Remember when country music was still country? Before the days of cross-genre, country-pop, tailgate hits? It was a fantastic time for music, especially in Nashville. It was also a time when Mississippi’s Shelly Fairchild was about to break out as the genre’s hottest new starlet.
In 2005, Fairlchild released her debut album Ride on Columbia Records and toured with some of the biggest names, including Rascal Flatts and Blake Shelton. Her single “You Don’t Lie Here” was a Top 40 country hit on the Billboard chart and her voice was unlike any others. Following the success of her debut, Fairchild switched gears –both personally and professionally– and released the soul/rock record Ruby’s Money. It’s shift in sound resulted in spot-on comparisons to a Janis Joplin-Joss Stone lovechild. It was with that album that it became clear that Shelly –and her voice– could do anything.
Fairchild, who is currently touring as a background vocalist with Martina McBride, can also be heard singing backing vocals on Jason Aldean‘s No. 1 single, “Burnin’ It Down” and the Top 10 Eric Church hit, “Creepin’.” But, that’s not enough for the powerhouse vocalist. Earlier this year, the singer launched her PledgeMusic campaign, promising her fans a return to the spotlight and to her country roots. With just 47 days left of her campaign and 67% raised, I sat down with the talented Nashville-based lady to talk about her return to the studio, touring with her idol and an ideal day for visitors in Music City.
Chris Vetrano: You’re making your return to music this year (finally!!), with a newly launched PledgeMusic campaign, allowing your fans to be your label. What led to the decision to crowd-fund this new project and and put the power in the hands of the fans?
Shelly Fairchild: I miss my friends and my fans. I miss making records. I miss writing and singing my songs. I miss sharing life with everyone. PledgeMusic is truly a genius way for us all to get back in each others lives. Instead of just posting pictures of what is happening everyday or sending little message updates that will explode within 15 seconds, PledgeMusic has created a platform that allows me to offer exclusive experiences that normally aren’t available to anyone outside of the people directly involved. With this project that is exactly what my family, my friends, and my fans are… directly involved. We all make these decisions together… it’s one of the many new record label models and I’m happy to be able to participate!
Chris: You began your career with the Columbia-released country album Ride in 2005, you followed it up 6 years later with a soulful rock record Ruby’s Money. So where does that leave your music style today? What can we expect to hear on the new album?
Shelly: This record is my return to country music. Or, at least my version of country music. I keep saying that it’s gonna sound like a followup to Ride. I just want to sing songs that mean something to me and to the people around me. I love songs. I love songwriters. I might not be the only writer on this record, because there are such amazing songs out there that are never heard.
I just want to make the best record I can possibly make for where I am right now in my life. I want it to sound like I’m from Mississippi, I live in Nashville and I’ve traveled all around the world and lived a little.
Chris: You spent time in both Nashville and LA, writing and recording a variety of types of music. What led you to return to your country beginnings with this record?
Shelly: Ha! I know..right?! Crazy… and possibly EXTREMELY confusing.
Creatively, I’m always exploring different things. All kinds of things interest me all of the time. With my first record, I wanted to make a country record that had some of my blues and rock influences. In the decision to name Buddy Cannon (Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson) and Kenny Greenberg (Ashley Cleveland, Allison Moorer) as producers, Sony was completely on-board with that style of record. With Ruby’s Money, I completely jumped into my soul/R&B/rock influences and wrote and performed what came from that.
Since then, I’ve been fortunate to sing background on a number of records in Nashville, LA and New York City. I think hearing so many different kinds of songs and feeling those songs in all different ways helped lead me to where I am now. I’ve also been touring as a background vocalist with the amazing, iconic Martina McBride. Listen to, and being able to sing behind, her on some of the very songs that made me want to pursue singing in the first place also helped lead me to this new record. I see and feel what incredible songs do to people. Songwriters, singers, musicians, and all involved with music really do create the soundtrack to our lives. I can remember every feeling, every smell, the clothes I was wearing when a certain song comes on. That’s what I want to do for people. Help them to remember and feel it all.
Chris: You have one of the best voices in the biz, so I cannot wait to hear what’s coming next from you. Will you be touring once the album is released?
Shelly: First of all, thank you so so much for that compliment. Secondly, absolutely… YES! That is my main goal. I’m ready to see everyone again. And I’m ready to meet new people and experience new things. The first time I ever went on tour, I was in a tour bus. The second time I went on tour I was in a van with a trailer attached. This time… who knows? I might join the Airstream Team and take off with one of those. Regardless, I am chomping at the bit to get back on the road. I gotta finish the record first though. Ha!
Chris: As you mentioned, you’re currently on the road with Martina McBride. Tell us about that experience. And are you going to continue to support her through 2015?
Shelly: Yes, I am currently on the road with Martina and, as far as I know, me and the other girls (Wendy Moten and Shandra Penix) will be with her off and on through the rest of her tour 2015 dates. Usually she only tours with her band and some of the band members sing the background vocals. On this tour promoting her Everlasting record of classic and iconic soul, pop and R&B songs, she decided to add the three background singers and a four piece horn section.
I have to admit, when I was practicing all of the songs during rehearsals with her, I literally started crying. I felt like I was in a dream of some sort. It was like I could see myself as a young girl singing “Independence Day” as loud as possible and then there I was singing it for real… with Martina. I have loved every second of it.
Chris: How does it feel different to be supporting an iconic artist like her vs. singing centerstage as the headliner?
Shelly: Hmmm… well, it is completely different. As a headlining artist, you’re responsible for so many things. You’re the boss, you hire everyone and call most of the shots. It can be super stressful, as well as extremely rewarding. As a background vocalist, it is my job to support the boss. I am responsible for knowing my part, showing up on time, and not being in the way. Fortunately, I started my professional career in musical theatre and always worked in large groups of people. I was typically a part of a large cast where everyone is responsible for themselves to the benefit of the entire cast and crew. It’s very much a team effort. That’s how it is as a background vocalist.
Truthfully, that’s how it is as the boss too… or should be. It is different when you look out into the crowd and everyone is there for you, though. Honestly, I love all of it. Just being on stage.
Chris: Living in Nashville (when not on the road), what are some of your favorite spots in Music City that you can recommend to readers?
Shelly: Ok, I’m really really good at putting together itineraries for friends and family that come to visit! So, here it goes…
If you want some super yummy breakfast and specialty coffee, you have to hit Barista Parlor in East Nashville. Another spot that I love is Frothy Monkey on 12th Avenue South, which is also a good meeting spot for work and/or friend hangs. If you’re on 12th Avenue, you have to walk over to Imogene + Willie, where you will find custom jeans made to fit you and only you, as well as my favorite candle of all time (black jar with gold I+W logo), amazing clothing and jewelry, boots, scarves, eyeglasses, and incense. Another spot right next door to Frothy Monkey is a place called MODA that belongs to my sweet friend, Meredith. Some of my most amazing pieces of jewelry came from MODA, though she carries more than jewelry. White’s Mercantile is one of my favorite spots on that road as well. They have a little of everything for your home, as well as gift ideas and the most amazing candles. Across the street from White’s is Burger Up where I sometimes grab a quick bite for lunch. Oh, and if you need your hair done… PLEASE stop in at Green Pea Salon, where I have worked in the past and sometimes still work. I also love HERO and Cadeau for clothing and home.
If you feel like going kinda fancy, I highly recommend my favorite restaurant in Nashville called City House in Germantown. We have hundreds of new restaurants, but this one remains my favorite! Other than City House, you should try Rolf & Daughters in Germantown or Holland House in East Nashville for a nice business or romantic dinner. There is another little spot in East Nashville that I have found and love called OMG (Old Made Good). Most of what she carries is literally old things she’s restored into something new. It’s a super creative spot full of fun little things. Oh, and The Welcome Home Shop is also in East Nasty and is amazing!
Last but certainly not least, my great friend Philip — an amazing shoemaker — owns a shop called Peter Nappi. He, and his wife Dana, also sells leather goods, hats, unique jewelry pieces and furniture… all which are amazing. I seriously could go on and on. I love my city and all of the neat things that we now have in it!
Chris: Your personal style seems to always be evolving. How do you describe your personal style and how is (or does it) influenced by your music?
Shelly: Well…you are right. I am always evolving or doing something of the sort. I wish I could count on my hands how many times I’ve looked back at pictures and wondered why in the world I chose “that” outfit. I think I just “feel” something and go with it. It’s not always the best, but it is certainly me expressing myself. My parents were always ok with my expressing myself and I guess that made me feel confident enough to continue in my pursuit. I think I just fall in love with certain looks and I go with it for a time. I think I’m figuring out what looks best and feels best on me. Right now, I miss my long hair… so it’s coming back.
Chris: This May marks 10 years since the release of your first record. What have been the best and worst parts of the music business in the last 10 years?
Shelly: Wow! Well… a LOT has happened in 10 years, but the craziest part is when you try to live in the present –which I’m trying to learn to do– the ups and downs of the past don’t feel as influential. Sure, I’ve had disappointment trying to be a part of the “music business.” Trying to be cool, young and relevant. And sure it has hurt when I’ve been told no… or that I can’t… or that the only way I will “make it” now is if I become a band rather than a solo artist. I love that one. But the positive things that have come into my life far outweigh the bad, and I just try to let that be my memory.
I mean, I have gotten to sing on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman,’ open for major acts, write with some of the best songwriters in the world, work with some of the best musicians in the world, sing background on number one singles, sing onstage with iconic artists, and attend amazing events with rooms full of some of the most influential people in the music world. I love my life. I love the experiences that I’ve had…good or bad. I don’t want to be cliché about it, but all that has happened over the last 10 years has made me into me.
Chris: Last Question, what’s with the dolls in your PledgeMusic campaign video? Please explain.
Shelly: HAHAHA! Oh, Chris… must I really explain?!?!?!!
Take part in Shelly Fairchild’s PledgeMusic campaign by contributing to her new album here and get hooked up with lots of great incentives. And stay up to date with Fairchild on Twitter, Facebook and ShellyFairchild.com for more.