Music

Jason Isbell Files for Divorce From Amanda Shires

The marriage of Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, two pillars of the country and Americana music worlds, has struck its final chord.

Isbell filed for divorce from Shires after nearly 11 years of marriage on Dec. 15, 2023, according to court records reviewed by Rolling Stone. Isbell is a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter who, for the last decade, has led his band, the 400 Unit; Shires is both a respected solo artist, a member of the Highwomen supergroup, and an occasional member of Isbell’s band. At last Sunday’s Grammy Awards, Isbell and the 400 Unit won two Grammys, including Best Americana Album for their latest release Weathervanes.

Reps for Isbell and Shires did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.

The couple’s story dates back over two decades. Isbell first caught sight of Shires in 2003, when she was playing fiddle in Billy Joe Shaver’s band. A year later, the two met; by then, Shires was in the Thriftstore Cowgirls, and Isbell was in Drive-By Truckers. When a friend of Shires told her that Isbell was a famous rock star, Shires had him sign a Polaroid as a joke; Isbell then watched her performance from a front-row seat. “Now in hindsight, that seems really creepy; I would never do that,” Isbell told Rolling Stone in 2018. “I was like, ‘That’s that girl that played with Billy Joe Shaver, it’s gotta be.’ Because she had the same boots on. We met and just talked briefly after that.”

The two kept in touch, with Shires playing on his 2011 album Here We Rest and becoming a recurring member of his band. That same year, they became a couple, and the two began living together in Nashville. In 2012, he visited her at Sewanee: The University of the South, in Tennessee, and proposed. In February 2013, they were married, and a daughter, Mercy Rose, arrived two years later.

As the couple openly acknowledged, the challenges of a two-career music family, combined with a drinking issue that Isbell conquered early in their relationship, continued to jostle their marriage. Shires helped him go into rehab early on. “It started out like a cool night, you know, and ended up being the worst night ever, ever, ever, ever,” she told WNYC. “At that point, I was not having any more to do with him. Because I was so mad the next morning.”

Fans of both musicians would often read between the lines to determine which songs they’d written about the other. Although the couple rarely confirmed those suspicions, few doubted that Shires’ “Fault Lines,” from her 2002 album Take It Like a Man, was about their marital issues: You could say it’s all my fault we just couldn’t get along/And if anyone asks, I’ll say what’s true, and really, it’s ‘I don’t know.’”

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During the making of Isbell’s 2020 album Reunions, difficulties between them appeared to come to a head. Shires, who also played on the record, has said she felt her input was ignored, and she left their home to live in a motel for a week.

In February 2023, both celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary with dual upbeat posts. A few months later, Sam Jones’ HBO documentary Running With Your Eyes Closed detailed their lives and the recording of Reunions. The film included scenes of tension between the two in the studio, and Shires was also seen reading aloud an email to Isbell about marriage counseling. “I’ll never go back and watch it again,” Isbell told GQ this year. “But we told people the truth, and it was good they saw that, because that’s the job.”

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