This Kitten's got pop/new wave/indie claws. Chloe Chaidez was 11 when she was onstage with Conor Oberst and Midlake, 13 when she decided to move on from Wild Youth to start the band Kitten, and 15 when her impressive debut EP Sunday School was released. The EP was mixed by Gavin Mackillop (PIL, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Church), and Kitten was recently hailed as "The Best New Discovery of SXSW" by SPIN.com.
Check out Kitten's Sunday School streams...
Viva Elvis, and here's why...
A Conversation with Shelby Lynne
Mike Ragogna: Hi, Shelby.
Shelby Lynne: Hey.
MR: Thank you for visiting solar-powered KRUU-FM here in the Midwest.
SL: That's pretty cool. Congratulations on a cool station!
MR: Shelby, you have a new album called Merry Christmas.
SL: Well, I did that in June, so it's that old story about if you want to have a Christmas record out, you have to do it in June, and it's true, it really is true. I did that, been touring a lot, I'm starting to write songs again for some new things, and I'm very excited about a project I'm going to do with my sister Allison Moorer, possibly next year. She and I are going to go out this year and do some tour dates.
MR: That's beautiful. Have you ever done that before?
SL: No, we haven't. We've been putting it off for years until the right time, but we feel like the time is lining up for us now, so we're excited about doing that.
MR: You debuted your tour in San Francisco, at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, very nice. Did you and your sister make music together when you were younger?
SL: Well, we always sang. It was a natural thing for us to just sing. My sister, mother and I would travel to school in the car and just sing. We either didn't have a radio that worked or we just enjoyed singing, and it passed time, so that's where we really honed our harmony talents and learned parts. It wasn't just a decided factor that, "Oh, maybe we want to sing." We were lucky in having the ability to do it, and it was just natural for us to do so. So having it be a grown-up fantasy come true, and to be able to sing professionally is a dream come true for us. Also, we get to be together now, so it's great.
MR: Nice. Kind of like Heart.
MR: Just to clear things up, did you grow up in Virginia?
SL: No, I grew up in Alabama, but I was born in Virginia, on the Marine base there.
MR: Okay, what was childhood like as far as music goes? What got you into it?
SL: Well, it wasn't really specific artists, it was just the music. There was always a guitar lying around, and like I said, it wasn't getting into it, it was just what we did. It's hard to explain it, but we just oozed music. I was a terrible student because all I thought about was music, so I've pretty much spent my entire life with a song in my head.
MR: I think you had about five albums before what might be called your "landmark" album, I Am Shelby Lynne, right?
SL: Yeah, I had five albums in Nashville that I put out, and they did alright. But I never had a big record by any means. I just pretty much made records from the time I was eighteen on, and I'm still making them. I'm glad to still be at it and working here, it just feels good.
MR: How did you get "discovered?"
SL: You know, out of determination--just sheer determination. I feel like I spent my whole life trying to get to Nashville and get somebody to hear me. There used to be a Nashville television network that is long since passed with a program called Nashville Now, and through many hands and a cassette tape, I wound up on there and got offered a record deal. That was back in the day when you could still do that and everybody still wanted a record deal. That was a totally different time, twenty years ago. It's amazing how different things are.
MR: You won a Grammy in association with the I Am Shelby Lynne album, right?
SL: I did. I won for Best New Artist in '00 even though I'd been around for thirteen years before that. I'm still glad to have the Grammy, and I hope to one day get her a partner.
MR: (laughs) Maybe it will happen with Merry Christmas.
MR: I'm always amazed when I look at artists' histories and see some of the cool things they've done. You, for instance, were on the Forever Cool album with Dean Martin, singing on the song "You're Nobody Until Somebody Loves You."
SL: That's right.
MR: I remember music man Rob Christie was involved with that one. You recorded your track in Capitol studios, right?
SL: Yes, produced by Phil Ramone and recorded by Al Schmit. It was a wonderful opportunity, being a Dean Martin fan. I already knew that song from my childhood, it was the kind of music we grew up on, and I was a big Dean Martin fan anyway. They had it set up, I walked in, put on the headphones, and there's Dean, so I sang my ass off, and that's it. It's a little part of history, and I love that I'm a part of that record.
MR: You also had a song in Bridget Jones's Diary, right?
SL: Yeah, long ago. That was a record label thing. I didn't really have much to do with that, you know? That's just one of those marketing tools.
MR: So, they submitted it to the director, or whatever?
SL: Yeah, music people. There's a whole line of people involved with film that you wouldn't believe, and they have nothing to do with who makes the movie.
MR: Speaking of Phil Ramone, you teamed up with him on the album, Just A Little Lovin', the Dusty Springfield tribute, right?
SL: Yeah, the great Phil Ramone--a wonderful producer and an excellent friend. I felt like it was time to do a cover record. After eighteen years in the business I'd never done a cover record, and at the same time, I got to honor one of the great singers of pop music. So, I killed two birds with one stone, and got Phil Ramone to do it. It was a great five days of recording at Capitol studios, and those are amazing songs. The hardest part was choosing the material.
MR: You sounded like you totally identified with Dusty. Was she one of your favorites?
SL: Not really. I admire Dusty, and I love her voice, as we all do, but I didn't come to know Dusty until really late in my career. The songs, more than anything, and the fact that I got a chance to sing those songs, was the wonderful part.
MR: In the past, we've spoken about Tears, Lies, And Alibis.
SL: Yeah, a great record.
MR: Let's go into that again for just a little bit more. It's had some time to become a fixture, and you've toured to support it. After all this time, do you look at it now and think of changes you would make?
SL: No, I don't look back. It's just like in life--once something is done, why think about it?
MR: You were associated with what was to be a John Lennon tribute back in '01, right?
SL: Yeah, I was. I was asked to perform at what was originally planned to be a John Lennon tribute, but then 9/11 happened, so they kind of turned it into a celebration of New York, which was great. It was a beautiful night.
MR: What song did you sing?
SL: I sang "Mother," which I recorded on an album several years ago. It's one of my favorite Lennon tunes.
MR: In a way, it kind of cements a little connection to John Lennon.
SL: Well, as just a fan. I really appreciate John's honesty, and his integrity as an artist--never compromising who he was, or his thoughts or feelings to sell records. He just said what was on his heart, and to me, that's the most important thing about being a writer--bearing your soul and not holding anything back.
MR: Yeah, those early albums especially seem to be such works of art as opposed to works of commerce.
SL: I think that's the most important thing about music. People know the difference. People know when you're not speaking your heart.
MR: Exactly. Hey, going back to your tour with your sister, are you thinking about recording an album with Allison?
SL: Yes we are. We're just in the thoughts and talking process right now. We are at the very beginning stages of the discussion, but there will definitely be an album in the future.
MR: Very cool. I have a mischievous question for you, which is--brace yourself. I know you read the news because we've had discussions like this in the past, but what's got your eye lately?
SL: Where do you want to begin?
MR: Anywhere you want.
SL: You'll have to be more specific, man. I've got a lot of thoughts about what the world is going through.
MR: What concerns you the most?
SL: I don't know. I think we have a situation where politicians want to get elected, and they don't really care about what the issues are. That's what really weighs on my mind. I love my President, I think he works very hard, and I wish he didn't feel like he didn't have to be on the campaign trail, but still.
MR: Although, my personal opinion is, I wish he had gotten in front of the camera every week, like Bush did, to put a face on what's going on in government. My fear is that people have thought he wasn't doing anything because he wasn't in front of the camera frequently.
SL: Well, I feel the opposite. I feel like if I see him on TV anymore I'm going to go crazy. I don't even know where you get that.
MR: (laughs) Well, it did seem like it amped-up for the campaign season, I'm with you on that.
SL: I feel like I've seen more of Obama on television than any other president I've ever seen, please.
MR: Even more than Bush?
SL: Oh God, yeah.
MR: Well, of course, the other side of the aisle wanting to repeal what they're calling "Obama-care" as soon as they gain power again is scary.
SL: Well, after all that hard work, if they want to focus on repealing something that is very necessary, go ahead. It's another waste of money and another waste of time.
MR: Well put. And with the whole Tea Party thing, I personally have no idea what they want other than no government.
SL: Yeah, well you have to have some government. That's what Medicare is, that's what Social Security is.
MR: And that's what paving your roads is.
SL: That's right. We have to have government. We have to pay taxes and we have to have government.
MR: I suppose if you have to demonize something, you demonize something that doesn't have a face to it, and seems God-awfully big, you know?
SL: Yeah, it can get you bogged down. But the thing is, we all just have to try to accept one another, try to keep our personal beliefs out of it, and let everybody be "to each his own," you know? We live in a world where everybody is so skeptical and scared, and I don't think it's supposed to be that way. That's why I'm so glad to be a musician--I can sing every night, and no matter what church you go to or who you vote for, music truly will bring us together, and that's what I live for.
MR: Very smart. You've had such a wonderful career to this point, is there any advice that you'd like to give to new artists?
SL: No, absolutely not.
MR: (laughs) Okay, do you think they just need to sort of find out on their own?
SL: No, I don't give advice. My path was my path, and their path is their path. All I can do is say, do what you want to do, and don't do what anybody else wants you to do.
MR: Well, that's good advice, right?
SL: Well, you didn't hear it from me.
MR: It's always so nice to talk to you, Shelby. Thank you so much for joining us here for The Huffington Post and at Solar-Powered KRUU-FM.
SL: Well, thank you for having me. It's always good talking to you too. It's good to talk about music, and it's also good to be asked sometimes what you think about the world. Often people say, "Oh, shut up and sing." Well, I do care about my country, and I do care about who's running it, how it's being run, and what the world consists of out there because if you have the authority to pull the lever and vote, then you have the authority to have an opinion.
MR: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I interviewed Courtyard Hounds, which, of course, features Martie Maguire and Emily Robison from the Dixie Chicks. We discussed how the whole "shut up and sing" thing didn't really work for them either.
SL: Well, that's a shame. I don't think that it should be exploited by any means. But I think you have to have a little tact, and if you want to talk, you have to be able to hear the repercussions
MR: Exactly, and that's not to say that they weren't aware when they were expressing their point of view, that there could be repercussions. I just think that they didn't have any idea what was going to happen.
SL: Obviously not. I think the worst thing they ever did was apologize for it.
MR: There you go. Then again, they sort of didn't, and then they came out with an album who's title track said, "We're not apologizing." Again, Shelby, this has been a great conversation, and whenever you release your next album or whenever you just want to come talk about whatever you want, it's always lovely talking to you.
SL: Thank you so much for your time, and I hope to see you all out there. We'll have to get there sometime soon, you all have some good festivals out there in the summer. Maybe my sister and I will get out there.
MR: Absolutely. We're in Fairfield, Iowa, and if the closest you get is Des Moines or Iowa City, you just let us know.
SL: Congratulations on your solar-powered station, I'm all for that. I think every radio station should be solar-powered.
MR: Thank you. You know, it's amazing to me that, at least in the Southwest of this country, everything isn't operating on solar power.
SL: That is brilliant. We should make use of our gorgeous country's natural resources, I believe in that one hundred percent. Thank you for your time, man.
MR: Yeah, thank you very much, Shelby.
1. Sleigh Ride/Winter Wonderland
2. Ain't Nothin' Like Christmas
3. Christmas Time Is Here
4. Silver Bells
5. Christmas Time Is Coming
6. O Holy Night
7. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
8. Xmas 5:16 $0.99
9. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
10. Silent Night
11. White Christmas
(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)
Follow Mike Ragogna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ragz2008