Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Joan Shelley interview

Joan Shelley is a busy woman starting to make her name in Louisville's ever-fertile music scene. Her first album, By Dawnlight, produced by Danny Kiely and featuring appearances by some of the city's finest session players, is being released, an occasion celebrated by a concert on the Glassworks rooftop, on Friday June 4th, with her friend and collaborator Cheyenne Marie Mize, who is also releasing her first album. She will also perform on Saturday June 12th at Sunergos Coffee.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Louisville, or just outside of it really, on a few acres just east of the city. I gained access to Louisville only first through the ever encroaching suburbs in the east end. And that was dull. It was only until after coming back to town about two years ago that I really started to feel that I was from Louisville.

Is your family musical or artistic?
My dad is an artist and a painter. He has been the greatest source of inspiration and confidence in choosing this path. Besides him, I had a very art/music-loving family that raised me. I have one of the most supportive families of anyone doing what I am trying to do.

What is your musical background / training?
I have been singing forever, in whatever form I could. I started writing songs in elementary school. I've walked around singing into a handheld recorder for most of my 24 years. I was in all kinds of school choirs up until college, when I started playing in bars down in Athens, Georgia. I picked up instruments along the way to support my songwriting. I would say that the most intense learning has happened in the past year and a half, in recording this album with Danny Kiely and playing with Maiden Radio and several other great musicians around town.

Who are your musical favorites/inspirations?
I have to say that Gillian Welch and Jolie Holland were the biggest game-changers for me. They turned me on to old-time music and a kind of vocal delivery that has hung in my head like smoke since the day I first heard them. Along with them, I think Bonnie Raitt, Neko Case, J.J. Cale, Betty Davis, Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt have been significant influences on me and on how I thought music ought to be done. And Paul Simon can write a song. I’ve always wanted to be able to do it like he does.

What bands/projects are you currently involved with? How did you get involved with them?
I currently have my solo project, Maiden Radio, and a very new thing with Joe Manning. It’s a pretty exciting time. Maiden Radio happened last fall when I met Cheyenne Mize through some mutual musician friends. We were all playing and singing around a campfire when Cheyenne and I realized that we had a really good sound going. She knew another great vocalist and player, Julia Purcell, and we’ve been having a great time playing together ever since. Then I met Joe Manning just a few months ago and started playing with him to see what would happen. It was another easy fit, and, as rare as those can be, we plan to make something good come out of it.

What do you hope to achieve with music?
There's a long answer to this. But for now... I just want to write some good tunes and one day, a really great song that melts everybody's hearts. Is that too much to ask?

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