South by Southwest: Meet Shelby Earl, the singer you need to know

Most South by Southwest coverage is hype and fluff. We're going to to tell you about your next favorite artists VIDEO

Topics: Video, Music, Shelby Earl, amazon, South by Southwest, ,

South by Southwest: Meet Shelby Earl, the singer you need to knowShelby Earl

The big names performing at this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, include Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Jay Z and Coldplay — not exactly scrappy upstarts looking to break through. But even as well-established acts siphon off some of the buzz SXSW generates (Prince and Justin Timberlake played last year, and Bruce Springsteen performed the year before that), there’s no shortage of opportunities to discover new artists.

Take Shelby Earl, for example.

Since quitting a corporate gig at Amazon a few years ago to make music full time, the Seattle singer and songwriter has released a pair of albums, including last year’s excellent “Swift Arrows.” They’re pop albums, in the sense that Earl has a way with melodies that have a classic feel, but there’s nothing bubblegum about her. She writes songs for grown-ups, sifting elegantly and with a certain bemusement through the life lessons that start to pile up after a while: broken hearts, unfortunate decisions and, in Earl’s case, an irrepressible determination to keep going and do better this time. Her songs are often pensive, or pointed — try “The Seer” from “Swift Arrows” — but they’re never bitter, or even particularly regretful, and she sings them in a rich, throaty voice that can be devastating.



In fact, Earl is an optimist at heart, and it showed onstage Tuesday night when she played in the opening time slot for this year’s SXSW. Strumming an acoustic guitar and backed by a drummer and a cellist, she was a beatific presence during her 35-minute set, parsing the music industry on the allegorical “Sea of Glass” (“let it hurt, just make it last,” she sang over a vintage Spector-style girl-group beat) and picking out a gentle guitar part that circled around her wistful vocals on “Everyone Belongs to Someone,” from her 2011 album “Burn the Boats.”

Through it all, Earl projected a serenity that is clearly genuine: She knows she’s meant to be up there on that stage, singing those songs, and her certainty at having found her calling is balanced by a sense of wonderment at what it turned out to be. Make it last, indeed.

)

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...