Shawn Colvin on paying dues "like the Beatles in Hamburg" and writing revenge in "Sunny Came Home"

The singer/songwriter opens up about her Beatles influences for this "Everything Fab Four" interview

Published October 1, 2022 10:59AM (EDT)

Shawn Colvin (Alexandra Valenti)
Shawn Colvin (Alexandra Valenti)

Grammy award-winner Shawn Colvin joined host Kenneth Womack to talk about falling in love with the Beatles and breaking into the music business on the latest episode of "Everything Fab Four," a podcast co-produced by me and Womack (a music scholar who also writes about pop music for Salon) and distributed by Salon.

Colvin, the singer-songwriter most widely known for her number-one '90s hit "Sunny Came Home," says she grew up on "church music" and the artists her father listened to, such as the Kingston Trio and Pete Seeger. But the first record she bought with her own money was "Meet the Beatles" when she was just eight years old, after having seen the band on "The Ed Sullivan Show" ("I'm sure no one's ever mentioned that before," she jokes to Womack), and she was hooked.

"Of course they were adorable, but I'd seen adorable bands before and since," Colvin says, but the Beatles were "so tight, so special, so soulful, so full of joie de vivre. The energy and confidence and playfulness and musicianship they had – it was just beyond anything I'd ever seen."

Colvin channeled that energy into her own music, learning to play everything she could on guitar as a teen, and spending years "paying her dues" in clubs and dive bars to make it ("like the Beatles did in Hamburg"), never wanting to do anything else for a career. She says if there's any advice she can give to aspiring musicians, it's this: "Get out there and play. And just keep playing until you get good."


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In addition to the Beatles, Colvin is also heavily influenced by the late '60s folk music scene and artists. As for her biggest hit, the "revenge" song "Sunny Came Home," she says it was a departure from her usual songwriting in that it was a fictional story inspired by a piece of art — a process the Beatles also sometimes employed in their writing.

Having memorably covered "I'll Be Back" — which she wrote about for the "Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs" collection — and, with Steve Earle, "Baby's in Black," and having made the "Magical Mystery Tour" trek to Liverpool, Colvin continues to be amazed by the Beatles. "The four of them coming together is religion to me. It's just a miracle. What they produced is once in a lifetime … and maybe even rarer than that."

Listen to the entire conversation with Shawn Colvin on "Everything Fab Four" and subscribe via SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle, or wherever you're listening.

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Host Kenneth Womack is the author of a two-volume biography on Beatles producer George Martin and the bestselling books "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles" and "John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life." His newest project is the authorized biography and archives of Beatles road manager Mal Evans, due out in 2023.

By Nicole Michael

MORE FROM Nicole Michael

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Audio Everything Fab Four Interview Music Podcast Shawn Colvin The Beatles