In seven studio albums covering nearly two decades and three Grammys, Shawn Colvin's canon has been crossed with a balance of serenity and restlessness, both of which appear in full bloom on her latest release, "These Four Walls" (Nonesuch).
Her pristine, perky voice and composed-yet-vulnerable vibe are given full sun by longtime producer/musical soulmate John Leventhal, who co-wrote most of the album. Still, expect their songs to shine despite being stripped of their sheen when she plays a solo show at the Tralf on Tuesday. Now 51 and a single mother, Colvin discussed the evolution of her approach from her home in Austin.
You've said that you've been writing "fighting-to-get-out" songs since the beginning. What are you fighting to get out of, and do you feel you'll always be that way?
I just think that, oftentimes, it's that youthful, rebellious attitude that makes an artist. You feel like you don't fit, you're not understood -- there's an essential aloneness, and the core of that remains the same. As you get older, you have kids, you get a little more stable in life as to who you are and live more in service to your children and causes. It's not all about rebelling, it's about being understood, and you make peace.
Artists are often criticized for the influence of parenthood on their work, but you don't appear to directly address it on this record. Is that intentional?
I think it is addressed on the record, just maybe now and then, and not really direct. I think it's more intriguing when you take a broader stroke. There's a part of getting older, whether you have children or not, when we all face the same patterns of having to readdress -- to look back instead of looking forward. My experience as a parent is in there, just not really specifically.
"Cinnamon Road" is a completely compelling song, from Patty Griffin and Marc Cohn's vocals to John's arrangements. Was your vibe on that song inspired by John?
The vibe was definitely inspired by John. I'd written down the title months before, but sometimes it's a jigsaw puzzle affair, where I do have my notebooks and all these ideas, but sometimes I need something else to jump-start me. I'll look at my notes, or just start singing nonsense -- the line, "All the money in the world" [the hook] is a result of that. That's sometimes it -- I really think the more intuitive I am, and the less literal, the more meaningful it becomes. It's a difficult exercise to let it go, open up, let your mouth say anything -- but you might get closer by going through the back door. But it's a scary process.
WHO: Shawn Colvin
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Tralf Music Hall, 622 Main St.
TICKETS: $39.50 advance, $42 day of show
INFO: 852-2860 or www.tralfmusichall.com