An Interview With Shawn Colvin

by Christian Carvajal for OLY ARTS

The name Shawn Colvin is familiar to anyone who owned a radio in the summer of 1997, when her song “Sunny Came Home” was a top-10 smash that earned Grammy wins for best record and song. She’d already won “Best Contemporary Folk Album” six years prior for her debut collection, Steady On. Her recent album The Starlighter is, like her earlier Holiday Songs and Lullabies, drawn from Lullabies and Night Songs, a 1965 Alec Wilder music book. We spoke to Colvin about her upcoming appearance at the Olympia Film Society’s Capitol Theater, at which she’ll be joined by New Jersey singer-songwriter Heather Maloney.

OLY ARTS: Your authorial voice is clear and authentic in your 2012 memoir, Diamond in the Rough.

SHAWN COLVIN: We tried a ghostwriter and it was abysmal. I thought, “Either I can pull this off or I can’t,” so I did it myself. … I was really cognizant of what I had to live with once I put it out there.

OLY ARTS: You’ve written that your songs are all about you and your “personal politics.” Have recent events inspired you to address broader subjects?

COLVIN: In writing for this new [album], yeah, I’ve broadened my scope given the state of our nation. You’ve got to be part of something. In this case it’s dire.

OLY ARTS: Alec Wilder’s an enduring influence on your work.

COLVIN: I began to learn the songs, having learned the piano when I was about 6 from taking lessons, and I’ve loved that book ever since. The arrangements are exquisite to me and sounded like nothing else I’d played before. They’re very sophisticated and also very moving.

OLY ARTS: Like Suzanne Vega, you broke out of the late-’80s songwriter scene in New York.

COLVIN: Then there was the mid-’90s women-singer-songwriter scare. … At the time, radio programmers were just up in arms because they’d never played two women in a row.

OLY ARTS: You often use your solo, acoustic guitar as percussion.

COLVIN: I learned to do that when I was playing in places where nobody listened. It’s true! I thought, “Well, how can I set myself apart?” … I [wanted] to make more variant noise that had a little jump to it.



Shawn Colvin


7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 27


Capitol Theater,

206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia





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