By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Life in Nashville for young performers can be rather merry, if one doesn't get caught up in the dog-and-pony show that is often associated with the life on Music Row. While living there, Whitmore befriended fellow Texas ex-pat Amanda Shires of the Thrift Store Cowboys, who became a collaborator and confidante before she became an indie-country darling. Whitmore also toured with, and subsequently dated, the immensely talented and somewhat infamous Justin Townes Earle. Then, in the summer of 2010, Whitmore traveled with Americana hero Hayes Carll as he prepared to release his new album.
But it was Earle who reignited the songwriting spark within Whitmore and encouraged her to craft tunes that went against type for so-called "typical" female writers. When the relationship with Earle went south, Whitmore was ready for some drastic changes—in both scenery and artistic expression.
Heading back to the Whitmore home base of Denton, she was ready to unleash what she had managed to suppress for the previous couple of years. After deciding to record her new album last winter, Whitmore enlisted the help of her brother-in-law, Chris Masterson, a multi-instrumentalist who has played with Son Volt and is coincidentally touring now with Steve Earle, the father of Whitmore's ex.
The theme for Embers is clearly one of departure, both from a lover and from loved ones in general. The songs range from sweet tales covering the onset of a passionate partnership to songs that gleefully wish violent death upon the one who has scorned her. While those numbers are gripping in their vulnerability, though, it's the crowd-quieting number from the Fat Tuesday bacchanalia that stands as the album's opus; "You Gonna Miss Me" isn't a scorched-earth middle finger to an ex, but a tear-filled hug to her sister, Eleanor, as she prepared to leave home to focus on music.
After all, while Whitmore's music and relationships have led her in myriad directions, it's her family who's given her a fertile foundation for her own future in the spotlight of the stage, and not merely as a side player.
"I personally hate the question of 'Who are your main influences?'" she says. "Because no one wants to hear me say, 'Well, my mom and dad are.'"