Photo © Michael Wilson
In an era when female singer-songwriters are ever more ubiquitous, Shawn Colvin stands out as a singular and enduring talent. Her songs are slow-release works of craft and catharsis that become treasured, lifetime companions for their listeners. As a storyteller, Colvin is both keen and warm-hearted, leavening even the toughest tales with tenderness, empathy, and a searing sense of humor. In the 23 years since the release of her debut album, Colvin has won three Grammy Awards, released nine albums, maintained a non-stop national and international touring schedule, appeared on countless television and radio programs, had her songs featured in major motion pictures, and created a remarkable canon of work.
Combined sales of her albums total more than 2.5 million copies in the United States alone, and Colvin continues to tour nonstop throughout the year. Over the years she has shared the stage and toured with legendary artists such as Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Hornsby, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Don Helney and Lyle Lovett. She has toured internationally throughout her career, returning to places as near as the UK and Europe and as far as Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
Colvin was born in Vermillion, South Dakota, where she lived until she was eight. A small-town childhood in the university town of Carbondale, Illinois, drew her to the guitar by the age of 10. She made her first public appearance on campus at the University of Illinois at age 15. By the late 1970s Colvin was singing in a Western Swing band in Austin, Texas—the city she now calls home. Moving to New York at the decade’s end she remained in the country music field as a member of the Buddy Miller Band until she met producer, guitarist, and co-writer John Leventhal. Leventhal inspired Colvin to find her own voice as a songwriter. She began honing her skill, and was soon signed to Columbia records. Her first album, Steady On won a GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Folk Recording.
Colvin continued to win fans and critics with her subsequent releases, Fat City (1992) and Cover Girl (1994). In 1996, she released A Few Small Repairs (1996), which would prove to be her breakthrough. The murder-ballad “Sunny Came Home” gave Colvin a Top 10 hit and two of GRAMMY’s biggest honors: Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
Holiday Songs And Lullabies (1998), recorded while Colvin was eight and a half months pregnant with her daughter Caledonia, followed. Whole New You (2001) and Polaroids (2004). Her Nonesuch debut These Four Walls (2006) was lauded by People Magazine as “the most self-assured album of her career” and “one for the ages” by the Washington Post. The Austin-American Statesman called it “an exquisite portrait of strength and vulnerability.”
Shawn Colvin Live followed in 2009. Recorded during a special three-night solo engagement at San Francisco’s famous jazz club, Yoshi’s, Live includes 12 songs written or co-written by Colvin, as well as covers of songs by Robbie Robertson, Gnarls Barkley, and the Talking Heads. Shawn Colvin Live captures the beauty and intimacy of Colvin’s performances, showcasing her inimitable voice and matchless guitar stylings. Praised by both critics and fans, the album was honored with a GRAMMY Award nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Recording.
June 2012 saw the release of Shawn’s new studio album All Fall Down and the publication of her memoir, Diamond in the Rough. All Fall Down was recorded in Nashville, and produced by her longtime friend and occasional bandmate Buddy Miller (Robert Plant, Solomon Burke) and features performances by Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Jakob Dylan, Bill Frisell, Viktor Krauss, Brian Blade, Stuart Duncan, and Julie Miller, among others. Diamond In The Rough looks back on Shawn’s rich lifetime of highs and lows with stunning insight and candor. Through its pages we witness the inspiring story of a woman honing her artistry, finding her voice and making herself whole.