Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin performs at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts


Image: Shawn ColvinSinger-songwriter Shawn Colvin, whose subtle craftsmanship has won over fans, critics and Grammy voters alike, will perform Friday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University.

Ms. Colvin's sure voice and solid guitar playing have caught the ears of folk music lovers since her 1989 debut album, "Steady On," which took the Grammy for "Best Contemporary Folk Recording" that year. On subsequent releases "Fat City" and "Cover Girl," a collection of songs written by other artists, she gained a reputation for gentle but penetrating lyrics and seamless, earthy vocals.

But it wasn't until 1996, when she released "A Few Small Repairs," that Ms. Colvin became a bona fide star. Her first gold album, the collection contained the hit "Sunny Came Home," a haunting tale of a woman bent on vengeance. Ms. Colvin took home Grammys for "Record of the Year" and "Song of the Year" for the memorable song.

Ms. Colvin's musical roots extend back to her childhood in Vermillion, S.D. There her father, a staunch folkie, passed on to his children his love for the Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger, Harry Belafonte and other music icons. Ms. Colvin was just 10 when she picked up her brother's Harmony 4-string guitar and a basic chord book and was hooked.

As a young teenager, Ms. Colvin moved with her family to London, Ontario and then to Carbondale, Illinois, and the budding guitarist spent her free time listening to Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles and The Who. While performing with a friend in a folk duo, she discovered folk legend Joni Mitchell and, she says, "then all else changed."

Ms. Colvin honed her musical and theatrical skills in high school productions before graduating and enrolling in Southern Illinois University. She dropped out of college after a year, spending the next several years in Texas and California, playing everything from hard rock to country swing. In the 1980s, she made her way to New York City, performing with bands and alone at coffeehouses and open mikes and later singing backup for fellow singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega.

The seasoned live performer found a receptive audience in Cambridge and Boston, Mass., and in 1988 she played her first headlining concert at Harvard University's Paine Hall.

Aside from her solo albums, Ms. Colvin's songs have appeared in several films, including the blockbuster "Armageddon," "The Emperor's New Groove" and "Serendipity." Over the years, the singer also honed her acting skills in small roles on television's "Suddenly Susan," "The Larry Sanders Show" and "The Simpsons" and in the Sigourney Weaver/Jennifer Love Hewitt film "Heartbreakers," in which she played a robe-wearing New Age priest.

Ms. Colvin's most recent album, 2001's "Whole New You," teams her with her longtime friend, producer and co-writer John Leventhal, who has been writing music to her lyrics since the two met in the mid-80s. While she's always written about relationships, some of the new songs reflect the major changes in Ms. Colvin's life since her "Few Small Repairs" breakthrough, including her 1997 marriage to photographer and graphic artist Mario Erwin and the birth of their daughter, Caledonia.

"Motherhood affected me across the board," she told The Boston Globe recently. "It affected me as an artist. It affected my priorities and who I thought I was and who I was becoming and wanted to be."

It also affected the amount of time Ms. Colvin had for her music. Though at the peak of her career, the then 42-year-old singer put everything on hold for her pregnancy and her daughter's early months. She didn't write for nearly two years.

Once she did find the time to return to her first love, Colvin paired her new themes with a variety of musical styles. The songs on "Whole New You" range from the melancholy, stream-of-consciousness of "Another Plane Went Down" to the title track's expressions of parental tenderness to the full-out rocker "Bound to You."

Ms. Colvin, who lives in Austin, Texas, spent much of 2002 on tour. The summer saw her crisscrossing the country, playing at large and intimate venues, including The Fillmore in San Francisco, Los Angeles' House of Blues and the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, R.I. She was joined by a four-piece band and her daughter, who often joined her mom onstage to sing a few lines of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

"There is part of me that says just stay at home in Austin, but music is also part of me," Ms. Colvin told the Los Angeles Times. "When I couldn't write for a while, I wasn't always happy about that. There were times when I was depressed. I loved my baby, but I also missed my music. Now, I've got them both again."

Tickets to the Shawn Colvin concert are $30. For tickets, call (203) 254-4010 or toll free, 1-877-ARTS-396 or visit the website, www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 10, 2002

Vol. 35, No. 21