by Emily J Weitz
Shelby Lynne is a name that raises eyebrows. Born in Alabama and raised in a musical household, the 39-year-old Grammy Award Winner has been known in the country music scene for decades. But Lynne is not one to be pigeon-holed, and she worked hard for a long time to break out of Nashville and onto the radar of a wider audience. Next week she’ll bring her eclectic, soulful sound to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.
“This is her second visit with us,” says Clare Bisceglia, Executive Director of WHBPAC. “She is spectacular. I am a true, unabashed fan.”
Lynne always knew she wanted to be in the music business.
“I think the most important thing,” she said in a phone interview last week, “is you just grow up with it. I grew up in the record business. I was 18 when my career started, but I had been pretty much planning on a record career my whole life.”
When she first debuted her music in Nashville, she was welcomed with open arms and, in 1991, she received the award for Top New Female Vocalist from the Academy of Country Music.
“I like a lot of different music, though,” Lynne said. “I like rock and roll, Otis Redding, Miles Davis, and I incorporate them all into what I do.”
She moved to Los Angeles and sought out a record producer who would help her reach a more diverse audience. In 1999, “I Am Shelby Lynne” came out under producer Bill Bottrell.
“That album came from the most vulnerable, desperate place,” Lynne said in an interview with the New York Times. “I think about it every day.”
The album got the attention of the musical world and garnered her a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2000, a bit of a surprise since she had already been in the business for so many years.
One of the characteristics of Lynne’s music that fans value most is her ability to tell a tale.
“She is a world class story teller,” says Bisceglia. On her newest album, Bisceglia says, “Each cut has a personality and a distinct story to tell. She speaks to my heart.”
Lynne writes all her own lyrics, as well as the music. She doesn’t have a particular method for it. She can never predict which will come first.
“There’s really no rhyme or reason,” she explains. “You just have to let it be a natural thing, and that’s what I do. I might write the lyrics first or I might write the music first. Sometimes it takes quite a while for a song to come together.”
Lynne was hesitant to break down the deeper meaning, or the personal aspect of some her songs. Instead, she likes to leave that interpretation to the listener.
“I like to write a song and let the listener decide how it fits into their lives,” says Lynne. “Some things stick out in a person’s mind, and I leave it up to them to decide.”
As hard as Lynne has worked to carve out her place in the musical landscape, she still believes there is only one reason to play.
“There’s no other reason to do it than for the love of it,” she says. “I’ve been playing the guitar since I was seven years old. I gravitate towards it.”
A show with Shelby Lynne will, like the performer herself, incorporate a range of influences and draw on a spectrum of emotions.
“I’ll be playing my guitar for two hours. It’s real intimate,” she says, “almost like going on a date. I just play my songs, and that’s about it.”
According to fans like Bisceglia, that will be more than enough.
Shelby Lynne will perform at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 31 at 8 p.m. For details, go to www.whbpac.com or call 288-1500 for tickets.