January , 1992
By Lisa L. Rollins
Living the country song
Country music newcomer Shelby Lynne is a woman of few words, but one who knows what she is and what she isn't. And she is not a songwriter, thank you very much, and she's quick to point that fact out.
She does, however, happen to be the recipient of the 1991 Academy of Country Music's "Best New Female Vocalist" award. Yet she's not touting that, either.
"I don't like to think that I'm something that I'm not," remarked the 22year-old singer in a recent interview from her Nashville digs. "I was born a singer, not a songwriter. I'm not saying I won't (ever write songs), but I think that, maybe, if I write songs one day, it'll be a natural thing. It won't be a forced thing."
Hence, the diminutive songstress, whose already being called the next Reba McEntire-meets-Patsy Cline, is not one to be forced into anything, and she made that quite clear during the making of Soft Talk, her newly released LP for Epic Records, which was produced by industry veteran James Stroud.
"I definitely wanted a change," said Lynne, whose previous albums were produced by Billy Sherrill (best known for his work with Tanya Tucker and Bob Mongomery, respectively). "First of all, I wanted my own choice. I wanted to be able to choose who I worked with, instead of just being forced to work with someone the record company had chosen.
"I met with a lot of producers in Nashville and decided to go with James. I liked him instantly, and then I also knew about his past recordings and who he'd worked with (including Clint Black and Robin Lee). He seemed perfect for me, and as it turns out, he was."
Her third LP for Epic, Soft Talk is chock-full of emotion-laden material, some of it more convincing than others, which Lynne had a direct hand in choosing. But she didn't take the task lightly. "A song has to grab me. It's gotta be pretty meaty for me to be able to do it," she said, regarding the disc's 10 tunes. "I don't like a lot of what we hear on the radio now. I like songs that mean something, that say something, that kind of make a difference. If it's got meaty lyrics and a nice good melody, I can sink my teeth into it."
In turn, once she finds the right material, she doesn't mess around. "I cut this album, did my part of it, in three days. All my vocals are live — I cut'em in the studio — and there's not overdubbing, except for harmonies," reported Lynne, sounding a tad bit proud of her perfectionism. '1 just nail it. If I feel like I have to cut it (the song vocal) more than three or four times, it's not worth doing to me. As far as emotion goes, whatever happens happens."
Thus for, the album's first single, a duet with former Exile member Les Taylor titled "The Very First Lasting Love" and a number that Taylor co-wrote, comfortably eased its way up the nation's country charts. "I feel like any exposure is better than none, and Les and I had been wanting to sing together for quite sometime," remarked Lynne of the duet, which is also included on Taylor's Blue Kentucky Wind LP. "I thought this was a great opportunity, especially since we have the same producer in James Stroud, and I felt like it was a hit record."
Hit records, it seems, are becoming commonplace for the Alabama native, including the recent Top-20 songs '111 Lie Myself To Sleep" and "Things are Tough AU Over," both of which are contained on Tough All Over, the 1990 follow-up to her debut album titled Sunrise.
The prevalence of moody, even melancholy, music on Lynne's recorded offerings seems to be present for a reason — and always convincing. The brunette songstress, however, prefers not to discuss specifics, although her past provides a tell-tale but tragic indicator.
In Lynne's short but success-filled lifetime, the singer endured her fair share of heartbreaking laments, namely the 1986 murder-suicide of her parents: Her father, a teacher and sometime-country musician who reportedly had a reputation for heavy drinking, shot her mother after the two quarreled outside their home, before turning the gun on himself.
The true-blue-eyed Lynne doesn't dwell on the past, though. At least not in conversations presumably tailored for mass consumption. She instead prefers to focus on the only thing she finds to be relevant at the moment—her music and its advancement — including the tune "Don't Cross Your Heart," second single from Sqft Talk. And just for the record, nevermind the chart rankings, because she doesn't watch'em, even when she's climbing them.
"I think everybody has their own success indicator. I have mine, and other people probably have theirs," she deadpanned. "I don't compare success with others, because if I did that I'd probably be low down on the line. I think that what I have accomplished is just as great as what anyone else has."
As for her rapid ascent into the spotlight, it's all a matter of whose boots one is standing in, she says.
"I am young, and it's happened faster than most as far as years go," she conceded, her voice fading slightly. "But it's strange, you know. Sometimes it (her success) feels like it's going too fast and sometimes you don't feel like you're moving at all. It just depends on where you are at the time."