Shelby Earl is deeply rooted in the Seattle music scene, whether it’s booking, mentoring, or promoting bands. Now, she’s adding to the flavor of the bands she’s helped, in the form of her debut album Burn the Boats. In addition to her own girl-and-guitar indie-folk artistry, she’s teamed up with a myriad of collaborators for the release, including members of The Long Winters, SHIM, Telekinesis, and former Fleet Foxes. The resulting musical effort is an accumulation of songs about seeking lost loves, stretching for the unattainable, and “waking up one’s own life after a long slumber.” The latter metaphor is particularly apt for Earl herself, who left her high-stakes corporate music industry job in favor of a position as a waitress, in order to focus on her music. Her commitment to becoming a full-time musician came on the heels of the breakup of her last band, The Hope, during which time she played a slew of solo shows in Seattle and New York. The enthusiastic responses to these shows prompted her shift in careers, and culminated in the (Long Winters’ frontman) John Roderick-produced debut. Now, Earl’s summer tour continues with a stop at KEXP’s secret stage at the Bumbershoot Music Lounge.
Shelby Earl put on a delightful set of alt-country tinged singer-songwriter ballads, all lyrically related to relationships and love in some way or another. Sometimes this topic was explored in a comical, uplifting manner. “22 (You’ve Got Me Undone)” was about an innocent rock & roll crush. “Legend of Persephone” was about a new relationship in which “one person hadn’t ‘gone as far’ as the other person.” In these songs, Shelby Earl appeared to notice the slight humor involved in these relationship miscues – not only do they make for interesting stories, but this is part of what makes human romantics so consistently new and adventurous. Several other songs were about pure heartbreak, such as “The Seer,” a slow-burner in which wall colors were used as a metaphor for the status of a relationship. Lighthearted or wistfully mournful, Shelby Earl provided listeners with a relaxing midday set of songs.