Weekender

Singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin grateful for musical gift

Shawn Colvin released her eighth studio album, “All Fall Down,” in 2012.
Shawn Colvin released her eighth studio album, “All Fall Down,” in 2012. Photo provided

Widely known for her Grammy-winning 1997 single “Sunny Came Home,” singer-songwriter-musician Shawn Colvin will headline a performance at the State Theatre next week.

One of the leaders of the so-called “new folk movement” that began in the late 1980s, Colvin grew out of the “woman with a guitar” genre. In an attempt to keep her music fresh with a more diverse approach, Colvin went against the grain of the genre’s clichéd sentiments and formulaic arrangements in favor of a more personal, pop-influenced style.

In an era where female singer-songwriters are more than abundant, Colvin stands out as a singular and enduring talent. She is a gifted storyteller, with lyrics that are both keen and warm-hearted, and she possesses a voice that exudes both tenderness and toughness. In the 25 years since the release of her debut album, “Steady On,” Colvin has won three Grammy Awards, released 10 albums, written a critically acclaimed memoir, collaborated with numerous musicians, appeared on countless TV and radio programs and had her songs featured in major motion pictures.

Early on, Colvin was heavily influenced by the music of Bob Dylan, but what really took a hold of her were the singer-songwriters of the late ’60s and early ’70s; artists like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Paul Simon. These legends and many others always personified the honesty in their music that captured Colvin’s imagination.

“I’ve just always been an honest person,” she said. “I can tell when people are faking it, and it’s just always driven me crazy. So I think it’s about having the ability to go to the heart of the matter without flinching. I was certainly schooled in that by the people that I listened to.”

As much as her influences were obvious to her, Colvin explored a diverse number of musical styles in her late teens and early 20s, performing country dance, country swing dance, pop and bluegrass. She said she struggled at first and was afraid to write songs.

“It had taken a long time for me to kind of find my voice, I just didn’t know what to do,” she said. “It’s obvious where your roots are, so you just have to write songs. That was a really scary thing for me. So when I turned the corner and was able to begin to write from my heart and in my own voice, that was a big accomplishment for me.”

It was only after meeting producer, guitarist and co-writer John Leventhal that Colvin said she was inspired to find that voice as a songwriter.

“That record might have been the most gratifying because I was 30 when I made it,” she said. “When that first record came out, that Grammy was really encouraging to say the least.”

“All Fall Down,” released in 2012, was produced by country singer-songwriter, musician and long-time friend Buddy Miller at his home in Nashville, Tenn. The album features guest appearances by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Jakob Dylan, Bill Frisell and Stuart Duncan.

Colvin has always loved performing, and the longevity of her career is something she is so grateful for.

“Music is my soul — it’s the healing force,” she said. “I was given a gift, and I’m extremely fortunate that I can make a living at it. I’m 59 years old and I’ve been doing this for nearly 30 years, and I’m so grateful that people still want to buy a ticket and come to see me play.”

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