For a solo artist, singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin has done a surprising amount of collaborative work throughout her career. The musical luminaries she’s worked include Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, James Taylor and Sting.
“I think I was meant to be in a group, but this is just the way it ended up,” she said.
On Saturday, the “Sunny Came Home” singer will share the spotlight once again when she kicks off a new tour at Tacoma’s Urban Grace Church with country-rocker Steve Earle. Colvin has been a longtime admirer of Earle’s. “He’s a really friendly and easy person to be around, and every time I’ve seen him it’s been really congenial.”
The two have been acquainted for well over 20 years and have run across one another on a number of occasions. “I used to play a club in Northampton (Massachusetts) called the Iron Horse and he was there,” said Colvin. “I opened for him and afterwards I went down to the dressing room to meet him, and I did, but it was very brief. That must have been in the late ’80s or very early ’90s.”
The choice of Saturday’s venue might be unusual for Colvin, but as the church’s director of events Adam Ydstie pointed out, Urban Grace was built for this sort of thing. “The way that they designed our building back in 1925 is interesting in that the city gave a permit to the architects and to the builders with the caveat that they would design the building so that it could function as something other than a church,” Ydstie said. “The church is really committed to creating a place that fosters the arts.”
The genesis of the new tour can be traced back to a very different collaboration of Colvin’s last year. “I did a duo tour last year for a good amount of time with Mary Chapin Carpenter,” Colvin said. “It was a great change to be an accompanist and work off someone just have a partner.
“When we finished, I thought, ‘I’d like to do this again at some point,’ and thought about different people I’d like to do it with, and Steve was at the top of the list. We asked him and fortunately he said that he’d like to do it.”
So what does an Earle/Colvin show look like? “Well, we don’t just say, ‘OK, your turn; OK, now your turn.’ We talk about where the song came from. We might tell a story that is connected to the song that might reveal something personal about us. Neither of us are particularly shy, and we don’t mind talking about our lives.”
While Colvin continues to pilot her own career and work on new material — “I’m currently writing and talking to different producers.” — she remains committed in reaching out to others to keep things fresh.
“I just love the input of someone else that’s talented and does what I do,” she said. “It broadens you and opens you up to new ideas. I just love to sing and play with people.”