Shawn Colvin celebrates 30 years of ‘Steady On’ in Park City this weekend
An Evening with Shawn Colvin 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21, Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23; 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24 Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets range from $39-$60; Friday tickets range from $43-$65; Saturday and Sunday tickets are $49 to $70. 435-649-9371 parkcityshows.com
In 1989, folk singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin, then 30 years old, released “Steady On,” her debut album.
The singer-songwriter had dreamed of finishing that project for years, because she had been reluctant to write her own songs up until then.
“I thought if this was the only record I ever made in my whole life, it would be enough,” Colvin said. “Although I’ve made a lot more records, that one will always be special to me for that reason.”
This year, Colvin — a three-time Grammy winner — is celebrating “Steady On.”
“I’m tending to lean a little heavier on the songs off the album during my shows,” she said. “I’ve been resurrecting some of the songs that I haven’t played in a while. And they’ve held up, in my opinion. It’s a real treat for me that they want to still hear songs from it.”
Park City audiences will hear those songs and more from Colvin’s career when she plays four nights at the Egyptian Theatre starting Thursday.
The singer said she will do a “mishmash” of hits and favorites of her and her fans during the run.
“There are a lot of songs to choose from,” Colvin said. “I first look at a beginning and ending, so I can start strong and finish strong. Then it’s about finding dynamics as I go through the sets.”
Colvin said she will change the songs on occasion, depending on what she feels like playing.
“Sometimes there is something significant is going on in our times or in my life that has to do with a particular song,” she said. “I really try to keep the pace interesting in terms of fast songs, slow songs, sad songs, not sad songs and covers. I see the set list is an exercise in keeping things interesting, especially if I’m up there by myself for an hour and a half.”
The songwriter said the set will probably not include selections from her most recent album, “Starlighter,” which is composed of largely piano-backed songs adapted from the children’s music book “Lullabies and Night Songs,” composed by Alec Wilder.
And while she doesn’t plan on performing them in Park City, Colvin considers finding songs like Wilder’s arrangements, recording covers and collaborating with other artists a big perk of her job.
She has shared the stage and swapped songs with the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Marc Cohn, Richard Thompson, James Taylor and Steve Earle.
“It’s kind of like being in school when you’re on stage with someone throughout an evening,” Colvin said. “It’s like when you listen to a record over and over again and you get curious as to how the songs were written. You become fascinated about what works, and then have the added bonus of asking the people who wrote songs how they come up with them, or what inspired them.”
In 2016, Colvin and Earle produced a self-titled album, “Colvin and Earle.”
“That was a whole different experience,” she said. “Being a great admirer of Steve’s songwriting, I was somewhat intimidated at the idea of sitting down in a room to write a song with him.”
That unease disappeared during the first few minutes of their first session.
“Steve has a motto, ‘fear not the obvious,’ and writes songs very fast,” Colvin said. “His instincts are spot on and he was also very open and honest to what I was contributing.”
Another of Colvin’s collaborators is producer John Leventhal, with whom she wrote her 1998 Grammy-winning song, “Sunny Came Home.”
“I have co-written with John Leventhal many times, and usually I write the melodies to the music he writes,” she said. “When I do that, I have free rein to choose what melody I want to sing.”
Colvin crafts the melody partly from what she’s able to sing, and partly from what feels right.
“Often a word will come into a lyric that is fun to sing,” she laughed. “And the way that word couples with the melody can make for a good moment.”
One writing task that music didn’t prepare Colvin for was penning her 2012 memoir, “Diamond in the Rough.”
“That was hard, because it’s a very different way of writing,” she said. “But I knew they key of doing it was to find my own voice in that autobiographical sense. You read memoirs that have character, a personality, and that’s the kind of memoir I wanted to write.”
For starters, Colvin took inspiration from actor and writer Spalding Gray and wrote a chapter.
“I felt I needed to write the absolute truth like he does — in a way that has a sense of humor combined with a brutal honesty and humility,” she said, laughing. “It was important for me to have some humor in the dark stuff, because there was a lot of dark stuff.”
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