Shelly Fairchild tells you her history every time she sings.
Her voice conveys the blues of her Mississippi Delta home and the soulful power of a passionate woman who has been "singing with everything I've got" since she began performing as a child.
Her edgy style conveys the confidence of a small-town girl from Clinton, Miss., bold enough to head out on her own and earn lead roles in major musicals and national theatrical tours, yet sensitive enough to write heart-tugging stories about love and family as well as steamy tales about desire and living life to the hilt.
Her dynamic stage presence conveys the experience of a stage actress and the live-wire energy and hot-blooded emotion of a risk-taker who can open the throttle and roar or slow down to caress a lyric with intimate conviction.
In other words, Shelly Fairchild is a force to be reckoned with - a fact made clear by Columbia Records debut, Ride, a one-of-a-kind introduction that suggests this country singer won't be held back by pre-conceptions about Nashville or contemporary country music.
"I know I have a lot of edge to my voice - well, to everything I do," says Shelly. "But I've always considered myself a country singer."
Still, she concedes, her version of country music sometimes drags the music into the Delta swamp and sometimes fires it up like a heat-seeking missile. "I realize I might be pushing the envelope, because I have a lot of blues feeling and rock energy in my voice," she says. "That's just how it comes out for me. I've always sung with a lot of passion and emotion."
From uncompromising songs like the take-no-gruff first single, "You Don't Lie Here Anymore" to the upfront passion of "Kiss Me" and "Ready to Fall," and from the stomping power of "Down into the Muddy Water" and to the sensitivity of "Fear of Flying" and "I Want to Love You," Ride twists and turns as it follows Shelly from the country to the city, with her voice always the center of attention and her hands-on style always firmly in control.
Despite her energetic approach, Nashville was always her destination. As much as she loves to perform and liven up a crowd, she also loves songs that speak of real-life issues and down-home values. Shelly co-wrote four songs on her album, including the lead single "You Don't Lie Here Anymore."
"That's a song I wrote early, early on, so I'm amazed and thrilled that it ended up being my first single. I had the title and a little bit of the melody when I wrote it with Sonny Lemaire and Clay Mills. We wrote the verse and chorus that first day, and I walked out saying, "This is my first single." I just had a strong feeling about this song."
She also drew strong material from some of Nashville's top writers, including Stephony Smith, Dennis Linde, Leslie Satcher, Darrell Scott, Doug Johnson, and others - and unusual feat for a newcomer. The fact that the cream-of-the-crop writers gave their top-drawer material illustrates the high regard Shelly has quickly attained among the Music Row elite - and that they know their songs will receive a powerful interpretation. "Songs are key to who I am and what I love about music," she says. "I like songs that say something, and that's why I love country music. There's no place that cares about emotional songwriting more than Nashville and country music. That's why I'm here."
Her distinct style drew support immediately. Harley Davidson, who provides Shelly with stage clothes, has asked her to appear in ads for high fashion magazines and music publications. The legendary company has also invited Shelly to perform at Harley Davidson rallies across the country, as well as their national convention.
That's only one of the reasons she chose to name her album Ride, after one of her favorite songs on the album. "I also have been in love with horses since I was a young girl," says Shelly. "I ride motorcycles, and I really get into that side of my personality that just likes to feel the wind in my hair. And I ride horses, and that represents the softer, countrier side of me. My family, my music and my horses are the most important things in the world to me."
Past that, there's a philosophical side to the song title she likes. "Life is such a wild ride, you know?" she says. "The word 'ride' has a freedom to it, too. It might seem like a simple title at first -- Ride. But it's such a rich word, and it can have so many different applications."
To capture the contrasts that make Shelly so unique, she worked with an atypical team of producers, veteran Buddy Cannon and up-and-comer Kenny Greenberg. Cannon is an established Music City master known for his platinum touch with artists Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, George Jones and others. Greenberg is a respected hot-shot guitarist who has produced rocker Edwin McCain and cutting-edge acts like Allison Moorer and Pam Tillis.
"Buddy and Kenny had never met, much less worked together," says Shelly. "But they really clicked. It gave me a little bit of this and a little bit of that - which fits for me. It made for a great team."
She couldn't be prouder of what they achieved together. "They got it that I have this swampy, bluesy side," she says. "I could talk to them about growing up in the '80s loving Aerosmith and The Pretenders, but also loving Christian artists like Amy Grant and Yolanda Adams."
Her producers also understood that Shelly has always loved country music too. Her influences range from Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton to Hank Williams Jr. and Travis Tritt. She grew up in a musical family where everyone sang, and several relatives played musical instruments. Shelly can vividly remember her sixth birthday when "my Pawpaw bought me my first guitar," and, shortly afterward, when her aunt taught her to perform "Coat of Many Colors."
"My aunt was a performer through and through," Shelly says. "She was in the musical theater and she sang in church all the time. I always just loved seeing her onstage. She could see how much I loved music, and she would teach me songs and encourage me."
However, as much as Shelly draws on a variety of styles, what she creates is something completely fresh and her own. "When I was in theater, I had to learn to do so many different styles and to become so many different people," she says. "I really got to explore my range and to sing in a variety of styles. I learned what was best about my own voice, and that's how I found my own style."
As for stage presence, well that comes natural to a woman who's been wowing audiences since high school. She's starred in the lead role of Always, Patsy Cline and in the national touring company of Beehive, in which she assumed the voices of Grace Slick, Brenda Lee, Connie Francis and others. She's also starred on stage for the well-regarded Tennessee Repertory Theater in Nashville.
"I'm a dramatic person, so I wanted that part of me on my record," she says. "I've got a lot of sass, and I think you can hear that on some of my songs. I wanted the album to be sexy and swampy, but I also wanted it to be empowering to people - to inspire them to find their own power to do what they need to do and not to get trapped in bad situations."
On the other hand, as a music lover, Shelly knows what it's like to be in a crowd that feeds off the energy of a great live performance. "I love to have a good time," she says. "I like to make people dance. I like to make people scream a lyric if they want to sing with me. I think we all like to let go, forget our troubles and feel a little out of control for a while. I want to help people have that kind of experience."
Ride does just that - it will rev up listeners and take them on a trip full of passion, energy, desire and reflection. Hold onto your seats.
--- from the official Shelly Fairchild website