Elvie Shane’s Demons Came Back After His No. 1 Hit ‘My Boy’ [Interview]
Make no mistake: Elvie Shane's "My Boy" was based on his real family. Released in 2020 as Shane's message of love to his stepson, the ballad quickly became his breakout hit, topping the Billboard Country Airplay chart and going platinum less than two years after its release. "My Boy" was and is the hit Shane's known for, and he's proud that it's his calling card.
"My Boy" is all true — it's just not the full story.
"I feel like people may have gotten an adjusted view of who I was. The best side of me," Shane tells Taste of Country. In hindsight, he wishes that that song and the album that followed, Backslider, had shed more light on his darker side: His tumultuous history of addiction, the demons he faces and the ways he has let the people he loves down.
"I restrained myself a little more than I wish I would have on that record, just because of greenhorn nervousness. And wanting to be authentic, but also wanting to play within this realm that is country music, or whatever," he continues. But going forward, he's ready to dig into his darkest moments.
"There's no more alluding to it," he says. "It's just all out on the table."
He knew he had to be more honest, because his demons aren't behind him. At the height of his "My Boy" success, Shane slipped up, falling back into the same destructive habits he thought he'd put behind him when he got sober and made his way out of drug addiction more than a decade ago.
"I kinda fell back into the same trap for the first time in, like, 11 years after my record came out," Shane confesses. "I just realized that it was weird to be vulnerable to that at such a high point in my life. [I] worked through it, am working through it, but I felt like it was time to share that side of me."
Shane delivers that bleak honesty in "Pill," a song written from the perspective of someone whose loved one is deep in the throes of drug addiction.
"Your mama's been worried plumb sick about you / Daddy don't know how to live without you / How long you gonna go on this way?" he wonders, capturing the helpless sorrow of what it feels like to love an addict, fully aware that they're the only ones that can ultimately dig themselves out of their plight.
"I'm much more relating with the character in 'Pill' than I do the dad that's got his act together," Shane admits. "My Boy" was the singer's story of being responsible for his young stepson, but "Pill" tells a story that carries a lot more shame.
"It was written as a semi-apology to my little brother for missing out on so many of his teenage years because I was running around [doing drugs]," he explains.
He was thinking about his younger brother as he wrote "Pill," and imagining what his brother would have told him "if he were to have written me a letter at my worst point." He also thought about another memory that haunts him: The time he pulled a girlfriend into addiction.
"I was 21. She was graduating high school. And we were 'in love,'" he says, fingers raised to make air quotes. "I pulled her -- naturally, she fell into the same trap."
That girl appears in the second verse of "Pill," in the line "Girl, you spend a lot of time in the passenger side of your own red Cavalier." Shane was right there in that shotgun seat, too.
"I didn't have a car. I was worthless. I was using her car. I wrecked her car," he remembers.
Shane has harsh words for the person he was back then. Truth be told, he still seems to carry a good deal of the self-loathing and shame that he incurred in active addiction. But when you listen to "Pill," for all the song's fear and sorrow, its dominant emotion is tender, unconditional love. The "porch light's on," the "door's unlocked" and the warm embrace of family and recovery is only a phone call away, no matter how far gone you feel.
The singer didn't realize how much love was in his song while he was making it. If you point it out to him, he might get a little misty-eyed.
"I don't know, honey...You're gonna make me cry," he says, when asked how he fought through addiction to find his way to unconditional love.
"I think I didn't know it, but I was just trying to love myself. I hadn't heard that [in the song], but I literally just got off another interview, and somebody said that there," he continues. "I think there was definitely a level of forgiveness that I felt, singing that song.
"'Cause all this time I'm just hating on myself all the time. I'm just mad at me," he adds, after a pause. "And then to hear that the song comes across that way. I hope it's powerful enough...to get out to the forefront. I just want that guy or girl to hear the song as they're going down the road, and maybe turn around and go home, instead of spending another night risking their lives."
Shane and his younger brother still have a complicated relationship.
"I mean, the other night we were hanging out, and he just got really upset. [He's] still, you know, a little pissed off that I wasn't around for his teenage years," the singer says. "But he loves the song, and appreciates it. And it's just sad that we're all older now, and busy, and don't get to see each other much anymore."