Country Crooner Shelby Lynne doesn’t like to discuss her music. She’d much rather just perform while wearing her heart on her sleeve.
“I am not afraid to open myself up in front of an audience and sing about personal things,” Lynne says during a recent interview with arjanwrites. “I just have to sing. It is something that I love to do.”
Last month, Lynne released her new album "Identity Crisis," an emotional tour de force that has her sharing some her most personal emotions. Songs such as “I’m Alive” (about an ex-lover), “If I Were Smart” (about a friend with cancer) and “Telephone” (a song about regret) expose the singer’s finer feelings with her raspy vocals and acoustic guitar.
The album departs from her previous “Love, Shelby,” which failed to find commercial success. Produced by rock producer Glen Ballard, Lynne sounded more mainstream than before, much to the dismay of her loyal fans. “I hate it when people compare records,” Lynne says. “I am very proud of ‘Love, Shelby.’ I have no regrets. It was a product of the moment and at that moment it felt right.”
“Identity Crisis” will touch a cord with many for its earnest songwriting and heartfelt emotion. Lynne has been through the high and lows to understand life’s complexity. At the age of 17, she witnessed her father shoot her mother and then turn the gun on himself. Lynne took charge of the household, taking care of her younger sister Allison Moorer (who has built a successful music career of her own).
Lynne eventually moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. A lofty record deal with Epic and a 1991 coveted CMA Award for Best Emerging Artist was not enough to please the young artist. She wanted more artistic control of her career and moved to several other record companies in the years to follow.
In 2000, she received a big break when she signed with Island Records to work on “I Am Shelby Lynne” with Bill Botrell, mostly know for his work with Sheryl Crowe.
The record was both a commercial and artistic success, winning Lynne a coveted Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2001.
“That was such a humble experience,” Lynne says. “You put your heart out there and if people show appreciation for what you do, it is a great feeling.”
Some have argued that Lynne’s Grammy win forced her to create a follow-up record that would fit the taste of a mainstream audience. But she denies any such pressure. “People can think whatever. The fact that ‘Love, Shelby’ was not a big success did not mean I sold out,” Lynne says. “That record is very dear to me. Artists should be able to change, progress and evolve.”
Lynne chose a different approach when working on "Identity Crisis," released on Capitol Records. She spent a lot of time alone in her house in Palm Springs, Calif., close to relatives. Her appreciation for life, love and family compelled her to write songs and keep things very pure and simple, she says.
“Ideas started to flow by just being alone and being able to be really creative,” Lynne says. “I played most of the instruments and we recorded most of the songs in one take with just me, a bassist and a sound engineer in the room.”
The finished product fulfilled Lynne’s expectations, she says.
Over the years, the Alabama-born Lynne has built a strong gay fan base that appreciates her in-your-face lyrics and authentic appearance. Lynne says she is thankful to anybody who listens to her music and comes out to see her perform, including gays.
“I appreciate all fans for their support,” she says. “I am just doing my thing because I love music and it is great others are feeling it as well.”