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MUSIC BOX: Mullins brings more than ‘Lullaby’
JACKSON HOLE, WYO - “Everything is gonna be alright, Rockabye … ” You remember those lyrics from 1998 pop radio, right? Written and recorded by Shawn Mullins, Grammy-nominated “Lullaby” went straight to number one on the Billboard Top 40 Chart for three weeks. By that time, Mullins had already released eight albums independently. Other hits followed suit, including “Shimmer,” “Everywhere I Go,” and “Beautiful Wreck.”
Sure, that was 15 years ago. But the most impressive part to the story is that Mullins, 22 years since his debut album in 1990, is still at it. Just four years ago, he worked with the Zac Brown Band, co-writing its massive hit “Toes,” which also hit number one. Soon after, Mullins released 2010’s Light You Up, which was his third for Vanguard Records, a smaller label at which Mullins feels comfortable. The stylish modern production is highlighted by the sultry title track, a Memphis style soul-funk groove co-written with Chuck Cannon, featuring predominantly spoken verse lyrics and a hooky chorus laced with Mullins’ slightly-raspy delivery (“Everyone wants a puff of your pipedream/Everybody wants a lick of your ice-cream”). The album, according to Mullins, is his strongest yet and his love for the co-writing process has grown.
“In 2001, I did this project that became The Thorns,” Mullins told High Plains Reader. “It was myself and Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge. There were a few people involved in co-writing and I loved the community of it. Sometimes with a song, the writing part is painful for me. It’s just hard. It’s not painful like emotionally, although sometimes it is, but it’s more like I just drive myself crazy trying to come up with the right thing.
“I find it a lot of fun to do it with someone else who is quite good at one of the things that I’m not good at, and I might be good at what they’re not good at, and you put it together and you’ve got maybe a better song than what you could have written on your own. So, I’m a believer in that and I’ve never had a problem with co-writing and I never felt like I had to write my own songs all by myself.”
The upcoming show at the Center will feature Mullins in a duo capacity with fellow co-writer Cannon, who has written hit singles for Toby Keith (“Me Too”), Wynonna Judd and John Michael Montgomery, including an Academy of Country Music Award for Song of the Year in 1993 for “I Love The Way You Love Me.”
“Chuck [Cannon] is one of the world’s best songwriters and very old-school in his approach.” Mullins said. “A lot of songwriters will work on a song for a few hours, and when it’s pretty good they’ll call it quits. When Cannon and I are working, we won’t leave a song unfinished. There’s a lot of tweaking and fine-tuning until we know the song is right.”
Born in Atlanta, Mullins was once a member of the U.S. Army Airborne Infantry Division before self-releasing his first album on cassette tape. His music, which falls mostly into the alt-rock, folk and country-rock genre, has appeared on the television shows Scrubs and Dawson’s Creek, and his song “Shimmer” became the unoffical anthem of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia.
Shawn Mullins, 8 p.m., Thursday, at the Center Theatre. $28. JHCenterForTheArts.org, 733-4900.