With music described as “gritty and soulful, raucous and beautiful,” Seattle singer-songwriter Shelby Earl was named by NPR/LA Times music critic Ann Powers as her "new favorite songwriter" (see below for full letter), and her solo debut album, Burn the Boats (produced by John Roderick of the Long Winters, out on Local 638 Records) was named the "#1 Outstanding 2011 Album You Might Have Missed" by Amazon.com. She has since garnered praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine, NPR, KEXP, No Depression, American Songwriter and many more. Earl’s sophomore album Swift Arrows (produced by Damien Jurado), was released July 23, 2013 to further critical acclaim, and in the words of Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie/Postal Service) it “proves [Shelby] has the most heartbreakingly beautiful voice in Seattle.” Full bio, press pics, and more here.
- "Her songs are gorgeous, heartbreaking and extremely relatable..." [Full Article] - Paste Magazine
- "The 10 Best Things We Saw at CMJ" [Full Article] - eMusic
- 10 Great New Bands from CMJ [Full Article] - Paste Magazine
- "This Is Me Now: Shelby Earl on Leaving Corporate America for CMJ'" [Full Article] - Consequence of Sound
- "Shelby Earl Finds Self-Assurance in Vulnerability on 'Swift Arrows'" [Full Article] - Listen, Dammit
- Soundtrack Suggestions for Zach Braff's 'Garden State' Follow-Up: Shelby Earl, "Everyone Belongs to Someone" [Full Article] - Rolling Stone
- "Her Name Is Earl: Shelby Earl & the Desert Church of Doo-Wop..." [Full Article] - No Depression
- "...Swift Arrows, a poignant and roiling act of honesty from Seattle singer-songwriter Shelby Earl..." [Full Article] - Indie-Music.com
- "Morning Show host John Richards was smitten by this “beloved” performer and had nothing but praise for Shelby, whose second studio album is fast gaining critical acclaim." [Full Article] - KEXP 90.3
- "We love Shelby Earl. Her new album [Swift Arrows] is among the best of the year..." [Full Article] - KIRO Radio
- "[Swift Arrows]...is an invigorating, bold statement from a singer/songwriter..." [Full Article] - American Songwriter
- "Album of the Month: Shelby Earl's Swift Arrows" [Full Article] - Seattle Met Magazine
- KEXP Song of the Day: Shelby Earl - "Sea of Glass" [Full Article] - KEXP 90.3
- Singer-Songwriter Shelby Earl Live In Studio [Full Article] - KUOW Seattle
- "I don’t think I overstate my case to say that Shelby Earl has one of the best voices I’ve heard in my 10 years on call here at Fingertips...I can confidently report that she is the real thing, a bona fide star..." [Full Article] - Fingertips Music
- "Earl Avoids Sophomore Slump with full-length Swift Arrows..." [Full Article] - TribLive
- "Glory On the Horizon for Shelby Earl" [Full Article] and "...her masterful sophomore effort..." [Full Article] "[Swift Arrows) encapsulates Earl’s talents concisely, delivering disconcerting truths in a style that’s undeniably beguiling" [Full Article] - The Seattle Times (*3 articles)
- "The New Sound of Seattle: These 3 acts have what it takes to deliver our distinctly Seattle sound to the world"... [Full Article] - Seattle Met Magazine
- "This time around, Earl is not holding anything back, nor is she hiding behind anything..." [Full Article] - The Stranger
- "Shelby Earl's Swift Arrows is One of the Most Anticipated Locals Records of the Year" [Full Article] and "...she is a songwriter, not a hobbyist with a nice voice and a day job...." [Full Article] - Seattle Weekly (*2 articles)
- eMusic Pick: "Tart, wry pop, delivered with a wicked grin..." [Full Article] - eMusic
- "Coffee With Guppy: Shelby Earl" [Full Article] - Seattle Magazine
- "It's clear that Shelby Earl is going big places" [Full Article] - The Sunbreak
- "From the Horse's Mouth: Shelby Earl on Swift Arrows" [Full Article] - Ghettoblaster
- #1 Amazon.com Outstanding 2011 Album You Might Have Missed: Shelby Earl, Burn the Boats [Full Article] - Amazon.com
- "Singer/songwriter Shelby Earl released one of the best albums to come out of the Northwest in 2011" [Full Article] - Paste Magazine
- "Seattle Music Now: Ten Acts That Move This Town" [Full Article] - City Arts Magazine
- "singer-songwriter Shelby Earl cut out every anguished and beautiful facet of "All Apologies" with heart-wrenching grace." [Full Article] - Rolling Stone (Nirvana "Nevermind" 20th Anniversary show)
- "...this is Earl's show all the way." [Full Article] - NPR
- "With songs that transcend trends and musical boundaries, Shelby Earl’s Burn the Boats is a fine example of a singer-songwriter who has honed her craft to a fine point and whose songs are both touching and inspiring." [Full Article] - Pop Matters
- "'Burn the Boats' features simple, elegant tunes that showcase a voice that rings with confidence..." [Full Article] - Spinner.com
- "...Earl's voice has an infinite depth to it..If you feel the need to lose yourself and/or be restored, put your faith in Earl." - The Stranger
- ""Burn the Boats," is a thing of beauty. If you aren't familiar w/ Miss Earl, now would be a good time to get up to speed.." - DJ El Toro, KEXP 90.3
- "Shelby’s story is the sort of underdog tale that both inspires and restores faith..." [Full Article] - Rocktorch
- "Shelby Earl's "At the Start" Is NPR's Song of the Day" [Full Article] - The Seattle Weekly
- ""At The Start"...an early frontrunner for best song put out by any artist in 2011." [Full Article] - The Seattle Weekly
- "...a naturally gifted singer and songwriter." [Full Article] - AnotherRainySaturday.com
- “The opening tracks...put Earl at Neko Case level…” - ThreeImaginaryGirls.com
- "Perhaps it's time [Shelby] Earl gets used to being noticed." [Full Article] - The Seattle Weekly
FROM ANN POWERS (NPR/LA Times):
"Dear music-loving pals,
I don’t believe in journalistic objectivity. Still, I’ve always tried to maintain a space between my music writing and my private life. Over the years I’ve become friendly with a few musicians, and some of my old friends have turned toward music-making. In general, though, I’ve clung to that old idea that critical perspective and personal connection don’t mix.
Until now. I’m writing this note to ask you to listen to an album by a friend. Shelby Earl is a singer-songwriter with a sharp pen and a sumptuous voice, who took a while to fully uncover her own talent. Before she made the brilliant music conveyed on her new release, “Burn the Boats,” she worked in various positions within the Pacific Northwest arts community – including at Experience Music Project, where I got to know her as a part of the programming team in the early 2000s.
Shelby was part of one of the intimate circles that make up the necklace of strong women who stand behind – and at the forefront of – the Seattle music scene. We got to know each other as colleagues and as women finding our places in a frankly boyish scene. When I lived in Seattle in the early 2000s, Shelby was starting to explore her own creative possibilities as part of the duo the Hope. But she kept working regular jobs. She was a practical person. Music wasn’t a lifestyle for her; it was a practice, a way into new internal spaces. Eventually, it became her vocation, and she changed everything in her life to pursue it.
Jump to 2011. I’m living far from Seattle, but still connected. Shelby sent me an email about her new solo album. Sure, I’ll listen, I replied. No promises, though. In fact, I have to admit, I thought I’d send polite praise and move on.
Instead, I became enraptured. “Burn the Boats” is an album beyond trends, a classic work of singer-songwriterly craft and beautifully framed confession. It’s a fully adult expression of lessons learned, loss absorbed, and hope rebuilt, plank by plank. The title comes from something her dad said about what she’d done: the expression means to risk everything, abandon all past assumptions and easy outs, in pursuit of something bigger. That urgency comes through in the album’s ten gorgeous songs.
Shelby is still young – in her early thirties – but she’s not a bubbly ingénue. She makes music for those of us who’ve been through a few things. Produced by John Roderick and engineered by Eric Corson, both of the beloved Barsuk Records band the Long Winters, and featuring a stellar line-up of Seattle mainstays [Long Winters, Telekinesis, The Head and the Heart, Fleet Foxes, and more], “Burn the Boats” realizes Shelby’s compositions within arrangements that recall legendary genre-busters like Patsy Cline as well as more contemporary artists like Jenny Lewis and Brandi Carlile. Everybody wants to compare her to Neko Case, maybe because of the Northwest connection, but if Neko is bourbon, Shelby is honey wine. Sweeter at first taste, her music is subtly intoxicating.
I love “Burn the Boats” for its class, its open-heartedness and its wisdom. I’m addicted to the perfect balance of comfort and challenge in Shelby’s voice. I don’t want this record to get lost in the avalanche of releases that confronts every critic and music fan. It’s not particularly hipsterish – one of its best songs, in fact, is “Under Evergreen,” a call for Pacific Northwest music insiders to transcend their own assumptions of what’s cool. But it’s the kind of album that many people in your life will love. Including, I hope, you yourself.
Thanks for listening to my friend and my new favorite singer-songwriter, Shelby Earl. And yes, that’s her real name. It’s not her fault that it looks so right on an album cover."
-- Ann Powers