Joan Shelley Live In Studio

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Joan Shelley
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Singer/songwriter Joan Shelley might have written her songs a century ago, though her latest album was released this fall. Reminiscent of the past without being retro, Shelley’s songs are simple but timeless, her powerful voice accompanied by two twanging guitars. Her third album, “Over and Even,” features songs about home, drawn from her own home in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kurt Andersen: You grew up outside Louisville, Kentucky, where you still live. Has that area, that part of the world and the culture influenced the music you do?

Joan Shelley: Yeah, it’s where I draw the images from a lot of times, and it’s hard to say how to pick that stuff out. I’ve never gone and lived somewhere else enough to know what it looks like from the outside and feels like somewhere else.

What is it about home that seems to generate songs from you, as opposed to busted love affairs or something more dramatic?

Dramatic, and I think a little bit overplayed. I love old-time country, and I love a lot of the themes that come up in pop and country and rock, but it’s not my experience so I won’t pretend.

And at what point did you really decide, “Wow, this is what I want to do”?

I didn’t even think it was possible — I don’t even know now if it is. It wasn’t until maybe four years ago when I met this other group of ladies in Louisville, and we made some records. I started enjoying making records so much that I just wanted to find a way to keep doing it. 

Bonus Track: Joan Shelley plays "Easy Now"