SONG PREMIERE: Burgeoning Songwriter Shay Martin Lovette Delivers Fervently Emotive “Upstate”

Songwriter Shay Martin Lovette certainly has a way with delivery and story that summons the likes of Patterson Hood, Brent Cobb, and Rhett Miller. Yet there is a novel and mystifying tone in his folky delivery that wreaks of a creative pursuit unraveling, as one of folk rock’s vital new voices.

After releasing his debut in 2018, receiving a plethora of regional accolades, and spending over 100 days playing shows to eager audiences, Lovette is back with his sophomore effort. The new 12-song collection, Scatter and Gather, was produced by Joseph Terrell of North Carolina’s cherished indie roots outfit Mipso (Rounder Records), and features members of the band throughout.

Lovette’s songs deliver evocative imagery that invites the listener along on one’s life journey, full of incidents, escapades, and moments of clarity. From a canyon to a “cold casino rooftop,” and various locales around the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, where Lovette is based, The backdrops are ever-changing but a common thread can always be found in the feelings of his colorful characters.

Glide is proud to premiere “Upstate” – a courageous number that brings Lovette’s forthright songwriting chops to the forefront while unleashing a plaintive setting for time and place with its thoughtful use of instrumentation and phrasing,

“Upstate” is a story about helping someone out of a tough bind. In this instance, this means getting disappearing upstate. As the story develops it’s easy to recognize how much the narrator cares about the person he’s helping escape. I strive to write songs that provide just enough detail for the listener to be able to grasp the storyline but not enough detail for there to be no mystery as to what is taking place and I feel like this is a good example of that,” says Lovette.”

Charles Cleaver’s synthesizer and Hammond organ parts really helped drive this vibe home while the lap steel and slide guitar work of Joseph Terrell (Mipso) and Ryan Johnson added some beautifully dark elements. I was trying to channel my inner Townes Van Zandt in this song by providing just enough detail and context for the story to take shape and then letting the listener draw their own conclusions as to what the pair of characters are running from and why.

Born and raised in Wilkesboro, NC, home of MerleFest, the esteemed roots music festival, Lovette grew up with admiration of the festival’s origins and performers. The combination of setting and the influence of his father, also a songwriter, inspired Lovette to begin writing his own songs in high school. In 2019, Lovette and his backing band won the band competition at MerleFest and were invited to perform a prime time set on Saturday night of the festival with thousands in attendance.

Unafraid of change and sacrifice (he sold his beloved camper van, which he had named “Freedom,” to fund the recording of Scatter), Lovette is fiercely devoted to songwriting as a daily practice. Reflecting on his process, he notes, “sometimes lightning strikes, sometimes it doesn’t, but if you’re not sitting down with a guitar in hand, it’s never gonna come.”

“For me, songwriting is therapy,” he adds. “Even if there’s no obvious connection in my lyrics, I’m still singing about feelings, whether it’s loss, a sense of adventure … or running away from something.” He aspires to reflect in his songs a “live for the moment” mindset, an attitude largely inspired by his brother, Chad, who passed away from brain cancer in 2016. Self-dubbed an “eternal optimist,” Chad continues to serve as a positive influence on his brother’s life and musical output (the two performed together and recorded an EP as The Lovette Brothers, which was released shortly after Chad’s death and is available on Bandcamp).


Photo by Julianna Liegal

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