Grammy winner Shawn Colvin has worked artists including James Taylor, Steve Earle and Mary Chapin Carpenter and recently released a new album ‘The Starlighter.’ GIGsoup caught up with the artist at the BST Festival in Hyde Park, London.
Shawn, welcome to London. How has your stay been so far??
I just got here from Oslo and will be here for a few days. I took a walk up by Kensington Gardens this morning. I plan to do a little sightseeing as I have a couple of days off. Maybe I’ll go to the Turner exhibition or Harvey Nics.
Tell us about your early musical memories.
My earliest musical memories are from church. My father was a big folk music fan, he taught me to play the guitar. He liked the Kingston Trio and Pete Seeger, then eventually great singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor.
One of the first songs I learnt on guitar was ‘Shotgun down the Avalanche.’ What is the story behind that song?
It was inspired by the word ‘avalanche’ and I just knew I wanted to use that word. Then ‘riding shotgun down the avalanche’ came out of mouth and it went from there.
What impact has motherhood had on your musicality?
First of all time management became different. I couldn’t just go off and write whenever I wanted to. It’s a full job when they are babies. I was quite frightened to tell you the truth, I wanted to do a good job. I had no idea what I was doing! Some people have a knack for it. I was very scared. I find now, it’s easier to leave the house and go away or go to a little studio or something like that. Things are less dramatic for me personally. As far as romance goes and things I have written about in the past, your world changes when you have a baby and your priorities shift. So I’ve written about that, about getting older, having some wisdom.
Tell us about your latest project, ‘The Starlighter’
What I did was I took songs and arrangements from a book that my parents gave me when I was about eight years old, called ‘Lullabies and Night Songs’. I learned to play them on the piano, I took lessons. They were some of my favourite songs. Hopefully the kids and the grown ups will like them.
You have had a great career to date, what is good about being a musician today?
Well it’s always good to be a musician, I love music and I love playing. What’s great is that I still have a career because I don’t know how to do anything else. I’m 62 and can still make a living doing this, longevity is rare. I have a really loyal base of fans and they have supported me all this time. Concerts are the basis of my living, I love to do those. I’m very lucky.
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Looking back, what have been the highlights?
There have been a few. I played Carnegie Hall within the first year of making my first record. I won some Grammys. That was exciting. Most of all, I’ve got to meet, but not only meet, but play music with some of my heroes, like James Taylor and Jackson Browne. I’ve made friends with some of them. If you had told me that when I was fifteen years old I would never have believed it. That means the most to me.
What things do you think make a good song?
There are so many ways to make a good song. There’s pop music, which is generally simple and doesn’t necessarily have complicated lyrics, I love that. But, I think what makes a good song is one that can be sort of timeless, no matter what kind of music it is. You write it and it’s not just of the trend, of the moment or it’s not so personal that people can’t project their own emotions and experiences onto it. It’s hard to say, it’s magic.
Quick Fire Questions
Major or minor? – Major
Burger or fries? – Burger
Fan or flame? – Fan
The Alamo or The Fonz? – The Alamo, I live in Texas