by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
I came of age in the Lilith Fair era, in the late 1990s when guitar-wielding goddesses like Sarah Mclaughlin, Liz Phair and Shawn Colvin ruled alternative radio. I remember the summer when the latter, Colvin, got her big break with the popularity of “Sunny Came Home,” a twangy, folksy tune uplifted by pretty vocal inflections. The hit single, from the 1996 album A Few Small Repairs, put Colvin on the map as a powerful singer and storyteller — and earned her a couple of Grammy awards (for “Record of the Year” and “Song of the Year”).
Fast forward 20 years, the etherial-voiced songstress’ musical catalogue and fan base has expanded, even as radio trends like emo or millennial pop have wavered and waned. In the years since “Sunny,” Colvin’s creative musings have also expanded. In 2013, she exposed her grit through her audio biography “Diamond in the Rough: A Memoir,” and an unexpectedly brilliant, moody folk collaboration with songwriting legend Steve Earle around the same time. In early 2000’s, she gifted the world with her first children’s record, Holiday Songs and Lullabies, shortly after becoming a mom (to daughter Caledonia).
A sense of maternal creativity seems to be inspiring Colvin again. Her latest album The Starlighter — available exclusively through Amazon Music — features songs adapted from the children’s music book “Lullabies and Night Songs.” The record is jazzy and hypnotic, Colvin’s voice equal parts smoky and sweet as the listener is gently eased into a dreamlike state. I’m particularly fond of “Raisins and Almonds,” a delightful, slowed-down carnival song.
The album features some pretty neat technology perks, too — lyrics stream as the song plays from a device (great for mamas and papas who like to sing along), and there’s a visual video companion (members of Amazon Prime or Amazon Music can stream the video here), which babies are sure to love.
We recently caught up Colvin in the midst of her March 2018 tour with crooner Lyle Lovett, to chat about her new record, motherhood and life in general.
Rockmommy: How’s the tour with Lyle Lovett going? Do you find it any tougher to go out on tour now than it used to be?
Shawn Colvin: Performing with Lyle has been delightful. I’m such a fan of his and thoroughly enjoy playing and singing with him. Touring for me is as much or more fun than ever. Every day I am grateful for my work.
Rockmommy: Let’s talk about your new lullaby album The Starlighter — you said it’s a companion record to a children’s record you made 19 years ago! Now that you’ve been a mom for just as long, how do you think your perspective or inspiration has shifted?
Shawn Colvin: It hasn’t changed a lot — I’m just very connected to the music book of lullabies these songs are taken from. It’s called Lullabies and Night Songs. It was a gift to me when I was 8 years old. I love the arrangements by Alec Wilder. I just hope folks of all ages will enjoy them as much as I have.
Rockmommy: Being a mom is all about balance — but balance is kind of an elusive concept to many of us. When your daughter was younger how did you unwind when your work/tour schedule was packed, you had a million career things to do/home things to do, and your child needed you? And is it any easier now that your daughter is an adult?
Shawn Colvin: When she was younger and I wasn’t traveling I just threw myself into her routine — taking her to school, packing lunches, spending a lot of time with her. Now that she’s older we still spend lots of time together — going out for dinner, hanging out. I go to her apartment a lot to visit and to see her awesome cat!
Rockmommy: Did you ever feel like you were missing out as you tried to make a living as a musician while being a mom?
Shawn Colvin: Yes, I did. It was painful at times. But my job involves travel and we both accepted that and adjusted to it. She traveled with me until she started school and when I was gone she spent time with her dad and other family members.
Rockmommy: Have you ever made music with your daughter? Or is she into other things?
Shawn Colvin: Yes! She asks me to learn songs she wants to sing and I do. So I play guitar or piano and she sings. She’s great! It’s a lovely thing to do together.
Rockmommy: Finally, what advice do you have for mothers who desperately want to balance music with motherhood — but also have a non-music career to worry about? Is there a secret to having it all, such as building in a day/time every week to be creative?
Shawn Colvin: Yes, I think having a schedule is important, a set time when you show up for writing, maybe in a specific place. It doesn’t have to be for a long time. Just something to keep you from getting rusty. I also found giving myself deadlines was helpful. Sometimes I burned CDs of works in progress and listened to them in the car. That helped me make headway with them and kept me inspired.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.