REVELATION ROAD: A DISCUSSION WITH SHELBY LYNNE
This article is written by MIKE RAGOGNA at THE HUFFINGTON POST
MIKE RAGOGNA: Shelby Lynne, you’re back for another visit. Thanks. How are you?
SHELBY LYNNE: I’m doing great, man. How are you?
MR: Doing very well. Since you’ve been here before, I think it’s best we just dive in. Your new album REVELATION ROAD, to me, is a collection of paradigms of faith. Did I get that right?
SL: Well, I’m glad that you got that from it, Mike. To me, it’s a collection of the songs that are a reflection of my life today.
MR: Nice. I love how in the song REVELATION ROAD you use the sinner vs. the preacher analogy. That sort of seems like a reflection of the times, wouldn’t you say?
SL: I mean, that’s where I am. I can’t imagine thinking what anybody else is thinking, you know? That’s why I write songs and I’m lucky to be able to do that and write what’s in my head and in my heart. I think that it almost feels to me like a crossroads of some kind.
MR: Nice. On a more personal note, would you mind sharing what inspired you to write these songs?
SL: Well, I think it’s just about letting the past be the past and living your life in as much of a positive way as you can. If you hang on to things you can’t change, you tend to get stuck. So if I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that you have to keep rolling on.
MR: That kind of ties in nicely with the sentiments of the song WOEBEGONE, doesn’t it?
SL: Yeah. That song is just a clever way of saying that I’m tired of being miserable. I just want to move on and be where life takes me for a change, you know?
MR: This album seems to be the most personal one you’ve made so far.
SL: It is personal. I wrote songs on there about my sister and growing up and such. I really concentrated a lot on writing this record for me. There’s lots of lyrical content about feeling like I’m back in Alabama and being a kid. I really looked at it in a positive all love kind of way. It was amazing how the songs kind of wrote themselves when I let go of any bad feelings I may have had.
MR: A revelation that came to me after listening to songs such as WOEBEGONE was just how often during rough times, I had no choice but to turn to friends and family as a source of solace. Was that the same for you?
SL: Well, it’s not quite the same for me. My family is not where I go for comfort. For me in life, you choose the people that you want to be around and sometimes family is not necessarily it. So, if you make the right decisions, you’ll know it because you’ll start figuring out who you want to be around and who’s not good for you to be around. Sometimes, you realize that you’re pretty damn lonely in doing that, so you have to accept the fact that being lonely is quite all right.
MR: Right. Has this been a year of making those kinds of decisions for you?
SL: Well, I’ve made them all my life, but I never really decided to write songs about it before. As a songwriter I’m pretty fortunate in getting to write about my life through songs. I can either put it all out there literally, or I can disguise it within a melody or poem, but it’s what I do. I’m very fortunate and I like doing it.
MR: Shelby, one of my favourite songs on the album is I DON’T NEED A REASON TO CRY.
SL: It kind of says it all in the song. Sometimes, you just sit down and cry. You don’t need a reason.
MR: Another of my favourites is HEAVEN’S ONLY DAYS DOWN THE ROAD.
SL: It’s a song I wrote from my father’s perspective after he had gone over to the other side. I guess you can make the song as complicated or as simple as you want. But this song is a personal avenue for me.
MR: That’s so beautiful. Now the last time we talked was before Christmas 2011. What have you been up to since then?
SL: Well, let me see. I went on tour in Europe, which was great. It was just wonderful going there and playing for so many wonderful people. Then I came back and started writing songs for this record. I knew I had a little bit of time to sit and work, so I moved into a recording space where I could go and work in my free time. That’s how I made this record. It’s been a great process and I’m glad that it’s done and the record is coming out. I’m really happy with it.
MR: And this record was written, performed and produced by you. I bet that feels pretty fulfilling. But that’s quite an undertaking, wouldn’t you say?
SL: Well, I got a really small simple recording space to work on this one. I would just go in every day when I felt I was ready and work song by song. There was lots of experimenting. I didn’t know if any of these songs would come out worth a damn. (laughs) I just thought I could go in and feel it out, peck away or add stuff, you know? It’s hard to explain. I had something in my head and I just tried to go and put it down on tape.
MR: The mixing and overall sound turned out well too.
SL: Thank you very much. You work with what you have, you know? I like to try to keep it as analog as possible because I like that sound and feel.
MR: Nice. So that’s how you got that sound?
SL: Absolutely. I still roll 2 inch tape.
MR: Where do you even buy that these days?
SL: You can get it if you’re looking. Sometimes, I worry about finding it because it can’t last forever. The world we live in just doesn’t roll that way. But as long as they keep making it, I’m gonna keep doing it.
MR: Well, they predicted CDs would be obsolete by now, but they’re still around.
SL: I give that a year.
MR: Really? Do you think we’re all ready at the end of the CD age?
SL: I think so. I’ve been talking to all of my people about it because when you have a record company, you have to think about all of those things, you know? I think in a year or two, they just won’t be around. I mean, I still buy vinyl if I can. It’s weird because my record is coming out on vinyl, but we include the digital download inside the vinyl. That way, you can get the artwork and record and you can still put it on your iPod. I just wanted to do both. Another problem with CDs is that there’s just nowhere to put them. (laughs) That’s just the world that we live in now. There’s no more room to store stuff like that. (laughs) We live in a world that’s fast paced. Everything can be done at the touch of a button.
You have to really concentrate on making a record on tape or putting a record onto vinyl. Even playing a vinyl on the stereo is a foreign concept because you have to get your body up and turn the record over to hear side b. (laughs) I have forced myself to use tape because I like the creative aspect of it. I just don’t get inspired through looking at computer screens. I like to see the tape running and feel it.
MR: That’s beautifully put. Working with tape just makes a very different sounding track.
SL: It does. With 24 tracks, you have to make a commitment. I like to layer a lot when I make records. I may put in 3 or 4 guitars or 3 or 4 harmonies. Then I start counting down every time I add something because I’m running out of tracks every time. With digital, there’s an unlimited amount of tracks and I just don’t find that to be very creative.
MR: Were there any major differences working on this album over others now that you were the producer?
SL: Well, there’s nobody to argue with except myself. (laughs) And it’s a lot less stressful. I mean, I like working with producers, but this time, I didn’t want to. The record business has also changed so much. I could go into a million reasons about why I didn’t want a producer, but in the music business, you’re either the wonderful BEYONCE, who I love, with a big label and lots of money or you’re on your own. Right now, I’m really enjoying being on my own. And I just wanna say I love BEYONCE and that new record. (laughs)
MR: (laughs) Yeah, it’s awesome, but what do you think of ADELE? I can’t get enough of those two albums.
SL: She’s amazing, such an incredible singer. She’s the real deal…and to be so young and so gifted? That’s awesome.
MR: Yeah, she’s great. Looking to go back a bit. What would you say the major differences are between REVELATION ROAD and, let’s say, I AM SHELBY LYNNE?
SL: I would say the most major difference is the songwriting. It’s just me going it alone with no collaborators. As far as the recording part goes, it’s basically the same. I used 2 inch tape on that record as well. A lot of the ideas in my way of recording come from the lessons I learned back when I first started. I like the way that record turned out. It’s a layering process – you put down a performance and then you layer your record around it. That’s the way I feel like I like it.
MR: Shelby, another favourite song from REVELATION ROAD is TOSS IT ALL ASIDE. Can you tell us more about that song?
SL: It’s an emotional song because it takes a relationship that’s over to another level. There’s nothing left to do but end it all, so that’s what it’s about lyrically. That’s a song that I actually wrote a while back but I never had a chance to put on a record until this one. I thought it fit perfectly. I thought about it a lot in the ordering of the record.
MR: I enjoyed being able to take the time and digest a lot of your songs before we spoke again. To me, it’s so important. Have you ever been in a situation where someone hadn’t listened to your music before an interview?
SL: Yeah…and it makes me mad. (laughs)