Revered country music songwriter Harlan Howard once defined his genre as three chords and the truth. In theory, the recipe for a successful country music career requires at least one other specialized ingredient. To get the dish to come out right, it helps if the three-chorded truthtellers have an agrarian background as well. And while a passel of all-hat-and-no-cattle candidates abound and prosper, there’s nothing like a farm in your bio to give you a leg up in the biz.
Singer/songwriter Stephanie Quayle combines all the ingredients to create a tasty entrée that satisfies the heart, soul and body while keeping it down on the farm.
In her case, the farm is the 600-acre Summerfield Farms, a sprawling working cattle farm/community outreach/event destination she runs with her husband, David Couch. Quayle, a Bozeman, Mon., native raised on a farm, met Couch when she met with N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler in 2012 about performing in Greensboro.
“As they were hiring me for the show, they were asking me, there’s a guy that’s involved with the event that has a farm, and there’s a cabin on this farm. You could stay there, or we could put you up in a hotel. And I was like, ‘I’m from Montana, so a cabin on the farm sounds right up my alley.’ And that was Summerfield Farms. So it’s pretty wild. Then cut to about a year and a half later — because we started dating in January of 2014 — that would be my future.”
In addition to her recording, performing and touring duties that have put her in the Top 10 female artists on country radio with hits including “Selfish” and “Whatcha Drinkin’ About,” Quayle is a hands-on presence in the farm’s ongoing activities.
“There’s this weird beautiful line with Montana and North Carolina,” Quayle says. The farm has hosted scores of families staying at the little cabins on their way to look at colleges in North Carolina or family reunions. “Once I got involved, I wanted to share this bond with the community, which has been a really beautiful thing, especially with what has been an especially challenging year, to have a place where the community could come and get some reprieve.”
Yoga classes are part of the outreach programs, as is a special event for children — “Family Fun Storytime with the Minis” on Aug. 1, the day after her show at Cone Denim Entertainment Center. The show introduces children to the farm’s miniature animals, including giving them a coloring book with stories about the animals they encounter including a miniature Hereford steer and miniature donkeys.
“We have all these kids who would come to the farm and ask where the animals are. Well, we’ve got thousand-pound cattle that really can’t hang out with littles, you know? My idea was to bring smaller animals so that kids could have that interaction, that tactile experience, where it’s a smaller scale, not as intimidating.”
“My thing is humans,” Quayle says, “but of course anything with animals as well. But being able to bring people together — that’s why I’m in music, what I’ve always been drawn to. This is an extension of that. We’re able to incorporate so much music here on the farm.”
Quayle incorporates some famous country women in her own music as well, channeling Dolly Parton on her 2017 release “Drinkin’ With Dolly,” as well as a a little mini-yodel reminiscent of Loretta Lynn. But Quayle is no icon clone. Although those famous voices haunt her vocals, she’s got a unique approach to the music that has made her a favorite on the Grand Ole Opry. She spent last Saturday night there performing for Bill Anderson’s 60th anniversary as an Opry member, singing Connie Smith’s classic hit “Once A Day” that Anderson had written.
Hits including 2017’s Selfish,” her first charting single on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and 2019’s “Whatcha Drinkin’ About,” established her an artist with staying power.
And even though COVID-19 kept her isolated, she still managed to put out three releases this year, “Wild Frontier,” “By Heart” and “We Buy Gold.”
Quayle says “We Buy Gold” holds special memories for her, reconnecting her with her childhood.
Her dad was a metals dealer, selling precious metals. “So ‘We Buy Gold’ was on the tip of my tongue when people would come in. I’m very much a title junky. I worked in my daddy’s little shop, and so I experienced those conversations. That’s what led me to the song.”
The song has another family connection as well. “It really questions how when everything is stacked against it and there’s no real reason, we still find love, we still get engaged, we still get married,” Quayle says. “ It really hit me personally. Obviously from my dad’s shop and the name in the title, and when my brother got married here on the farm last year, during the pandemic, that love prevailed. I watched him walk down the aisle, then I watched his future wife walk down the aisle and it just hit me, the depth of that song.”
Quayle is in the process of shooting a video for the song with Hitchswitch, a company she used that helps people change their names after marriage or divorce. “One of my favorite things to do is to create experiences within the song, create these memories. I’m the soundtracks to moments, hopefully. I WANT to be that. I WANT to be that song that people hear when they meet for the first time or fall in love for the first time.”
The singer wants a legacy so powerful that when people hear her name they smile. “That they recall me as bringing joy and that can-do cowgirl attitude to their world.”
Quayle also hopes her music stands the test of time. “The beautiful thing about music is that its always changing. I evolve as an artist, and I can always go back and hear that evolution. There’s songs I wrote years ago I still go back to, to be that comfort, to be that friend you needed. I really want to leave joy through everything I’ve touched.”