Country folk music has been extending its acoustic tendrils out of the South and onto the national scene for quite some time, and Long Island is getting into the act on April 11, as Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin comes to Suffolk Theater.
“It’s a solo show. It’s pretty intimate,” Colvin says. The voice behind the commerical success “Sunny Came Home” describes her sound as country-folk with pop influences. “[The show will be] be material from my old catalog and storytelling.”
Best known for her unique melodic voice, deep lyrics, on-stage storytelling and her longevity in the music scene, Colvin’s songs resonate with a wide audience. Though she writes from personal experience, “it’s not like writing a journal,” Colvin says. “It needs to be more succinct and impressionistic.” Her writing process varies—a what-came-first, the-chicken-or-the-egg-type enigma with music and lyrics. Either way, the result has been a career that has spanned from the 1970s until today.
Colvin’s advice to aspiring singer/songwriters is to “never give up.” Though female musicians are more welcome now than they were when she started, “I still would have done what I did,” Colvin says. “Work and play and live as much as possible. Don’t quit.”
However, she respects that it’s important to be educated on how to best go about getting your music heard. For Colvin, that persistence has led to three Grammy Awards—perhaps the most well known being 1997’s Grammy Award winning Song and Record of the Year, “Sunny Came Home”—10 albums, countless tours and a memoir, Diamond in the Rough. Colvin is in the process of writing songs for another album. She is also currently collaborating with Grammy-award winner Steve Earle. The “Songs and Stories, Together Onstage” tour, where the duo swap chords and experiences, kicked off in March and will resume at the end of May.
Her list of collaborators also includes Jakob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss and Mary Chapin Carpenter—“It’s all pretty amazing,” Colvin says of the opportunity to work with industry greats. “[Collaborating with Steve Earle] was always on my list,” Colvin adds.
Born in South Dakota and raised in Carbondale, Illinois, Colvin initially picked up a guitar when she was 10 years old. She first performed live at the University of Illinois at the age of 15, and her calling as a musician was solidified. Colvin soon moved to New York by way of Austin, Texas—the “Live Music Capital of the World”—to work on her sound. There, she became an integral member of the country group the Buddy Miller Band. Miller has remained a close friend, and he produced her most recent album, 2012’s All Fall Down. The 11 tracks reflect Colvin’s signature emotional directness, though they include casual drop-ins from musician friends.
April 11 won’t be the first time that Colvin has come to the East End. She wowed audiences at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center in 2012. The two theaters fit with her preference of playing smaller venues. Though she loves coming to the East End, she admits that her schedule doesn’t afford her the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time out here, as the Austin, Texas resident typically only passes through while touring, returning home to daughter Caledonia when she’s not on the road.
Despite her busy schedule, live shows are always for reflection and introspection. “I want audiences to takeaway what I would [from a show],” says Colvin. “I just hope they’re moved, one way or another.”
Shawn Colvin plays Suffolk Theater in Riverhead on Friday, April 11. 631-727-4343, suffolktheater.com