Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Spacious describes both Stephanie Quayle’s vocal clarity and her modern-traditionalist-country poise. It’s an open, liberated combination rooted in the land of her upbringing, whose mammoth freedom transmitted to her seeds of wisdom and love.
“That wide sense of space is ingrained in me,” says Stephanie Quayle, a native of Bozeman. “I want the music to feel welcoming and wide open, like Montana. Montana came with the freedom to live. I remember being a little girl and jumping on a horse and riding in the fields where the grass was so high. The grass was like ocean waves. Montana provided me with a sense of adventure. From Montana, I’ve learned that there is not one way of accomplishing an individual goal. Not one path. Not one blueprint.”
In the past few years Quayle has released a succession of well-received videos, singles and albums, a mix of countrified chic that’s sung and produced suavely enough to delight a range of musical palates. Today’s country music is deeply, even stylishly, diversified, with a plethora of sub-genres. She self-identifies as “a modern traditionalist,” beholden and friendly to previous generations of popular artists such as Patsy and Bonnie and Reba, yet committed to delivering her own clean, sophisticated edge.
Indeed, Quayle has recorded and performed with an energy and focus that has resulted in her landing on the Billboard charts and leading her to appearances on the Country Music Television network. Right now, she is deep at work producing fresh melodies and confident that despite the absence of familiar in-person recording procedures and increased reliance on remote technology, nothing in the end will be compromised.
A “Can-do” Montana Artist
“The recording process during COVID-19 has been extraordinarily smooth. We’ve had to find new ways as artists, to be agile and flexible and to keep that same can-do mentality. While we are not in the same room together, it’s been exciting to hear music through this different lens, watching and listening through audio links. The mental perspective of life is 90 percent of the battle, and it could either be debilitating or invigorating. You have to choose to know that this (pandemic) will be temporary.”
While Stephanie has spent considerable time in Nashville and now calls North Carolina home, she says that the music, somehow, always brings her back to home.
Born and raised in Bozeman, Quayle’s parents divorced before she reached her fourth birthday. Her mother remarried a veterinarian who lived on a small subsistence farm on the outskirts of the city.
“Country life was part of my environment starting at age four,” says Quayle. “From then on, it was a part of my upbringing and I became a little farmer, and [being] with horses, bison, cattle, chores, and the outdoors was instilled in me very early on.”
The bond and knowledge of music was a rich share of her upbringing, too.
“My step-grandmother was a piano teacher and a farmer’s wife. She was tough as nails. The piano was under the stairwell. And as early as four, I was taking lessons. Even now, I play differently on the piano. Maybe it’s because it’s the foundation of all those family memories and gatherings, like Christmas caroling or church choir.”
While in Switzerland on an exchange program during her junior year as a student at Bozeman High School, Stephanie fronted a live band for the first time. The experience was euphoric, even otherworldly. From it, she intuited that performing music would be her life; it would only be a matter of how to make it happen.
“You have to believe it to see it. My beliefs have always been so strong. There was no other plan. I had to find a way. I found my way to Nashville and moved there nine years ago. It helped me cultivate myself and fully realize my craft, from the songwriting, to being an artist, to entertaining, to all parts of being a musician.”
Bozeman to the Grand Ole Opry
On the path of practice, Quayle has nurtured the vital energies of her expression, a tone of Montana that’s sweet and clear as spring water and as boundless as the blue-sky sheen. Hers is a voice that was nurtured here but tested elsewhere. Quayle’s performance at the Grand Ole Opry shows that she has passed with high marks.
“The Grand Ole Opry is one of those moments [on April 7, 2018] when you know that you’ve arrived and that you are where you are supposed to be, and I take that seriously… You respect something totally differently when you’ve earned it.”
Indeed, part of Stephanie’s magic is her willingness to say yes, her openness to fortune, her preparedness and perseverance, her recognition of the power of song as something more potent than filler or noise or a quick, fleeting attention-grabber.
“There are millions of songs out there and to have songs charted on the Billboard Country charts, that’s something I look at humbly, because it was done with a team that worked tirelessly to get my voice heard. What’s most important is that music has provided me with a voice is what really matters.
“To speak to someone needing a friend, or someone who is going through a hardship, who needs that little bit of knowing that they are not alone to get through something. That’s the kind of stuff that really keeps me going. We don’t all always recognize the power of our words, or what impact every person could have on a daily basis with complete strangers by just being kind or listening.”
Since March 2020, Quayle has been sticking close to the working farm she operates with her husband in North Carolina; this pensive period and place has provided her the time and outlet to recalibrate the experience of songwriting.
“I’m grabbing more moments in real time, capturing a line or melody or idea. Constantly grabbing moments on piano, guitar. I’m writing more by myself and sketching out ideas that are more specific and meticulous now. Prior to this, in order to write I needed to set aside a time, and while it wasn’t forced, it was more scheduled, and right now it is free form instead.”
Certainly, Stephanie is sure-handed in her direction, intending to survive and thrive, and not just follow the path of standard fare. Recently she has been working with a vocal coach in Nashville with the goal of detecting and expressing the fullest capabilities of her range. The future, she says, seems impossibly vivid, the same way it appeared to her when she was a little girl on horseback, awed by the dazzling disposition of the blue above and the meadow over yon.
“I feel as if I’ve developed – and I’m going to continue to develop – my own sound and uniqueness, and I’m leaning fully into that.”
Quayle’s newest album kicks off with a self-described “cowboy state of mind” in the title track. Released in 2019, the song recalls memories of her childhood growing up in Montana. The album is available a vinyl EP at StephanieQuayle.com.