Photo Credit: Randee St. Nicholas

By Paul Freeman

Shelby Lynneís latest brilliant album is titled ďTears, Lies and Alibis.Ē Those are three things not in this Grammy-winning singer-songwriterís repertoire. She prefers a strong, honest, no-excuses approach.

Lynne brings audiences a distinctive blend of country, soul and rock. She never allows an albumís production to overpower finely crafted songs.

Her previous record company, Lost Highway, wanted her to bring in an outside producer. ďMost labels do, especially if youíre a woman. Labels donít know anything about art. They donít care about art. They care about money.Ē

Determined to produce the album herself, Lynne formed her own label, Everso Records. ďItís something that I wish I would have done years ago. Iíd just had it with the labels. This allows me more creative energy. And I can make as many records as I want to make, whenever I want to make them. I donít have to ask permission.

ďIíll just keep doing the same thing Iíve been doing. Iím pretty much providing records for the same people that Iíve been providing records for for 20 years, gathering some new ones along the way. Every time I open my mouth to sing, I gather new people. But Iím just doing what Iíve always been doing. I just happen to be in control of it and I might be able to make a living now.

Her philosophy clashes with that of the corporate music world. ďI want to make great records that stand up through the years. Labels are all about the hot new thing of the moment. Theyíre not really into longevity or working on a career. Youíre usually good for one record and then youíre out the door.

ďIíve been around 20 years. I try to make records that arenít trendy. Every time I pick up a pen, I want to write classic songs. I wouldnít know how to make a hit record.Ē

Lynne describes the essential qualities of a timeless song. ďYou have to be honest first, then make a decent record, something thatís pleasant to the ear, pleasant to the heart and soul, or stirs up the emotions somehow. Not every song is pleasant, but it certainly should make you have some kind of feeling. I have to be moved first, before I can move an audience. And Iím a pretty tough audience.Ē

She senses when a song sheís writing is complete. ď itís not hard for me at all to let it go. Iím usually ready to get it out. I know when Iím finished and Iím usually ready to see what sheíll turn into.Ē

She doesnít hesitate to reveal her innermost feelings in music. ďI wouldnít be doing my job, if I held back. I donít have a problem baring my soul in songs. Iím lucky I get to do that.

ďI feel like the more emotional a song is, the better it is. Itís hard for some people to really get into it, to feel pain or feel something thatís really heavy. But I donít have a problem with that. Thatís what life is. Life is a painful predicament. Itís not coming up roses every time. I tend to not write about things coming up roses. I write about the real stuff. Thatís painful.Ē

ďFamily TreeĒ comes out of pain. Her own family hasnít responded to the seething lyrics . ďTheyíre probably too overwhelmed and too guilty to deal with it,Ē Lynne said. ďBut I was sick of my family. And itís easy to see in the words, they pissed me off. I donít have anything to do with my family. My sister (singer-songwriter Allison Moorer) and I have a close relationship. Thatís about all I want.Ē

ďI hope it opens doors for a lot of people that hear it. You can deny it or lie about it, but everybody feels that way about their family. Family's the worst thing in the world. They judge you. They look down at you, no matter what your accomplishments. Thereís always family that you canít ever satisfy. So you just decide, ĎI donít need you in my world. Goodbye... and P.S., Iím writing a song about you thatís scathing. I hope you cry and fall on the the floor when you hear it.Ē

Being an artist, Lynne faces judges everywhere. She shuts them out. ďI donít sit around and read reviews, good or bad. I learned long ago - I donít read press. Thatís just one other dudeís opinion. Itís not going to keep me from doing what I do.Ē

The ĎĒLoser DreamerĒ song came from a discussion with a band member. ďWe were talking about the music business and relationships - how those two worlds collide. It doesnít work. A musicianís a different animal than a regular life. I know a lot of players who are loser dreamers. And Iím certainly one. If youíre a musician, It consumes you. Itís what you are, who you are, in your being.Ē

Lynne doesnít grapple with that. She accepts it. ďIt doesnít bother me. Itís who I am. Itís what I am. Take it or leave it.Ē

ďOle 97Ē was inspired by Jack Daniels. ďWell, you listen to the song and you know where it comes from. You canít write a song like that and not know what itís about. Iíve consumed a lot of whiskey in my time. I donít do that anymore... But you write what you know.Ē

On a lighter note, ďSomething To Be Said About AirstreamsĒ is a fun tune that captures the American spirit of adventure.

ďItís about the freedom we have to get in the Airstream and go anywhere we want in this country and be free. We take it for granted.Ē

Though Lynne earns enthusiastic reactions from audiences, she doesnít take that for granted. ďI never let a band get comfortable. Iím certainly never comfortable. I have an outline every night, of what Iím going to do. But, depending on the venue and audience, I change the set. I have some people that might want to go to three gigs in a row and Iím determined that they will never see the same show.

ďSo thereís a lot of thought that goes into what Iím doing up there. To me, the most important thing about a show is the audience. In order to be a great performer, you have to be a great audience first. So I always put my butt in their seat and try to do the best show I possibly can. I try to hire players that are ready for anything. Thatís the way we roll.Ē

When sheís off the road, a garden and her dogs keep Lynne occupied at her Palm Springs desert home. She also collects record albums, having accumulated more than 1,000.

ďI love listening to the vinyl. And, you know, I try to fight everything till the last bloody, bloody blow. I still record analog. I use tape when I make records. I appreciate the digital world and I have a lot of digital equipment, but as long as they make tape, Iím not going to record with Pro Tools, because I enjoy the way analog sounds. Thatís not saying I wonít use Pro Tools, because I have. But, as far as making albums goes, I really enjoy using the tape.

ďIt just sounds better to me. And itís more than just that. I have my own studio and itís a whole kind of a comfort zone in the tape machine. Most people think Iím crazy. But Iím used to that, too, and I really donít give a damn what they think.Ē

Film fans thought she gave a beautiful performance as Johnny Cashís mother in ďWalk The Line.Ē Will there be more movie work?

ďThereís always a chance, if the right one comes along. That one just happened to be one of the right things at the right time. People ask me all the time to do things, but theyíre not necessarily the right things. Itís like going out there every week and making a cover record. It has to be the right thing, the right song, the right time. So I donít close the door. Iím just a musician first.Ē

As for her goal, she said, ďI think Iíve achieved it. Iíve made a name for myself. Iíve made a living for myself. And I keep learning, learning how to make better songs, how to do better shows. Iím older. Iím almost 42 years old. And I think Iím finally getting the hang of it.

ďI want to do records until I canít open my mouth and sing anymore. I just want to keep it real and keep it soulful. I donít worry about what anybody else is thinkiní or doiní. I have my own game going.Ē