They Told Stephanie Quayle Not to Tell [Interview]
They say it's bad manners to ask a woman how old she is. Stephanie Quayle may soon advertise it.
On April 22, the successful independent artist and businesswoman released her self-titled studio album. Stephanie Quayle is her second full-length, with a few EPs mixed between over the last decade. It's difficult to put a time stamp on the start of her career, as she's never had a "hit" or starred on a reality television show; therefore, she never made a hard entrance into our consciousness.
Instead, the woman who was Montana before Montana was cool just started showing up in bars and festivals in Nashville and across the country. Or, you'd find her under a sponsor's banner, smiling as she signed autographs.
"That’s old news and I think it’s such a limiting view for young women especially, to think that they time out or they expire at 28, 29, 30."
They call it hustling.
"I had a lot of people who were interested in me in music, but they wanted to change me," Quayle tells Taste of Country during a Zoom from her farm in North Carolina. "So it wasn’t until 2008 that I went, “OK, I’m just going to do this myself. I’m going to find a way with no managers and no agents. Just me and my friends, and let’s go make some music."
By 2008, she was old enough to know it took more than luck and a song to win in the music industry. She lived in L.A. and experienced all the all the awful things that young women experience.
"I think I was told I was too old at 22," she'll say after admitting that her own team — people she paid! — would tell her to hide her age.
"And I had to let those people go. Because that message is not where we’re headed. That’s old news, and I think it’s such a limiting view for young women especially, to think that they time out or they expire at 28, 29, 30. Music doesn’t have an expiration date, and I think that’s why I strive to share my age more than ever. I just think that’s a really nasty narrative."
To appreciate Quayle's career, you have to adjust your definition of "making it."
"Selfish" and "Whatcha Drinkin 'Bout" from 2017 and 2019 are her highest charting songs (No. 57 on Billboard Country Airplay), but she's forever finding organic partnerships to help put gas in the bus. The Stephanie Quayle album dropped one day after a Lucchese Boot launch event in Nashville. That's no coincidence. When Wrangler and Fender came together for a line of graphic tees, they called Quayle. Heck, she even gave the keynote address for the Wrangler Cowgirl 30 Under 30 gala in Fort Worth, Texas.
Quayle grew up near Bozeman, Mont., and in the early 2000s music was a focus, but she kept a full-time job until 2010, when she took the proverbial leap. Remember, this was the dawn of bro-country/no women on the radio in country music, so while she was welcomed into many Music City boardrooms, the results weren't always favorable.
“I remember label executives being like, ‘We wanna sign you. Can you dance?’ It’s like, ’No!’” she says, throwing her head back for a laugh.
Western themes have always been speckled across Quayle's catalog. For example, she released her own song called "If I Was a Cowboy" in 2019. It's much different from Miranda Lambert's current radio hit, but the two songs share a premise. "Winnebago" is another that relies on the idea of exploring the open road. Sonically her early music was pop-friendly, with nods to traditional country. On the Stephanie Quayle album, she leans hard into a more mature sound and more universal, family themes. It's an album made for theaters, whereas before, her best songs were built for festival crowds.
"It’s a love album," Quayle — who's been married to husband David since 2015 — shares.
"For the first time I was with him for longer than two weeks during 2020 ... It was a wild experience. I think that writing from that place and just listening to songs from that place, it just hits different."
Songs like "Hang My Hat" and "The Kitchen" speak to the more domestic themes on the album, but it's not a total shift. She still puts the songs together in ways that will still appeal to the "Drinking With Dolly" crowd, assuming that that crowd has also matured. The bottom line is, Quayle knows she doesn't have to appease those people who want her to dance or who think 22 is too old.
“I’m so proud that at 42 years of age, being in the business for as long as I’ve been, I’m still here, still finding a way, making the greatest music, and I’ve just begun," she says.