The road began on a farm in Bozeman, Montana, and meandered all the way to the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville, Tennessee.
Along the way, there were detours to Switzerland and Niagara Falls and the top of the Empire State Building — plus just about every KOA Kampground in America.
It’s been a long, strange journey for singer-songwriter Stephanie Quayle. The 36-year-old country musician, who plays 93FM’s Bull Bash 2018 on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at Union Event Center, fulfilled a lifelong dream this year when she performed on both Opryland’s Grand Ole Opry stage and the original Ryman Stage in Nashville.
“I played Opryland back in April, and to follow it up on the Ryman Stage last Friday is lights out,” Quayle told the Standard-Examiner.
Growing up on her family’s Montana farm, Quayle says her songwriting started out as poetry. She also sang all manner of genres, although the family had a little AM radio that predominantly played traditional country music.
“My mom was a country mouse, and my dad was a city mouse — although it’s Montana, so ‘city’ is relative,” she laughed. “So I just sang everything. I don’t know, I was just singing.”
At the age of 16, Quayle spent a year in Switzerland as a foreign exchange student. Within her first month there she met a band that was looking for a lead singer. She auditioned, and got the job. Being up on stage was a game-changer for Quayle.
“That’s when I knew this would be my life,” she said. “It finally felt like home, so then it was, like, ‘How am I going to do this music thing?’”
That first band, as Quayle recalls, was called Scotch and Soda, and they played a mix of pop, alternative, country and other genres. They even cut a record, although Quayle says: “I think my mom has the only copy of that album.”
After high school, Quayle moved to Los Angeles, hoping to break into the music business with the 2004 country-influenced pop record “Turquoise.” In time, she migrated to Nashville, where Quayle went full-on country with her second album, 2009’s “Ain’t No Housewife.”
Quayle’s third — and most recent — album, “Love the Way You See Me,” was produced last year on the Rebel Engine Entertainment label. The debut single from that album, the women-of-country anthem “Drinking With Dolly,” gave Quayle her first Top 50 record on the Billboard Indicator chart. Her current single on the radio is the infectious “Selfish,” which is seeing action on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. She was named one of Rolling Stone Country’s “Top Artists to Watch.”
Success has been — and continues to be — a long road for Quayle. But then, the singer insists she was never one to pay much attention to the word “no.”
“When the first record executive told me to quit, I was 22 years old,” Quayle said. “But — and I tell young artists this all the time — if someone can tell you to quit and you quit? It’s not the game for you.”
In 2017, Quayle embarked on her Winnebago Tour, traveling the country in the iconic RV and playing at landmarks like Mount Rushmore and the top of the Empire State Building. She also stayed — and played — at KOA Kampgrounds. This summer, Quayle said she still toured in a Winnebago and offered “campfire concerts” along the way.
“I say this all the time, and I mean it,” she said. “If anyone has not jumped in an RV, truck, car, Winnebago — whatever it is — to see this country, there is no greater adventure.”
There are a few things left on Quayle’s bucket list, including recording her first No. 1 single.
“I’ve had success on the radio, and as a songwriter to hear your music on the radio is really fun and super cool,” she said. “But I’ve not yet written my No. 1.”
Quayle says she would also like to to host “Saturday Night Live,” both as the musical guest and the host. Oh, and she wants to perform in Japan someday.
“”It’s just one of the things I wanted to do as a teen,” she admits. “Bozeman, Montana, had a Sister City in Japan, and ever since I was a small person there’s always been this desire to play there. I want music to be the vessel that takes me to all these places.”
Quayle’s biggest dream-come-true was making it to the Grand Ole Opry stage, a feat she accomplished this year — twice. There’s a circle of wood flooring that was taken from the original Grand Ole Opry stage at the Ryman Auditorium and transplanted to the Opry House when the show moved there back in 1974. Stepping onto that circle was a special experience, according to Quayle, and one that felt “timeless.”
“It was such a surreal experience to stand in that circle and know that I earned my spot,” she said. “Some people have faster roads than other people to get to that point, and sometimes it takes longer. In my case, I can stand behind the fact that I earned my way. I worked hard at making music that will stand the test of time and music that I can be proud of 50 years from now and want to sing.”
Quayle says her Opry performance was the moment for her, as a country artist growing up listening to country music and understanding the venue’s significance.
“To earn that respect, that was the most defining moment to me,” she said. “Something changed in me when I stepped into that circle. It was like another gear. I felt like, ‘OK, now I have a responsibility to country music.’”
And no matter where it takes her, Quayle says she hopes to always express gratitude for her music.
“I don’t ever want to take it for granted,” she said. “I get to use my voice every day to bring more good to the world.”