Shawn Colvin

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Shawn Colvin
Shawn Colvin 1995.jpg
Colvin in 1995
Background information
Born (1956-01-10) January 10, 1956 (age 65)
Vermillion, South Dakota, U.S.
Origin Carbondale, Illinois, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1973–present

Shawn Colvin (born Shawna Lee Colvin, January 10, 1956) [1] is an American singer-songwriter and musician. While Colvin has been a solo recording artist for decades, she is best known for her 1998 Grammy Award-winning song "Sunny Came Home".


Early life

Colvin was born Shawna Lee Colvin in Vermillion, South Dakota, and spent her youth in Carbondale, Illinois and London, Ontario, Canada. [2] She is the second of four children. [3] She learned to play guitar at the age of 10 [2] and grew up listening to her father's collection of music, which included artists such as Pete Seeger and the Kingston Trio. [4]


Her first paid gig came just after she started college at Southern Illinois University. With a strip of bars down the main street it wasn't difficult to find a gig. "For $30 I played four 45-minute sets." For the next year she was either playing somewhere or sitting in with someone else and started attracting a local following. Broadening her horizons, Colvin put a band together that featured Dennis Conroy (formerly with the popular Chicago band The Cryan’ Shames), Jack O’Boyle on guitar and Brian Sandstrom on bass. For six months they expanded their base throughout Illinois. But Colvin's personal demons coupled with drug and alcohol use curtailed their success. Her next shot came with the Dixie Diesels, a Carbondale country-swing outfit. They were short a girl singer and she jumped at the opportunity. The band had decided if they were going to make it, Carbondale was not the place and planned to relocate to Austin. This was Colvin's ticket out of that charmless city. [5] She then entered "the folk circuit in and Berkeley", California [6] before straining her vocal cords and taking a sabbatical at the age of 24. [2]

Colvin relocated to New York City, joining the Buddy Miller Band in 1980 [3] and later became involved in the Fast Folk cooperative of Greenwich Village. [7]

While participating in off-Broadway shows such as Pump Boys and Dinettes [2] she was featured in Fast Folk magazine, and in 1987, producer Steve Addabbo hired her to sing backup vocals on the song "Luka" by Suzanne Vega. [2] [6]

After touring with Vega, [6] Colvin signed a recording contract with Columbia Records [2] [6] and released her debut album Steady On in 1989. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. [2] Colvin's second album Fat City was released in 1992 and received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. Her song "I Don't Know Why" was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Female Pop Vocal category. [2] In 1993 she moved back to Austin and in 1994 released the album Cover Girl . [6] In 1995 Colvin released her album Live 88 a collection of live recordings from 1988. [8]

In 1996, Colvin released her album A Few Small Repairs and in 1997 the success of her single "Sunny Came Home" catapulted her into the mainstream after spending four weeks at the number one spot on the Adult Contemporary chart. [2] [9] The song won the 1998 Grammy Awards for both Song and Record of the Year. [2] Colvin released the album Holiday Songs and Lullabies in 1998 [10] and in 2001 released another album called Whole New You. [11] In 2004, she released a compilation of past songs called, Polaroids: A Greatest Hits Collection. [2]

In 2006, Colvin left Columbia Records and released a 15-song album called These Four Walls on her new label, Nonesuch Records, which featured contributions by Patty Griffin and Teddy Thompson. [12] In 2009 she released Live , which was recorded at the jazz club Yoshi's in Oakland, California. [13]

Colvin in November 2015 ShawnColvinNovember20.jpg
Colvin in November 2015

Colvin's eighth studio album, All Fall Down, was released in 2012 and was produced by Buddy Miller at his home studio in Nashville, Tennessee. The album featured guest appearances by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Jakob Dylan. [2] Colvin published her memoir Diamond in the Rough in 2012. [14] In 2016 she recorded an album with Steve Earle called Colvin and Earle. [15] [16] [17] A Few Small Repairs was reissued in 2017, including its first pressing on vinyl, for its 20th anniversary. [18]

Colvin has made vocal contributions to songs by James Taylor, Béla Fleck, Edwin McCain, Shawn Mullins, Elliott Murphy, Bruce Hornsby and collaborated with Sting on the song "One Day She'll Love Me". [2] She recorded as a duet the title track to Curtis Stigers 1995 album "Time Was". Colvin voiced Rachel Jordan, Ned Flanders' love interest after Maude is killed, in the Simpsons episode "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily" on February 13, 2000. [19] and lent her vocals to Mary Chapin Carpenter's 1992 recordings, "The Hard Way" and "Come On Come On". [20]

On October 25, 2019, Colvin was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame.

In 2018 fellow New York based Singer Songwriter Lucy Kaplansky who met Shawn in a NYC Folk club some years back and the two became friends but lost contact over the years released a new album called EVERYDAY STREET and invited Shawn to sing with her on the opening track called "Old Friends" Shawn was happy to do so and called the song "Our Song"

Personal life

Colvin has been married twice, first to Simon Tassano in 1993 [21] whom she divorced in 1995, and to photographer Mario Erwin, whom she married in 1997 and divorced in 2002. She gave birth to daughter Caledonia in July 1998. [22]

Colvin says she has struggled on and off with depression, alcoholism, and anxiety, which she details in her 2012 memoir Diamond in the Rough [23] published by HarperCollins.

Colvin resides in Austin, Texas with her pet cats.

Awards and recognition

Grammy Awards

1991 Steady On Best Contemporary Folk Album Won
1994 "I Don't Know Why" Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
Fat City Best Contemporary Folk AlbumNominated
1995 Cover Girl Nominated
1997 A Few Small Repairs Best Pop Vocal Album Nominated
"Get Out of This House"Best Female Pop Vocal PerformanceNominated
1998 "Sunny Came Home"Nominated
Record of the Year Won
Song of the Year Won
2009 Shawn Colvin LiveBest Contemporary Folk AlbumNominated

Other awards

1997 Billboard Music Video Awards FAN.tastic Video"Sunny Came Home"Nominated
Billboard Music Awards Top Adult Top 40 TrackNominated
1998 APRA Music Awards Most Performed Foreign WorkNominated
MVPA AwardsBest Adult Contemporary VideoWon
1999 ASCAP Pop Music Awards Most Performed SongWon
2001Video Premiere AwardsBest Original Song"Great Big World"Nominated
2016 Americana Music Honors & Awards Americana Trailblazer AwardHerselfWon


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