Shelby Lynne interview: Tears, Lies, and Alibis
May 6, 2010 by Bill Palmer
After twenty years of making music, Shelby Lynne is finally getting to do so on her terms. She’s started her own label, she’s eschewed social media, and she’s released her new meddling-free album Tears, Lies and Alibis which finds itself in the top five on the iTunes singer-songwriter charts. Beatweek’s May 2010 Artist of the Month tells us about her latest album and more…
When I listen to this album, the word that keeps coming to me is “spare” – does that sound accurate to you?
Well yeah, there’s not a lot going on. I guess that’s a fair assessment.
When you make a record like this where a lot of it’s just your voice backed by one note at a time, is there a tendency to want to go back and do a lot of takes in the studio?
Nope. I usually don’t sing a song more than once or twice. If it’s not doable in that amount of time then it’s probably not gonna happen. I don’t believe in all that comp crap. It’s not real.
Have you always felt that way, or have you evolved into that mindset?
I don’t see a need in beating a song to death, you know? I mean just how good is it gonna get? It’s kind of the way I am with life, you know? You go out there and you wing it and you hope for the best. But how good is it gonna get? I could sing it forty times, but the end of it I’m sick of it and I hate it.
Was “Rains Came” inspired by a real life experience?
Yeah, absolutely. It was a Sunday morning rainstorm out here in the desert, and that song is what happened. I love and miss the rain. I’m a southern girl. They get lots of rain, and hardly any out here. But I’d still rather be here [laughs].
I’m not missing the metaphor, “Something To Be Said” is literally about life in an Airstream trailer, right?
Yeah, sure is.
Have you ever spent time on one or lived on one yourself?
No, I haven’t lived in ‘em. But there’s a certain American romance about them that I dig. I like things that don’t go out of style, whether it’s music or trailers or whatever. And there’s something that’s kind of romantic about them.
At what point in the album creation process did you know you were going to call it Tears, Lies & Alibis? Was that after you wrote “Alibi” or did you already have that phrase in your head?
Well the title kind of came to me cause I was trying to figure out what the hell to call the record. Everybody was going, “You’ve got to call it Alibi,” and I’m going nah, that’s not enough. It doesn’t cover what the record is. And then I was sitting around and then it just came, cause it rhythmically felt right. Words, whether or not they have a tune, have a rhythm. And you know when it feels right.
I’m sure there are a lot of record labels that would be glad to have you. Why did you start your own label instead?
Well because I’m sick of record labels. I wanted to do my own thing. I’ve been making records for twenty years, and I’ve pretty much been on every label there is, and I’m just tired of that routine. It’s not fun. It’s red tape and paperwork and bullshit and too many people involved that don’t know anything about what I’m trying to get to here. So it was just time to do my own thing, and I’m glad I did it. It was long overdue.
The assumption is that there’s more work involved when you’re running your own show. Has that turned out to be the case for you?
Yeah, sure is. But you know, I’m the boss, so I can hire who I need to get done to get it done, and actually get something done. So far so good. I’m enjoying it. I’ve got some good people on my side. I have some great folks. You know, it’s a small group of people who really believe in this situation. So that right there is a better starting place than most labels.
Your music is somewhat country, somewhat not country. Do people try to pigeonhole you as being strictly country?
Yeah they try to say that I’m still country. I mean I guess I am. I’m just what I am, I mean labels or whatever, I can’t get away from them. A lot of people just have to call you something. It’s not a problem, it’s you just deal with it. It’s just the way that things are. I’ll always be called Shelby Lynne the country artist. Doesn’t bother me. At least they’re calling me [laughs].
A lot of artists feel like they’ve got to use stuff like Facebook and Twitter because they feel like they’ve got let their fans know what they’re doing at that moment, but that doesn’t appeal to you at all.
No, absolutely not. I don’t agree it. I like to share my music. I like to share everything I do in my career with anybody who’s interested. But as far as what I’m doing in my everyday life? Uh-uh. No way.
You’ve done a little bit of acting, in Walk The Line, a little television. Is that something you want to do more of, or is there a limit to how much acting you can do without it interfering with your music?
It’s not about interfering with it. It’s about whether or not I feel like I can contribute to the role. If there’s a role that I can add a little sugar and spice to, I’d be glad to do some acting.