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Stephanie Quayle Heals With Vulnerable Record "On The Edge"

"I wouldn't believe it if I didn't live it," sings Stephanie Quayle in a standout line of her newest album, subsequently concluding that "sometimes, the truth is stranger than fiction." This is undoubtedly the case for the rising artist's tumultuous and messy experiences, which inspire On The Edge. Quayle knew of her dreams to sing professionally since her teenage years, but didn't realize the full extent of what music can do until recently.

Growing up, Quayle was exposed to both country and rock n' roll. Her mother would always listen to The Judds, Joni Mitchell, Willie Nelson, while her father loved contemporary artists like Fleetwood Mac. This wide range of sonic influences shines through in On The Edge - steadier tracks like "Fiction" sound more folksy, while "Charmed" employs some hard-hitting angst. She lived the typical small-town life in Montana, spending lots of time in the barn with her horses, and often exploring the outdoors. To this day, she's still heavily in touch with this part of herself through a Bass Pro Shops ambassadorship.

During a student exchange trip, an out-of-the-blue opportunity to fill in for a Swiss band's lead singer helped her find her voice. The exhilarating feeling of writing, recording, and performing music just clicked; she immediately knew that this is what she was meant to do. She employed door-to-door tactics to promote her music and grow her outreach. In one hilarious instance, she accidentally pitched her country projects to a New York rap label. She began preparing for her music career in Los Angeles - the city where she unexpectedly spent her "Lost Years." Once she found the strength to do so, she packed up and moved to Nashville, embracing the vulnerable, acoustic approaches which shine through in On The Edge.

"This album, I never thought I would create. I honestly thought I would end up taking this whole story to my grave. I didn't know that I had thirteen years of stuff to put into music, until I found out that I did," Quayle told All Country News.

As for the album's backstory, Quayle's boyfriend of four years suddenly passed away in a plane crash. She had been imagining her future with him and helping to raise his 12-year-old daughter. As if the grief from his death wasn’t enough, she learned of his longtime infidelity at his funeral itself. "She, his daughter, unknowingly gave me permission to write this project, when she shared with me on April 8th of 2021 that she was no longer going to keep her dad's secrets nor carry the weight of his indiscretions. I no longer needed to protect her from the wake he left behind," wrote Quayle in the introduction to On The Edge.

Quayle knows all too well that healing is a complicated process. Music has comprised an essential piece of hers, helping her unpack, reflect on, and recover from her trauma. Her friend and songwriter Tori Tullier, whom she previously worked on "Hang My Hat" and "Selfish" with, helped her through the musical and lyrical journey of On The Edge. "We sat in my living room, which is my safest and most sacred place, and just wrote. We let the music do the talking," Quayle shared with us. "We didn't really know what we had, we just knew we had something." An impactful energy arose when she recorded her new masterpieces in Nashville's Smoakstack Studios, with a band who was just hearing the full story of her trauma. Upon receiving the demos - ironically, they arrived on Christmas Day - she couldn't help but cry.

While we thoroughly loved this album, we strongly caution against checking it out without stocking up on the Kleenex first. In On The Edge, Quayle shares the painful events and life lessons of her “Lost Years.” This transparent musical autobiography shows several facets of her life-changing experiences. It covers many themes including heartbreak, grief, surprise, betrayal, friendship, and love.

Fans have already heard the opening track, “The Lost Years,” for which Quayle recently premiered an accompanying visualizer with CMT. In the simple yet powerful music video, tears fell from Quayle’s eyes as she reflected on this period of her life. "It sets up the conversation," she said to us. "When I hear that song, there's so much subtext of hurt and dismantling... that's so many years that I haven't been able to share wholeheartedly." She points out that several titans of country music - Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, to give two examples - have infectiously bright personalities, yet create heart-wrenching art. "I think that the juxtaposition of those emotions is what makes us feel like we all make sense in this community," reflected Quayle.

The album’s following tracks fill in several details of what took place during her “Lost Years.” Quayle confirmed to us the chronological aspect of On The Edge. The record deliberately "ends at the beginning," as she describes, ultimately conveying a message that all hard times pass. "I know it feels like an endless bridge you gotta walk alone / Keep your head up when you cry, till you get to the other side," she sings in the closing track, "Only Good Will Come Of This." Echoing her mother's advice, this song ties the project together with a message of optimism and hope.

While the record is overall deeply emotional, a few lighter tracks give brief breaks to fans’ tear ducts. The sentimental “Like She Is,” for example, explains the bond that Quayle formed with her ex's daughter. "As I gave her to her mother, I vowed the rest of my life / To always pick up the phone, be a friend / Promise her I'll never leave her like he did," Quayle sings. "She isn't my daughter, but I love her like she is." The two had helped each other through a rough time in both of their lives, strengthening their close relationship. This song exemplifies that family comes from the heart, rather than blood.

The biting and relatively upbeat “Charmed” warns fellow queens of men who seem “too good to be true,” advising us that “There's probably a reason why you shouldn't like him.” With poignant lyrics, plentiful figurative language, and catchy melodies, "Charmed" leans more into anger than sadness. The inclusion of tracks like this show the multiple layers of emotions involved in processing a traumatic situation.

Containing some of her strongest work yet, it's evident why this project is the "one [she's] been waiting for" as a songwriter; she finally feels as though "nothing is untouchable." The singer resolves to acknowledge and process this chapter of her life, rather than sweep it under the rug. The vulnerable record picks up notes from soul, classic country, and contemporary music as it masterfully tells Quayle’s story. On The Edge moves its listeners to tears, especially those who have experienced trauma themselves. An important addition to 2022's new releases from women in country, On The Edge shapes the course of its genre and resonates with a broad audience.

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