Shelby Lynne Moorer was born in Quantico, Virginia. Her family relocated to Mobile, Alabama, where the future singer spent her childhood learning to sing and play the guitar. Her life in Mobile was shattered by tragedy in 1986 when her father murdered her mother in the driveway of their home and then killed himself. Lynne and her younger sister, Allison, were orphaned and sent to live with relatives. It's a tragedy that nobody can forget - a fact that Lynne laments.
"Well, you don't spend a 25-year career talking about it or allowing anybody else to, 'cause the press is gonna do that anyway. The press loves that stuff. They gobble it up. So I've spent 23 years going, 'I'm not gonna discuss that,'" she told the Saratogian
She won't discuss it, but she will sing about it. In her 2011 album, Revelation Road
, she finally unleashed the demons. "Heaven's Only Days Down the Road
" explores her father's mind on the days leading up to the tragedy. "That song told me it was time to write it. I've made peace with my father. I don't have any bad feelings towards my past. I have glorious feelings when I sing these songs. I feel proud that I've written them," Lynne told Riverfront Times
When Shelby Lynne first came to Nashville as a teenager, she didn't have stars in her eyes. She had daggers. Lynne says that industry folks tried to package her into "something to sell." She in vociferous in her distaste for the marketing aspect of her job, and when we spoke with Shelby
in 2012, she said, "The industry gets on my nerves. And anybody who creates music or creates anything, the industry gets on your nerves. That's why art and business don't mix. Unfortunately you have to have business to get your art out there, but it certainly is not very creative."
Lynne likes to joke that she "grew up on album covers." When she looks back on her 1989 debut album, the country-flavored Sunrise, she sees a child looking back at her. "An eighteen year old child. A woman child," she said.
Indeed, Lynne looks pensive under a mop of tangled curls on her album cover, standing on the beach with one hand awkwardly touching her chin, the other jammed into the pocket of her tasseled jacket. But she wasn't naïve. "When you're in the record business as a female certain times people want things from you as far as an image, and you may not even know what that is. So when you're young and in a business, the business wants to tie you down into one thing so they can make money," she explained.
After years working with major labels, she was fed up with her lack of creative control and tried her luck with smaller labels like Morgan Creek and Lost Highway. In 2010, she started Everso Records. "I plan on taking advantage of my freedom and working hard and putting out a lot of records," she said.
She made good on that promise by releasing two albums that same year: Tears, Lies and Alibis and Merry Christmas. Revelation Road came in 2011.
When Shelby Lynne finally took total control of her career and started her own record label in 2010, she knew she needed a creative name. In a Blogcritics interview, she explained the origin of the Everso Records moniker: "My partner and I decided he wanted something that was kind of classic and wouldn't change. It's all about standing the test of time – based on an old saying from back in the '50s. In a lot of the old '50s movies, the ladies would say stuff like that, you know, when they were in the bathroom, putting on their lipstick and powdering their nose, and they would say, "Oh, this is ever so." It's like an old, old saying."
Shelby Lynne usually takes one companion with her when she goes onstage: her guitar. Although she's dabbled with other instruments from time to time, she admits to Blogcritics that she's a guitar player through-and-through: "Well, I learned to play guitar because Elvis played guitar and my daddy played guitar, and there was always a guitar around the house. But I started playing when I was about seven. I just think, for me, I wish I could play the piano but I never really was comfortable with the eighty-eight keys. It wasn't my thing. I'm more of a guitar player. I like swinging an axe pretty good," she said.
It was a struggle for Shelby Lynne to ease back into her own songwriting after covering Dusty Springfield's songs for her Just a Little Lovin' tribute album (2008). She explained the difference between covering somebody else's work and singing your own to Blogcritics: "The last record was a big, big, big, big joy. It was wonderful. I enjoyed making it. It was doing cover songs so it was really a no-brainer. You just go in and you interpret this incredible song. When you're doing your own thing it's harder because you're throwing music out there to the world that nobody's heard before, so there's a comfort level that doesn't exist. You don't know how people are going to react to my song about Airstream campers. They already know 'You Don't Have to Say You Love Me' by Dusty. So, you know, it's all about taste. I mean, I wasn't familiar with Dusty Springfield until, you know, late '90s or something like that. I'd heard of her, and the 'Son of a Preacher Man,' and all that stuff. But I really got to dig it, after that, and I started enjoying her voice, realizing that she had, pretty much, her life cut short, and still was singing pretty good."
After over two decades in the music business, not many would argue that Shelby Lynne deserved a Grammy Award after the release of her acclaimed I Am Shelby Lynne and Love, Shelby albums, but more than a few eyebrows were raised when she actually won in 2001. The reason? She was named Best New Artist. "Thirteen years and six albums to get here," Lynne said as she accepted the award.
Still, she can understand why I Am Shelby Lynne in particular brought her into the spotlight. She feels it was the first album to truly represent her as a songwriter.
Shelby Lynne can appreciate technology; she's traded jotting ideas on napkins to typing them on her iphone, but don't expect her to embrace social media any time soon. She steadfastly refuses to use Facebook and Twitter to further her career, as she's happy to share her music, but not her everyday life.
Shelby Lynne was just nineteen years-old when she scored her first record deal in 1987. After decades in the business, she could teach American Idol contestants a thing or two about making music. Her first piece of advice? Don't go on American Idol. She explained her dislike for the reality show to The Huffington Post in 2010: "It's not about any talent. I tell you what, when I was a kid, I would have done anything in my power to get on American Idol, if it had existed. But you know, now that I'm a 42-year-old woman, I'm going, "My God, if you want to find good music, you really, really either have to know where to look or you just stumble on it. You have to really, really search and search and dig to find it because we're so bombarded with American Idol-level mediocrity that we've forgotten what it's about. It's about being 75-years-old and still being able to look at your catalog of work and go, "You know what? There's not a bad apple in the bunch!" I want to be that 75-year-old woman, still singing, still making records and going, "You know, I ain't done that bad." At least I can sleep at night, put my head on the pillow and go, "I never sold out."