Three-time Grammy award winner Shawn Colvin, the singer-songwriter who found chart-topping success with the single “Sunny Came Home” off of the platinum-selling album A Few Small Repairs, released the latest installment in her nearly 25-year recording career with the album All Fall Down. The record, her eighth studio album since her Grammy-winning debut Steady On in 1989, came out this month in conjunction with her memoir, Diamond in the Rough.
After decades of songwriting, she’s no stranger to putting her words, rooted in her personal and sometimes painful experiences, out into the world. But when comparing the latest album to the book, she says there’s no question in her mind that writing the latter posed the greater challenge.
“It’s just so much material, so many choices to make,” Colvin said. “It’s such a larger volume of work, whereas songs are much more brief; you’re kind of anchored by rhythm and rhyme scheme and melody.”
Writing a book wasn’t something she had planned to do. In fact, she hesitated to embark upon the project at the suggestion.
“I thought it was probably not a great idea, just because I didn’t feel equipped to do it,” Colvin said. “Those who suggested I do it said, ‘well, you have a story to tell.’ I said, ‘we all have a story to tell, so why should mine be any more or less interesting?'”
She wrote a few chapters, almost as an experiment. Could she grasp the craft? Could she find a voice? She found her answers and enjoyed the process, and so the songwriter became an author, poring over journals and photographs, talking to those close to her, distilling her life’s experiences into outlines, and finding her story to tell.
The book tells the tale of a young girl from small-town South Dakota who came to realize her musical dreams. Fans familiar with Colvin’s work will get to look behind the music and see what it’s like for her to record and write the songs they know and “all of the dues paying that came before,” Colvin said. But beyond that, she says, is a story about a person who has faced trials in her life, struggles that people can relate to. She doesn’t shy away from discussing alcoholism, depression, anorexia, and love life troubles, but “there’s a good dose of humor in there,” she said, “and I think it’s enjoyable. I think it’s an enjoyable book.”
The title of the book shares a name with one of Colvin’s first songs.
“That song in particular was a real turning point for me in terms of feeling like I could really be a songwriter,” Colvin said. “It just really talked about coming of age, and coming into myself, and it seemed appropriate for that to be the title of the book as well,” Colvin said.
Wrapped up in her decision, too, was a photograph, a picture that would become the memoir’s cover. It shows a young Colvin – before the awards, the records, the hits, the music videos, the international tours – standing before a swing set, covered in mud. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek way, she says with a laugh, to show the diamond in the rough.
• Shawn Colvin will play The Birchmere July 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $49.50. For more information about Shawn Colvin, visit shawncolvin.com.