The Birmingham Sessions: Shelly Colvin

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — A sweet little dog skitters down the walkway, ready to welcome a visitor, bark a greeting and, well, lick your face off.

Emmylou (a Yorkipoo) makes friends easily. So does her owner, singer-songwriter Shelly Colvin.

It’s a Sunday afternoon in Birmingham, the day after the Cask & Drum festival in Southside. Colvin — a Huntsville native and one of 11 artists who performed at the Oct. 12 event — is in town for most of the weekend, staying in a Vestavia Hills hideaway. (It belongs to relatives of her husband, Jeff Colvin, a Nashville music attorney.)

When Shelly Colvin sings, Yorkipoo Emmylou settles down to listen. Lately, she’s been hearing Colvin work on songs for a 2014 record. “I have such a vision for what I want it to sound like,” Colvin says. “It’s a little less production, and more space.”

The home, thoughtfully designed and beautifully furnished, turns out to be the perfect setting for Colvin’s performance in The Birmingham Sessions. Her day job is fashion stylist, after all, for Florence designer Billy Reid at his store in Nashville. She’s also an artist liaison and event coordinator for Reid’s company.

“I get to be super-creative with those events for him,” Colvin says. “I can coordinate a show, how it should look and sound and feel.”

Details matter to Colvin, in every area of her life. This quality shows up in her latest album, 2012’s “Up the Hickory Down the Pine,” with its carefully crafted melodies and evocative lyrics.

“Writing a song is like painting a picture,” Colvin says. “I like abstract lyrics that give you a feeling.”

She describes her music as an eclectic mix, blending rock with folk, country, pop and gospel. With that approach, Colvin pays homage to one of her primary inspirations, Birmingham native Emmylou Harris. (Yorkipoo Emmy is named after her.)

“She’s such a lovely character and soul,” Colvin says of Harris. “I admire her so much. She’s always been such an admirable person, and a shepherd for other artists. Her music is so iconic.”

Colvin hasn’t reached icon status in the music world, but she’s working on it, releasing records as an indie artist and performing as much as she can. At Cask & Drum, Colvin performed a 12:15 p.m. set, then made a guest appearance with Courtney Jaye on “Box Wine.”
Shelly Colvin’s guitar case holds a 1964 Gibson Hummingbird. Stickers on the exterior document some of her travels and shows, friends and inspirations.

Colvin has collaborated with other friends, as well. She’s recorded with The Weeks (“Dear Bo Jackson”), performed with Kevn Kinney and made her presence known on the East Nashville music scene.

“It’s definitely one of the most amazing musical communities I’ve ever been part of,” says, Colvin, who spent several years in California.

“Living in Los Angeles is not as conducive; it’s a big city and so spread out,” she says. “Nashville is a Southern town, and that makes it so inviting. We live in a log cabin in East Nashville, and it’s really cozy. We entertain a lot, and play music and jam. We sit on the porch and sing. It’s a magical place, that part of town.”

Colvin brought some of her own magic to The Birmingham Sessions, playing “Alright Now” on vintage guitar — a 1964 Gibson Hummingbird — and harmonica.

The Birmingham Sessions, an online showcase for local and regional musicians, is produced by The Birmingham News and Videos in the series typically are filmed inside two Airstream trailers at Bottletree, an Avondale concert venue. Occasionally, the series has moved to other sites around town, including Moonlight on the Mountain, the Alys Stephens Center and Sloss Furnaces.