Shawn Colvin

Shawn Colvin (born January 10, 1956) is an American singer-songwriter and musician. While Colvin has been a solo recording artist for nearly three decades, she is perhaps best known for her 1997 Grammy-winning song, "Sunny Came Home".

Shawn Colvin
Colvin in 1995
Background information
Born (1956-01-10) January 10, 1956
Vermillion, South Dakota, U.S.
OriginCarbondale, Illinois, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1973–present

Early life

Colvin was born Shawna Lee Colvin[1] in Vermillion, South Dakota, and spent her youth in Carbondale, Illinois and London, Ontario, Canada.[2] She is the second of four children.[3] She learned to play guitar at the age of 10[2] and grew up listening to her father's collection of music, which included artists such as Pete Seeger and the Kingston Trio.[4]


Her first official paid gig came just after she started college at Southern Illinois University. With a strip of bars down the main street it wasn’t difficult to find a gig. “For $30 I played four 45-minute sets.” For the next year she was either playing somewhere or sitting in with someone else and started attracting a local following. Broadening her horizons, Colvin put a band together that featured Dennis Conroy (formerly with the popular Chicago band The Cryan’ Shames), Jack O’Boyle on guitar and Brian Sandstrom on bass. For six months they expanded their base throughout Illinois. But Colvin’s personal demons coupled with drug and alcohol use curtailed the success they were having. Her next shot came with the Dixie Diesels, a Carbondale country-swing outfit. They were short a girl singer and she jumped at the opportunity. The band had decided if they were going to make it, Carbondale was not the place and planned to relocate to Austin. This was Colvin’s ticket out of that charmless city. <Shawn Colvin autobiography Diamond in the Rough, pages 49–57> She then entered "the folk circuit in and Berkeley", California[5] before straining her vocal cords and taking a sabbatical at the age of 24.[2]

Colvin relocated to New York City, joining the Buddy Miller Band in 1980[3] and later became involved in the Fast Folk cooperative of Greenwich Village.[6]

While participating in off-Broadway shows such as Pump Boys and Dinettes[2] she was featured in Fast Folk magazine, and in 1987, producer Steve Addabbo hired her to sing backup vocals on the song "Luka" by Suzanne Vega.[2][5]

After touring with Vega,[5] Colvin signed a recording contract with Columbia Records[2][5] and released her debut album Steady On in 1989. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.[2] Colvin's second album Fat City was released in 1992 and received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. Her song "I Don't Know Why" was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Female Pop Vocal category.[2] In 1993 she moved back to Austin and in 1994 released the album Cover Girl.[5] In 1995 Colvin released her album Live 88 a collection of live recordings from 1988.[7]

In 1996, Colvin released her album A Few Small Repairs and in 1997 the success of her single "Sunny Came Home" catapulted her into the mainstream after spending four weeks at the number one spot on the Adult Contemporary chart.[2][8] The song won the 1998 Grammy Awards for both Song and Record of the Year.[2] Colvin released the album Holiday Songs and Lullabies in 1998 and in 2001 released another album called Whole New You. In 2004, she released a compilation of past songs called, Polaroids: A Greatest Hits Collection.[2]

In 2006, Colvin left Columbia Records and released a 15-song album called These Four Walls on her new label, Nonesuch Records, which featured contributions by Patti Griffin and Teddy Thompson.[9] In 2009 she released Live, which was recorded at the jazz club Yoshi's in San Francisco, California.

Colvin's eighth studio album, All Fall Down, was released in 2012 and was produced by Buddy Miller at his home studio in Nashville, Tennessee. The album featured guest appearances by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Jakob Dylan.[2] Colvin published her memoir Diamond in the Rough in 2012.[10] In 2016 she recorded an album with Steve Earle called, Colvin and Earle.[11][12][13] A Few Small Repairs was reissued in 2017, including its first pressing on vinyl, for its twentieth anniversary.[14]

Colvin has made vocal contributions to songs by James Taylor, Béla Fleck, Edwin McCain, Shawn Mullins, Elliott Murphy, Bruce Hornsby and collaborated with Sting on the song "One Day She'll Love Me".[2] She recorded as a duet the title track to Curtis Stigers 1995 album "Time Was". Colvin voiced Rachel Jordan, Ned Flanders' love interest after Maude is killed, in the Simpsons episode "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily" on February 13, 2000.[15] and lent her vocals to Mary Chapin Carpenter's 1992 recordings, "The Hard Way" and "Come On Come On".[16]

On October 25, 2019, Colvin was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame.

Personal life

Colvin has been married twice, first to Simon Tassano in 1993[17] whom she divorced in 1995, and to photographer Mario Erwin, whom she married in 1997 and divorced in 2002.[18] She gave birth to daughter Caledonia in July 1998.[19]

Colvin resides in Austin, Texas with her pet cats.

Awards and recognition

Grammy Awards

Year Album/Track Category Result
1991 Steady On Best Contemporary Folk Album Won
1994 "I Don't Know Why" Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
Fat City Best Contemporary Folk Album Nominated
1995 Cover Girl Nominated
1997 A Few Small Repairs Best Pop Vocal Album Nominated
"Get Out of This House" Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
1998 "Sunny Came Home" Nominated
Record of the Year Won
Song of the Year Won
2009 Shawn Colvin Live Best Contemporary Folk Album Nominated

Other awards

1997 Billboard Music Video Awards FAN.tastic Video "Sunny Came Home" Nominated
Billboard Music Awards Top Adult Top 40 Track Nominated
1998 APRA Music Awards Most Performed Foreign Work Nominated
MVPA Awards Best Adult Contemporary Video Won
1999 ASCAP Pop Music Awards Most Performed Song Won
2001 Video Premiere Awards Best Original Song "Great Big World" Nominated
2016 Americana Music Honors & Awards Americana Trailblazer Award Herself Won



  1. "Shawn Colvin". Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  2. Woodstra, Chris Shawn Colvin Biography All Music, retrieved May 25, 2012
  3. Colvin, Shawn (2013). Diamond in the Rough. William morrow. p. 22. ISBN 0061759597.
  4. Hogg, Karen. Guitar Styles: Women In Rock. Workshop Arts Inc. p. 12.
  5. Koster, Rick (2000) Texas Music, First St. Martin's Griffin, page 219, retrieved May 25, 2012
  6. Hochman, Steve. "A Folk Stylist Hangs on to Intimacy Artist: Shawn Colvin", Los Angeles Times, November 26, 1989; accessed June 5, 2009.
  7. Vladmir, Bogdanav (2002). All Music Guide to Rock: the Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. Backbeat Books. pp. 240–241.
  8. Lowe, Jaime (2008). Digging for Dirt: The Life and Death of Odb. Faber and Faber Inc.
  9. "Live",
  10. "Surviving a Struggle with a Sense of Hope". New York Times. June 10, 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
  11. Guarino, Mark (June 16, 2016). "Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin: nine divorces, two addictions, one perfect mix". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  12. Green, Michelle (June 23, 2016). "Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle: Two Old Pals on the Road Together". New York Times. New York City. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  13. Leahey, Andrew (March 31, 2016). "Hear Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle's Dark 'You're Right (I'm Wrong)'". Rolling Stone. New York City. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  14. "Shawn Colvin 'A Few Small Repairs' 20th Anniversary Edition September 15". June 1, 2017. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  15. Cuddihy, Kevin (2005). Christmas's Most WantedTM. Potomoc Books Inc.
  16. Woodstra, Chris (2008). Contemporary Country. Backbeat books. p. 21.
  17. "Shawn Colvin Biography". Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  18. "Shawn Colvin". Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  19. Robert Wilonsky (April 5, 2001). "A Real Mother". Dallas Observer. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  20. "Shawn Colvin: The Starlighter (album review)". February 22, 2018. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  21. "Playlist: The Very Best of Shawn Colvin - Shawn Colvin | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
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