Shawn Colvin: Her “Folk n ‘Roll” Universe

Shawn Colvin

Born in Vermillion, South Dakota, Shawn Colvin is an A-list artist. Discovering the guitar at the age of 10, she performed for the first time on stage five years later on the campus of the University of Illinois. Her influences are deeply rooted in country music. The musical identity of the young performer gradually formed when she was touring in Texas where she played in a Western swing band. Eventually, she moved to New York where she met someone who would prove to be very important for her future career, producer John Leventhal.

Signed to Columbia Records for Steady On, her first album was released in 1989 and was a great success, winning a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1991. Later, Fat City was released in 1992, then an album of covers in 1994 called Cover Girl, and later a live album in 1995, called Live ’88.

But it was in 1996 when her true musical identity was displayed in the release of A Few Small Repairs. Most notably, her hit single “Sunny Came Home” stayed on the charts in the top 10 for several weeks. In 1998, the guitarist and singer won two Grammy Awards: one for Song of the Year and one for Album of the Year. From the very first notes of this title, it is impossible to overlook the catchy guitar riffs and lively melody, which contrast with a relatively somber music video. In concert, she affectionately calls the song her “murder ballad” and audiences rave to hear this song about sweet vengeance when Sunny comes home to right some of the wrongs in her childhood town.

A change of label (Nonesuch Records) did not mean a change of style in 2006 for Colvin. On the albumThese Four Walls, she collaborates with recording artists Patti Griffin and Teddy Thompson. The titles “Cinnamon Road” and “Let It Slide”, to name a few, are in perfect harmony with a refined, but very effective, folk style. You can feel the artist’s deep passion for music in the way her every song conveys chills and emotion, while demonstrating a perfect mastery of the instruments.

On her most recent release (All Fall Down, June 2012), Shawn Colvin invites us to enter her universe colored with melancholy and hope, which is reflected in the touching song “Up On That Hill.” This song reveals intimate songwriting, allowing Colvin to unveil even more personal experiences to her audience. All 11 tracks on the album have this special touch, driven by her calm and mesmerizing voice. Like an open book, she describes her profound feelings and we have the privilege of listening.

Balmy days are coming and if you do not already know Shawn Colvin, it is time to discover this amazing artist who will certainly become the soundtrack of your summer. To hear more:

Matthieu Saint-Wril
Sciences Po Aix en Provence, Intern BSP

A Musical Evening Full of Emotion


The North Coast Repertory Theatre was undeniably the place to be last night, for the « Four Songs, Four Musicians Evening », produced by Bionic Sisters Productions in collaboration with NCRT. The evening was held in support of the Arts for Healing Program at Sharp McDonald Center, which treats addiction and alcoholism, a family disease. This special program was described by Liz MacKenzie who welcomed questions at a display about the Center and program after the show. Each performance was introduced by co-emcees BSP President Bridget Brigitte and Theatre Producer Tracy McDowell.

Far from contenting themselves with playing for a very enthusiastic public, the four performing artists played their pieces energetically and swamped the cozy space of the Solana Beach theater with sensitivity and emotion.

Beginning with a precise soundcheck, the tone was set: Studio West’s team from the TRAC Recording Arts Center was on site under the direction of Mark Kirchner for the occasion and offered sound mixing worthy of the biggest concerts. The special intimate acoustics of the room brought out the best sounds of the instruments including a baby grand piano, various guitars, and an ancient Chinese Gu Zheng; the atmosphere captivated the audience. Professionalism prevailed, and the rehearsals for each musician occurred without a hitch.

It was 7:30 pm when the theater opened its doors, and the public was on time. The evening began with Mira Parfitt, an acoustic songstress who mixes folk and pop. She brought us into her acoustic universe with a lively beat and very personal lyrics. The natural shyness of the young artist strengthened the charm of her songs, and last night she easily won over the public’s heart.

Then Jing Jing Evans took over to bring us on a musical trip abroad as part of the sensory experience of listening to music. This Gu Zheng player, also a world champion martial arts instructor and Women’s International Center Living Legacy, introduced an original musical style on a traditional instrument. It was easy to imagine traveling around Asia to remote lands as we were lulled by the notes of each romantic song. Without a doubt, this performance will make people want to discover more of this special style of music.
The following duo brought a rare feeling to the evening. Marshall Hattersley on guitar, accompanied by his father Mark at the piano, delivered a performance that was so touching that members of the audience were in tears, owing to his special mild voice and sensitive songs. Marshall’s mother Barby joined them for the duo’s closing song, which proves that music made in and by a family brings a very rare and moving quality to songwriting.
For the final performance of the evening, the acoustic songstress Christine Parker revealed her rare talents. After the first song, it was impossible to resist her catchy lyrics and very “Californian” guitar sound. The song  « Take Me Home, Country Roads » by John Denver was sung in unison by the audience and left no doubt about her singular talent. She played an encore song that thrilled the audience.
The evening ended with a reception where people could indulge in delicious brownies and 7 layer bars made by health and sustainability conscious Jimbo’s. Since the show happened just two days before Thanksgiving, audience members generously brought donations for a food drive in support of the San Diego Food Bank.
This concert at North Coast Repertory Theatre won everyone’s heart, with the quality of its programming and a warm welcome from the whole BSP and NCRT teams. Most likely one of the best acoustic musical events of the year, hopefully there will be many more to come!
– Matthieu Saint-Wril, Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence
Photos: William Metivet

Why Creating a Personal Artistic Site on Facebook is a Contradiction

Having or owning a personal website is like having a home base and gives someone the ability to promote their work and art.  An artist is able to promote their artistic talents by using the internet to reach many people.  Facebook is a social networking site that connects many people and since the boom of social networking sites, artists have been showcasing their art on these types of third party sites for just that purpose. Doing only this, however, can drastically limit a person’s full potential to promote themselves, since Facebook is in control of the layout of the webpage and is constantly changing its appearance.  The ability of an artist, musician, or creator to incorporate a personalized feel into their product, which creates a sense of artistic uniqueness, is limited when using sites like Facebook. Even though Facebook is good for networking and getting your art seen by a large number of people, it should only be used for what it is intended, because using it to showcase an artist’s work will ultimately control the artist, because the webpage will be limited to the Facebook interface.

Design control can be a huge issue to an artist.  When someone uses Facebook for any kind of promotion, the control over their site is extremely limited.  When Facebook undergoes a major profile overhaul, for example, the user is left with changes that they cannot do anything about.  When an artist has their own personal website, they can showcase their work and choose exactly what they want their viewers to focus on, without having to worry about changes out of their control.  Artists that create their own personal websites can create a personalized, sleek design which can fit their own unique artwork and showcase their full potential.  Having one’s own website can also allow for the ability to have a personal connection with one’s enthusiasts.  When enthusiasts connect with the artist from their personal website, either through buying music or subscribing to a blog or newsletter, a valuable fan base is created.  This will remain even when everyone abandons Facebook for the next latest online fad.  Social websites are also filled with advertisements and distractions. Users tend to want to click ads for games or smart phones that are often on Facebook profile sites. People often will absorb only 15% of the information posted on an individual’s Facebook profile before clicking away. When people have their own dedicated site, they do not have to worry about distractions. Lastly, owning your own Dot Com gives the impression of legitimacy to the public. People feel comfortable when they are able to visit a website that has the artist name on it.  It can also be used as a site that “Facebook Friends/Fans” are re-directed to if they really want to see what you can do.  This gives an artist or musician the freedom to interact with visitors on his or her own terms.  This could potentially create a more intimate relationship with clients, viewers or potential employers because they feel that they have discovered the artist through his or her legitimate website and not amongst the millions of Facebook users.
Everyone seems to visit Facebook.  Recent statistics state that in 2012 Facebook has racked up an astounding 900 million users!  This isn’t just an impressive number; it also shows how many people have created connections with each other around the world.  However, a lot of artists who have been trying to reach out to the online world have started using their Facebook site instead of a real hosted website to promote their work.  Facebook is certainly great to network and create social connections or a “Like” fan base, which could potentially lead to jobs, but there are certain essential artistic benefits that an artist would be losing if they went solely this direction, rather than having their own dedicated site.
-Blake Hixson, Web Designer,
By Bionic Sisters Productions Posted in Articles

What do I think makes a successful Website?

Being a web designer is like being an artist in a digital universe. The web pages you create are your art and since millions of people go on the internet, your art reaches more people than ever. People are constantly being exposed to creative ideas and the art of web design via the World Wide Web.  The artistic layout displayed in the design of a website is going to play a large role in how often a site is used.  There is a difference between designing a poster and a designing a website.  All design has certain rules such as Gestalt (hierarchy of text), size contrast and activating edges.  These rules however are not set in stone and may be broken.  Web design is flexible and can use these artistic rules as well, but most, if not all, websites have one factor that sets them apart from standard design: interactivity.

Interactivity involves the actions or input of a user.  This must be taken into consideration when artistically designing a web page layout. A user has to click on whichever link is of interest to the user and whichever page comes up next is a direct result of the user’s orders.  So a designer needs to create a page that is attractive enough to the user to create a desire to interface with it. A website with interaction is like a store using attractive offers and displays.  The store next to it, which is selling the same items but doesn’t have these artistic displays, may receive less business.

Websites have changed drastically from the early 1990’s until now. Websites used to be less visually appealing.  They used to have plain centered pictures and text. Most websites had a mundane feel to them mainly due to the technology used at the time for development.  Today, we have many different programs that we use to create a web-page with a sophisticated feel.  This sophistication can eventually lead to showcase a company or business and often companies consider their websites as online business cards.  While attempting to create better websites that are appealing to people, as a web designer myself, I have noticed how certain websites are being showcased for certain types of companies or groups.  Sometimes there is a pristine clear, white, simple page for a corporate business, or a colorful animated picture heavy page for non-profits or kids.  When someone is browsing through a magazine and they see a page that stands out, that person will usually view that page for about 1-3 seconds before they turn to the next one.  With a web-page, according to Canadian Researchers, it can take only 50 milliseconds (1/20th of a second) to judge a webpage.  Within the blink of an eye, someone browsing the web can judge a site’s “visual appeal.”  There are a few more dynamics that come into play, such as asking oneself: Is it text heavy?  Is the content relevant to what I am searching for?  Most people do not want to spend a long time searching though a page to find what they are looking for.  A successful website should be user friendly and get the information to the user as quickly as possible.   Many people look for sleek menu bars and simple, yet interesting content space.  When designing a website, these are the concepts I use to create my layouts.

When I was younger, I started a video-game clan with a bunch of my friends and thought that it would be fun to create a website for our group.  I wanted to have a website of my own that I owned and maintained for my clan, because I was curious how web designing worked. I taught myself how to create something on the web and found it to be an amazing and relatively simple way to creatively connect with others and bring people from all over the world together who have similar interests and views.  It connected me virtually with people that I had never met before and we were able to share new experiences and ideas, despite living in areas far from one another.  To get these new online acquaintances to choose my site over others, I had to make the best and informed choices in artistic layout. When it comes to building an effective website, design is everything.

-Blake Hixson, Web Designer,

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