Stephanie Lambring finds healing in cold, hard truths on her 2020 album Autonomy, addressing sexism and bigotry ("Joy of Jesus"), familial issues ("Daddy's Disappointment"), body image ("Pretty"), abuse ("Mr. Wonderful") and more.
"I like to go in and dive into the pain and try to see perspectives that try to tell the stories of people that are sometimes forgotten," Lambring tells Wide Open Country.
Below, the Nashville-based, Indiana-raised singer-songwriter, who's co-written with Caroline Spence, Hailey Whitters and more, shares the stories behind some of the most personal songs from her new album.
"Daddy's Disappointment" traces Lambring's youth spent singing at "every little country opry and little country church" and centers on what happens when a dream begins to feel like a burden. ("Soon my little dream wasn't mine anymore," Lambring sings.)
"['Daddy's Disappointment'] was basically the result of therapy and then actual therapy for me to write. I started singing in front of people when I was 15. My dad heard me singing and he saw the potential and wanted me to maximize my opportunities. So I would sing in little country music shows and, unless there was a cute guy at the country show, which was not very often, I didn't really like really like it [laughs]. I did find that I liked singing for my peers -- at talent shows and at my high school and that sort of thing. But I didn't really like the country music circuit. I would express that and my dad was like, 'well, you're getting 'seat time.' That's what he would always say," Lambring tells Wide Open Country. "I knew I loved singing, but that's when it started getting complicated then and there."
"Joy of Jesus"
The powerful "Joy of Jesus," a scathing take-down of hypocrites, was inspired by sexist comments a musician friend received after sharing a song on social media.
"Certain songs were on the scarier end. 'Joy of Jesus' was kind of scary for me to put out there, but also it felt important," Lambring says. "It's this weird paradox. I like going outside of my comfort zone. I like singing about things that might be a little bit jarring because I think sometimes that's what we need to pay attention."
The heartwrenching "Pretty" examines body image and the lasting sting of cruel comments.
"Pretty" was scary for me just because it was like the rawest most personal song that I've ever written," Lambring says. "But if something scares me, I think I've learned just from releasing this [album], that it's even more important to put out there.... it has ended up being so healing -- just going outside of my comfort zone because I like to go there anyway."
"Old Folks Home"
The rootsy "Old Folks Home" is a poignant look at the impact of dementia.
"Both of my grandmothers spent time in nursing homes and one of my grandmothers -- I think she spent the last six years of her life in one. We experienced her dementia firsthand," Lambring says. "I just really tried to put myself in what I imagined their shoes to be. The first line is 621 South Sugar Street -- that's actually the address of the nursing home that both of my grandmothers spent time in back home in Indiana. I guess the first verse is kind of inspired by my grandmother and just how awful dementia is."
'Autonomy' Track List:
1. Daddy's Disappointment
3. Little White Lie
4. Mr. Wonderful
5. Joy of Jesus
7. Somebody Else's Dress
8. Old Folks Home
9. Save Me Tonight
10. Birdsong Hollow