- Nathan Yoder
Artist Interview Series: Shelley Short
As show coverage drops off during this period of quarantine, the "features" space on this site will feature more and more artist interviews, with the intention of keeping musicians connected with fans, and vice versa. This installment spotlights Shelley Short, a musician who just left the Pacific Northwest for Australia, but still holds Oregon very close, even from afar. The questions given to Short differed quite a bit from those posed to other artists, as the focus of this interview revolved around the deep connections formed between emotion and place, and the creativity inspired by those interactions.
Photo credit: last.fm/user/liegeweise
Shelley Short is an Oregonian through and through. She grew up here in Portland, in an artistic household which acted as musical hub of sorts. This upbringing fostered creative connections which multiplied over the years and developed into strong personal and professional relationships. Besides a prolific solo career, Short has collaborated with M Ward, The Decemberists, and recently, Neko Case, just to name a few. And though the aforementioned artists are contributors to the famous "Northwest Sound," it is Short's solo work that this writer connects so closely with that magical wonderment inspired by our shared home state.
When asked about location-specific songwriting inspiration, Short writes, "I have always wanted to be able to go away to the woods, or the desert, or the mountains or the coast...for a month or more, and not see anyone else, and write a whole album that way. But that always seemed like a luxury or somehow impractical. I do find that I can get away for a few days to a week at a time to work on songs, and when I do that, I usually go to the coast." She explains that the Oregon Coast, specifically, gives her quite a bit of creative energy. In fact, her excellent 2017 album, Pacific City, was recorded at Peter Broderick's small studio south of Portland, on the Pacific. Describing the power of the Oregon Coast, Short explains, "The landscape and the sounds and the air seem to hold a balance of lightness and darkness. (It) can be scary sometimes, and unpredictable, and I really like that." She recalls the recording process of Pacific City as "a dream" and though the album itself was billed as a solo album, a lot of positive collaboration went into it as well.
Short sees songwriting as intensely personal, and she often weaves in her own life experiences or the narratives of others into her lyrics. Because of the heavy nature of the solo songwriting process, she appreciates the contrast that artistic collaboration provides. She explains, "When I collaborate, things feel lighter and less heavy and more fun." In a way then, Short is inspired not only by natural landscapes, but also by the community created by her life in Portland. She writes, "Before I left Portland a few weeks ago, I was working on a collection of cover songs with my friend Brian Mumford (Dragging An Ox Through Water). It was really fun to get together and work on songs someone else wrote, but adding our own harmonies and ideas." Short also recently performed with the bands The Minus 5 and Sun Foot in Portland, and hopes to collaborate with even more artists in the future as it is something that she greatly enjoys.
Presently, Shelley Short is living in Australia - quite the change of scenery! She is almost done writing a new album, and is gearing up to record the songs once they are ready. Short is excited about all of these changes and transitions in her life, and to see what comes from them. Selfishly, we hope that she won't stay away from the PNW too long, and will eventually come back to Portland, at least to play a show or two. Until then, you can order digital copies of her music via her Bandcamp (she is unable to mail albums at this moment), and stay tuned for more releases in the future.
As a final note, much like you might have seen on this site a couple weeks ago, Shelley Short cited a couple albums which she has appreciated during this strange period of quarantine. She writes, "Lately, I have been listening to Nina Simone’s To Love Somebody. It's a beautiful record to put on first thing in the morning to get the spirits up. She does some fantastic covers of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. (I) Have also been very inspired by the album Folk Roots New Routes by Davy Graham and Shirley Collins. The song choices are so thick and easy to relate to. I have covered a few of her covers on this album. Good album to cook with during a quarantine."