Shawn Colvin wears the crown of hero humbly

Jul 30, 2012

In her memoir “Diamond in the Rough,” Shawn Colvin takes a deep breath, then rattles off a list of heroes that she has been lucky enough to meet during the course of an almost 40-year career.

Time is an odd thing, however. Colvin now finds herself being referred to as a hero by younger fans and musicians. A recent visit to the “Today Show” shocked new co-host Savannah Guthrie, who gushed over her love for Colvin as a musician.

“It is gratifying,” says Colvin, who will play a solo acoustic show at the 20th Century Wednesday night. “... My fans tell me in person or ‘like’ me on Facebook and (talk) about my music being the soundtrack to something personal in their life, or their parents played my music all the time.

“It’s sinking in, you know, that I am to some people what my heroes have been to me. And that’s amazing.”

One of the amazing things about Colvin’s journey is the number of times it almost came to a dead stop. After a childhood in South Dakota and Illinois, Colvin played the role of itinerant musician perfectly. She lived and played in many of the nation’s hotspots – New York, Los Angeles, Boston, the Bay Area, Austin, Texas. But along the way, she became an alcoholic, battled depression and searched for love in all the wrong places.

“Diamond in the Rough” is the tale of a survivor who has reached one of the best times in her life as her responsibilities have multiplied. She is the single mother of Callie, 14; she has aging parents; she is touring with her new album, “All Fall Down,” and talking about her book to many interviewers. 

“The story is ultimately helpful,” says Colvin, who is sometimes frighteningly frank in her descriptions. “That’s part of what I have to offer by being honest about that stuff. It’s other people’s willingness to be honest about their story, that was the inspiration that has given me a lot of hope.

“I truly have nothing to hide ... Pretty much (laughing). Well, maybe there’s a couple of things.”

Most parents of Colvin’s generation eventually have to make a decision about how much of their past to tell their children. Not even celebrities get a pass from that task.

“I told (Callie) that I don’t want her to (read the book) yet, and she seems to have respected that,” Colvin says. “But she’s not unaware of some of the things that I’ve bumped into. It’s just the language and some of the romantic stuff may be a little too bawdy.

“But as far as the depression and alcohol and drugs, she know about that stuff. Genetically she’s at risk, so we talk about it. I want her to know what it looks like. That’s the best I can offer her right now. Should she run into any problems, we talk and I can help.”

Colvin writes about walking through the fields outside of Vermillion, S.D., as a child, wearing her Beatle boots and wishing she was a member of the Fab Four. Imagine how different her daughter’s life is than her own. 

“She likes it when there are perks for her,” Colvin laughs. “I sat in with Taylor Swift a few months back in Austin. That was a perk; she got to go to the show, get a great seat, even meet Taylor. So I’m cool when that happened; otherwise not too cool.”

In telling that story, Colvin leaves out the part where Swift stops the duet on “Sunny Came Home” to profess her lifelong admiration. Time goes on, the hero worshipper becomes the hero to others.

But with so many responsibilities to juggle these days, where does music stand on the list of priorities?

“I don’t feel an obligation to do a record, I don’t make a record unless it’s the right time, for better or worse,” Colvin says. “My daughter is at the top of that (priority) list. We’re all creative, whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or you do what I do.

“Luckily enough, I’m fine with the things that I have to do. It’s always a relief to get back home (from touring), but it’s always good to get back out again.”

So check the fields outside of small towns in the Midwest. Somewhere there’s a youngster singing “Sunny” or “All Fall Down” or “Diamond in the Rough,” hoping to be the next Shawn Colvin.

Shawn Colvin with John Fulbright, 8 p.m. Wednesday, 20th Century, 3021 Madison Road, Oakley. $40 (orchestra), $35 (main floor), $25 (balcony).;; 513-731-8000.

Email Bill Thompson