Band: A Ramblin’ Night at The Steeple
Date: Saturday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m.
Venue: The Steeple, 251 St. Francis St., www.thesteeplemobile.com
Tickets: $35 general/$100 VIP, available at Brown Paper Tickets
The Southern Rambler has become the region’s online source for Gulf Coast culture. In addition to its exploration of the Southeast, The Southern Rambler has become known for its “Ramblin’” events featuring great music in support of worthy causes. The Aug. 27 event at The Steeple, featuring Azalea City notables Eric Erdman and The Mulligan Brothers, will generate funds to install benches at Wave bus stops.
Singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins will be coming to Mobile to ramble with the locals. The crowd can expect old favorites as well as songs from his latest album, “My Stupid Heart.” Inspired by a fresh breakup, Mullins penned most of these songs with longtime collaborator Chuck Cannon, with Cannon’s wife, Lari White, providing production support. Irony ultimately echoes throughout this album, and Lagniappe spoke with Mullins to gain some insight.
Stephen Centanni: There’s such a strange irony to your album, on many levels. It’s all about love, but many were written during a time where a relationship was ending.
Shawn Mullins: Yeah.
Centanni: We’ve all gone through all types of breakups. What was it about this particular one that led you to write this musical commentary?
Mullins: (chuckles) Well, I think the idea of it was that even though relationships can end or take breaks, in this case actually because we’re back together now, the theme is to try to follow your heart whenever you can. It covers a lot of different ground on that. I don’t know.
I think it helped to co-write with Chuck Cannon. Even though I was in a really rough place, Chuck could see humor in all of it, even though he loves me dearly. He’s been there too. So, he was able to put out a whole other perspective on all of this stuff.
Some of the stuff that I was writing, I was so hurt with what was coming out, but I loved what was coming out. When I was writing “My Stupid Heart,” I took it to Chuck to get his perspective and his ideas on it. He’s always been one to put the tongue firmly in the cheek. Even with a serious song, it’ll kind of make you smile a little bit.
He has another talent where he’ll cut you real good and after you think you’re supposed to laugh at it. He has this wonderful song called “The Whiskey Drinkin’ Preacher.” The preacher is preaching to a group of homeless people under a trestle. He does it in that song.
He says something like, “I got good news, people, the good Lord loves me and you!” Then he says, “Amen said the hooker.” Then you hear a bunch of people of laugh. Then he says, “And the hollow-eyed boy with AIDS.” Then you’re like, “F*ck!” So, he’s a wonderful songwriter, and I owe him for a lot of what I do.
I’m a good songwriter. I don’t think that I’m not, but I don’t know that I could’ve written it this way by myself. I think it took a dear friend’s perspective on me and where I am and putting his twist on it. Chuck is wonderful. Lari White producing the record was wonderful. Lari has so much talent. It was a really a fun opportunity making a record with her and not having my hands in the production bowl at all.
Centanni: While we’re talking about Lari, besides being Chuck’s wife, what was it about her that made you want to bring her onto this project?
Mullins: I met her, because she’s Chuck’s wife, naturally, but we became buddies. I’d sing with her occasionally on things that she was working on or play some acoustic. I started watching her as a producer by just hanging out there at the studio.
I was like, “God!” Then I was listening to stuff she’s produced. I’m no Toby Keith fan, but the best record he ever made, she produced. I think it’s the only record that sold a million records that featured a female producer. It’s just a really good-sounding record.
She’s just that way. She records a lot of really cool stuff that people don’t know about. She gets her hands in whatever she can. When she’s not doing that, she’s singing on Broadway and stuff. She’s got all kinds of stuff going. It was hats-off.
I’ve produced a lot of records myself, but it was wonderful to watch someone who is really, truly a genius at work, as far as seeing it all and hearing it all before it happens. She’s really, really smart. She knows when to stop and knows the art of restraint. That’s not one that comes easily to me when I’m producing. I like to throw as much sh*t on there as I can and then take stuff off to thin it out. I learned a lot from her from her saying, “Eh, let’s not put that on there. The space is nice.”
Centanni: One song that really stands out is your cover of “It All Comes Down to Love,” which maintains that irony. You think from the title that it’s going to be this tender love song, then you get blown away by all these superficial examples of what people perceive as being love. With that said, what’s the one thing that you want this album’s listeners to know about love?
Mullins: Well, that song in a way tied a lot of it together. You know, Chuck wrote that all by himself. This is a cool story. When my song “Lullaby” was a big hit, Chuck loved that song, and we didn’t know each other yet.
He said that he wanted to write a song like that where you talk through the verses and just have this really great melody that people could sing with. He said he was outside picking weeds in his garden, and it started coming to him. He said that he wrote it in about 25 minutes. When something hits him, it’s really fast.
All these years later, I was rooting through songs, and I was like, “Hey, man, whatever happened to that song ‘It All Comes Down to Love?’’’ He said, “Well, Shawn, I didn’t want to even bring it up. I wrote it because of your song ‘Lullaby.’’’ Wynonna Judd had cut it, and Bebe Winans had cut it; there’s been several versions over the years. It was written and recorded 17 years ago as a demo. So, it’s a neat little story. I was like, “I gotta put it on my record now!”
I had to learn it and work it up. It’s not a typical cover that I do. I usually will cover someone like [Kris] Kristofferson or somebody that I’ve really felt kinship with the voice or the character of the song. I did with this one. It really does wrap it all together, because all of the other songs are specific. Although, the first one, “The Great Unknown,” is also a tie. Even though it begins the record, it works from that little stage outward until you’re literally into the great unknown where we all are with love and life.
Centanni: It’s been awhile since you’ve played Mobile. What’s your set at The Steeple going to be like?
Mullins: I’ll have a trio with me. We’ll be doing a lot off the new record but a good bit of the older stuff too. It’ll be stuff people will recognize, maybe, and we’ll have a great time. It’ll be an acoustic-type show, and we’ll strip it down to make it really intimate. There’ll be a lot of stories, and The Mulligan Brothers are playing as well. I love those guys. I love Ross.
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