t do that mentally, the inspiration stops coming. Everybody needs to take a break once in a while.”
The song ‘Drink About Me’ seems to sum up Shae’s persona as a strong individual and one who doesn’t tolerate fools lightly, particularly unfaithful guys. This song paints Shae as a bold and unwavering woman, and this appears to be her raison d’être throughout the entire EP. For Shae, however, Brave is also about taking chances, something that independent artists do not always have the luxury of doing.
“My goal was to do something a bit risky because without risk there’s no reward, right? I had to remind myself that this was the record to take chances with. Not a lot of independent artists come out with two EP’s so for me it was a case of now or never. What has been working for everyone else in country music hasn’t necessarily been working for me so it was time to take risks and that’s what I did with these songs.
“There are definitely obstacles to being an independent artist but at the same time it’s great because I get to make all of the decisions in terms of what songs I’m writing and putting on the record. Nobody pushes me into going a certain route like the horror stories you read when a label wants an artist to do more of a pop album. You hear people like Shania now saying that she’s finally recording the album she’s wanted to do, because she doesn’t have a label trying to influence her. I enjoy the independence and freedom that I get out of it.
Well, Shae had better enjoy the independence and freedom while she can because here’s betting that when the record labels get wind of Brave, the line to sign her will form to the left.