Shawn Mullins story
More than 20 years ago, Shawn Mullins won over an audience in a high school auditorium with a song he wrote — next weekend he’ll be doing the same thing but with a much bigger repertoire.
Mullins, a singer-songwriter with hits such as “Lullaby,” “Everywhere I Go,” and “Beautiful Wreck” will play at the Brighton Center for the Performing Arts at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 31.
Being out on the road playing his songs is the thing Mullins has wanted to do ever since he was a kid. At four, he played a scaled-down drum kit along with his grandfather who played an upright bass. He learned to play guitar at 10 and started writing songs when he was 12. At 15, he won a school-wide talent show playing something he wrote.
“I won $100,” he said. “I think that was a big motivator. That was the first song that I wrote that I was successful with.”
He continued to write songs and perform, even writing songs while serving in the Army after graduating from college. Throughout his 20s he continued to make records as he steadily increased his sales and exposure.
“I went from selling a few hundred to a few thousand,” he said.
His sales climbed higher when “Lullaby” on “Soul’s Core” caught the attention of a radio programmer in Atlanta. The record industry took notice of the song’s hit potential and Mullins became an “overnight success.”
“I started making records about 10 years before I was signed,” he said. “I didn’t think that would ever happen. I was 29 years old and had eight independent releases.”
“Soul’s Core” ended up selling more than a million copies in the United States.
In 2001, Mullins formed The Thorns an adult-alternative, folk-rock super group with Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge.
“It was a one-record deal,” Mullins said of the group. “It was kind of a three-year undertaking in the end. Hopefully, we can do it again. I really enjoyed the music.”
The group headlined some shows and also opened various shows for The Dixie Chicks and John Mayer. The Thorns opened for Mayer at The Palace of Auburn Hills in 2003.
Mullins’ latest CD “Ninth Ward Pickin’ Parlor” was recorded in New Orleans in 2005. It was released on Vanguard Records in February 2006. The label represents such performers as Linda Ronstadt, Blues Traveler, and Hootie and the Blowfish.
Mullins fits well with other musicians in the Vanguard fold. While some call him a folk singer, Mullins said it’s difficult to put a label on his music.
“I have a hard time describing it,” he said. “I have so many different influences. I think it is kind of a wash between country and blues and folk and rock - I think it has a little of all that in it.”
Clay Harris, 28, of Durham N.C., is the site administrator for www.soulscore.com the Shawn Mullins Fan Site. Harris has seen Mullins in concert at least six times.
“You are in for a treat,” Harris said. “It’s a fun show. He’s a good musician. Even if you aren’t familiar with what he does you’ll enjoy it. He is one of those people who is a really good performer. There are not that many people out there that are that good.”
Harris said Mullins has a voice that can fill up a room.
“The CDs don’t do him justice,” Harris said. “He has a powerful voice that you really can’t catch off a CD.”
He also had high praise for musician Clay Cook who will be playing along with Mullins. Cook has co-written songs with John Mayer.
“He is ridiculously talented,” Harris said. “He’s really good live.”
Mullins said he’s eager to get to Brighton. He has fond memories of playing in southeast Michigan.
“That part of the country is really great for listening rooms and acoustic rooms,” Mullins said. “You’ve got some great places with The Ark and Hill Auditorium. I am looking forward to playing in Brighton.”
He has heard that the acoustics at the Brighton Center for the Performing Arts are outstanding.
“To go into a room that is already set up right, it is a real joy that makes your life a whole lot easier,” he said.
His appearance at the BCPA will be something of an experiment for the center, said Cultural Arts Coordinator Patti Hamilton.
“We have a programming committee and we were brainstorming about who we would like to see and his name came up,” said Hamilton. “We were happy to be able to book him. We have been doing shows for 10 years now and we have not had an acoustic show like this.”
Mullins has been in the studio lately recording demos for a new CD.
“I am really pleased because Vanguard Records is working the song “Find Love” (from the “Ninth Ward Pickin’ Parlor),” Mullins said. “My experience with major labels has been is that if you are you are a year and half from your last CD they want to know what the next one is. Vanguard, they are still working this one. Every few thousand records you sell with them counts.”
10 things you may want to know about Shawn Mullins.
Georgia is the place he’s called home for all his 39 years.
Mullins says he loves “good hip hop and good jazz and all kinds of stuff that I can’t do. I really love it. Most people that are musicians can also play it. I hope to learn to be a jazz musician one day.”
A tribute to his wife, “Kelly’s Song” is on his latest CD.
Kris Kristofferson and James Taylor are two singer/songwriters he counts as major influences (he just might throw a cover in during the show).
Included on his website www.shawnmullins.com is a monthly listing of the top 10 DVDs he’s watching while on tour. “This is Spinal Tap,” “The Last Waltz,” and “Harold and Maude” made a recent list.
“Monster” by R.E.M. is one of the CDs he’s been listening to “over and over again. It’s a great road album,” he said.
After graduating from North Georgia College, Mullins was commissioned to the US Army Reserve continuing a family tradition. His father, grandfather and brother also served in the armed forces.
He has appeared in an independent comedy “The Delivery Boy Chronicles” which was recently released on DVD. Mullins appears in the film with his wife, actress Kelly Hobbs.
Roadie and Aslan, two mixed-breed dogs, are a big part of Mullins’ life and are included in the group he thanks on his latest CD
His recent CD is dedicated to Mike and Katie West owners, of the Ninth Ward Pickin’ Parlor, and all other musicians along the Gulf of Mexico whom Mullins says inspire him.
Want to get ready for Shawn Mullins’ show?
Here are three records Mullins says you might want to check out before you go.
• Soul’s Core
• The Thorns
• Ninth Ward Pickin’ Parlor
Brighton Center for the Performing Arts
7 p.m. Saturday, March 31
Tickets available by calling (810) 299-4130 (press 0) or at Brighton Community Education located at Brighton High School.
Tickets will be available at the door.