The West

Reluctant writer comes full circle
Shawn Colvin. Picture: Supplied.

Some writers have albums worth of material waiting to see the light of day. American singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin is a reluctant writer and doesn't have much material to spare.

She says songwriting is the hardest part of being a musician. For her ninth album, All Fall Down, the 56-year-old didn't have dozens of songs waiting to be recorded, but she had just enough.

"It's the hardest thing I do and will probably always be that way," Colvin says. "I don't know if I can say I enjoy it but I enjoy it when it's done. It's a means to an end and the thing I am most proud of, apart from being a mum.

"Writing is very good for me. It helps express a lot of stuff and gives me a lot of good feelings, but it's hard when I'm doing it."

Colvin started her musical life in a swing and then a rock band, and after moving to New York shifted styles to folk and contemporary singer-songwriting. She is renowned for her lyrical frankness tempered by sensuality and humour. She released her first album, Steady On, in 1989 after coming to label attention while on a tour with Suzanne Vega.

Sunny Came Home, the single from 1997's A Few Small Repairs gained her international recognition and won her Grammys for song and record of the year. She has one other Grammy and seven nominations.

All Fall Down is like the completion of a circle; working with Buddy Miller as producer meant collaborating with the man who convinced the singer to pursue music decades ago.

They worked in Miller's "very cosy" home studio in Nashville where she felt well supported. An open-door policy was extended to a collection of talented musicians - "an embarrassment of riches" - including singers Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Jakob Dylan.

"I have been making records for a long time and a lot of the stuff is really personal," Colvin says. "For me it's a matter of being satisfied with who I am working with, more than the location, though Buddy's studio was perfect.

"All those years ago Buddy believed in me and asked me to join his band in New York City. He got me to New York and that changed my life, so this completes our circle."

The Texas-based singer sang and played acoustic guitar in the studio with an ad-hoc group of musicians convened by Miller to flesh out the songs.

During the recording Colvin was also putting the finishing touches to her recently released memoir, Diamond in the Rough. She calls the project a challenge and once again, as with her songwriting, when it was done she was thrilled.

"I'm a little scared about it," she says, while having no qualms about the release of All Fall Down. "It's very different from writing a song but I went for it and I'm hoping for the best." <div class="endnote">


The West Australian

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West