Singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne

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Grammy-winning singer-songwriter comments on starting her own record label and what she’s discovered about her fan base.


Tavis: Always pleased to have Shelby Lynne on this program. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter has just released her latest CD. It’s called “Tears, Lies and Alibis,” so you’ve got to buy it just for the title. “Tears, Lies and Alibis.” It is the first release from her newly created label Everso Records. Shelby, always good to see you.
Shelby Lynne: I’m so glad to see you.
Tavis: I like that hairstyle.
Lynne: Thank you.
Tavis: Kind of cool, kind of cool. What’s cool about country music is the titles, the lyrics, the content. So how do you come up with “Tears, Lies and Alibis?”
Lynne: Well, you ache and you cry and you drink and you write it, and – (Laughter)
Tavis: In that order?
Lynne: Well, no. (Laughter) Because I think I came up with the title, it was in the a.m., but there’s a song on there called “Alibi,” and somebody said, “You’ve got to call it ‘Alibi.'” I said, “No, that’s not quite it.” And then it just kind of came to me.
But it kind of sums up the record, because there’s a lot of tears, there’s a lot of alibis, and some lies in there too. (Laughter)
Tavis: This project comes, to your point now about what it is, this project comes at this point in your life for what reason? Why? Why this project at this point?
Lynne: Well, the last time I saw you I had done a collection of cover songs recorded by Dusty Springfield.
Tavis: That’s right.
Lynne: So I didn’t write but one of the tunes on there. So I was missing the writing, and when I’m doing another – like a cover thing, I didn’t really have a lot of time to sit down and compose.
So I was really looking forward to doing that again, and then these things started coming and happening, life was happening, and there we go.
Tavis: Is it therapeutic to put this kind of personal stuff out there, or are you the kind of songwriter where you don’t have any other choice?
Lynne: Yeah. Well, I certainly don’t have any choice, and I don’t have a problem doing it. I can sing about my private life, but I’m certainly not going to talk about it, and it’s easy for me to put it in music. Sit down with a guitar, it’s almost like having a uniform on. So I write what I know.
Tavis: That’s fascinating, though. I have never, ever, in all the years I’ve been doing this and other shows, for that matter, as many artists as I’ve talked to over the years, I’ve never heard an artist say to me, “I can write about my personal stuff, but I can’t talk about it.”
Lynne: Yeah, it’s kind of – some things are just supposed to be private, and it feels better that way.
Tavis: If you can write about it, Shelby, but not talk about it, when you’re writing about it how do you know where the line is? In terms of not – you know what I’m saying? Not giving –
Lynne: Well, when – I think in music, you can’t give away too much, as long as you’re not literal. But that’s the beauty of writing. You have an imagination that comes along with it, and you can kind of shape and form it to be the animal you want it to be while taking everything from a personal place, still trying to make it fit in to everybody else’s lives.
That’s my goal, is to create something that I’m telling about myself that other people say, “I couldn’t have said it better.”
Tavis: You mentioned a moment ago – there are a couple of things you said a moment ago that I want to go back and pick up. One of them is that when you were last here you were doing those Dusty Springfield covers and you said you were missing the writing.
When you got back to it for this project, had your style – you weren’t away from it that long, but I guess what I’m asking is whether or not your writing style has changed over the last few years.
Lynne: I think it’s matured, because I do find it a little bit easier to reveal more things. I try not to just think about it too much.
Tavis: That helps, I guess.
Lynne: Yeah.
Tavis: Yeah. That’s a gift, I guess, to not have to think about it. It just flows, it just comes?
Lynne: Yeah, well, it flows and comes, but I think you have to be open enough and ready for the muse to hit you. I don’t think you can – I can’t sit down and say, “All right, I’m going to write a song.” I just can’t do that. But life happens, and you just have to be able to be open enough and have a pencil handy.
Tavis: I was about to ask you that. (Laughter) When the stuff hits you, do you find yourself running to find something – you have to do it right then?
Lynne: I kind of keep it on me, because it would be impossible to write anything if I didn’t remember half of the things that I catch here and there.
Tavis: So how’s this work? You keep a pad in your back pocket or are you writing on napkins and wallpaper?
Lynne: Everything. Yeah, I write on everything. Now we’ve got those phone things, so.
Tavis: Yeah, that makes it a little easier. Back to something else you said earlier in this conversation. We were talking about the title. You said somebody suggested, “Shelby, why don’t you call it ‘Alibi,'” and you said, “No, I don’t really want to do that.”
The reason why you could say, “I don’t want to do that” is because you now have your own record label and you get to do whatever you want to do.
Lynne: That’s right.
Tavis: So what happened from the last time I saw you until now that gave you this emancipation, this freedom, this liberty to do what you want to do?
Lynne: Well, I had a record deal since I was 18, and it got me where I am. I’ve pretty much run the circle of labels and dealing with that whole kind of battle, because you’re the one creating the music, but you’re not the final say. That’s always been hard.
So I just decided it was time, Tavis. I’ve got to take my music back. I don’t sell a lot of records, but I have 20 years of a loyal, wonderful base that I’m interested in satisfying them and picking up some new along the way. So I finally have the freedom to do that, and I was telling somebody the other day if I want to pull an Erica Badu and walk naked in the street, I can do that. (Laughter) I don’t have to ask permission. I’m finally – I might get brave enough to do that.
Tavis: Yeah, well, you know what? Just between the two of us, between the two of us, if you do, text me.
Lynne: Okay. (Laughter)
Tavis: Where you’re going to be and when you’re going to be walking.
Lynne: You got it. (Laughter) You’re my first call.
Tavis: Yeah, you let me know that so I can be there. My mom’s going to hate me for that?
Lynne: Is that your mom?
Tavis: I’m sorry, Mom. No, she’s watching back in Indiana.
Lynne: Oh, okay, okay. (Laughs)
Tavis: “Boy, how did you say that on national television?”
Lynne: Ooh.
Tavis: Sorry, Mom. But text me anyway, though.
Lynne: You got it. (Laughter)
Tavis: That said, back to your point when you said that you’ve been signed to a record label since you – to some deal since you were 18, and you described it as a battle for most of that time.
What’s been – every artist has to fight that fight. What’s been the battle for Shelby over the years, if you can just kind of paraphrase it?
Lynne: Well, I have to tell you that from the first time I ever walked into a record label there’s never been anybody there who did not want to see me be the biggest recording star in the world. I have to say that first, because I’ve never had – except for the time I had to lock somebody in a closet and break their shoulders and bring out firearms, everything was pretty fun.
Tavis: Except for that, yeah.
Lynne: Yeah, except for those times. (Laughter) But I have to say that it has been a battle because you have that thing about hit records and then you have that thing about good records, and I just kind of like to make good records, and that doesn’t necessarily make a lot of money.
Tavis: But you’ve said that now in one way, shape, or form a couple of times, and to your point, you’re consistent about this every time we talk. I’ve never seen anybody who is more comfortable with what they do sell, comfortable running in the lane that they run in, will tell you up front, “Hey, I don’t sell a lot of records, but I got a loyal base and I want to please that base.”
You seem so comfortable with that. How did that ease around that issue come for you?
Lynne: Because you know why? It is what it is, and these people come to see me sing all over the country who have spent their money since I was 18 to buy whatever I provide for them, and I’m just as loyal to them as they are to me, and it is important to pick up new ones along the way. Come on, Tavis, I’m not a spring chicken anymore, so I’ve got to make this stuff important. And by the way, I don’t mind being old. I’m finally the age I think I ought to be. (Laughter)
Tavis: That sounds like a song.
Lynne: I’ll write it.
Tavis: You should write that. I think – where’s my pen? I could write that.
Lynne: You can take that one.
Tavis: “I’m finally the age I think I ought to be.” That sounds like a country song to me if I ever heard one, and I’m sure it will be on your next album.
Lynne: Yeah.
Tavis: When you said you are as loyal to your fan base as they are to you, I know that to be true, number one. But what, over the – strange question – what over the years have you discovered about your following? Is there a prototype of a Shelby Lynne fan? What do you see when you look into your fans’ eyes around the country, since you’re so loyal to them? Who are they? Who are we?
Lynne: Well, it’s kind of funny, because I have a group of fans who are – I have to say they’re in the older set, and they’ll bring their little grandkids and it’s kind of across the board, got a little bit of everything in there, and that’s what makes it fun.
I love seeing people my grandparents’ age sitting there besides a big old burly biker. (Laughter) And then a little old baby. A biker with a beard like this, and they’re going, “Hey, (unintelligible).” (Laughter) They’re digging in it together.
So it’s the greatest compliment in the world when people want to hear you sing. That means it feels good to them, so I keep doing it.
Tavis: So you’re going to get out there and sing this one around the country?
Lynne: Shoot, yeah. I can’t wait.
Tavis: Well, I know your fans can’t wait either. I couldn’t wait to get you back on here. It’s been a while since I saw Shelby, but she is –
Lynne: I know, I miss you too.
Tavis: I miss you back. She’s back, literally, with a new project called “Tears, Lies and Alibis,” from the gorgeous and awfully talented Shelby Lynne. Shelby, good to have you on the program.
Lynne: Thank you, Tavis.

Tavis: Good to see you.

Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm