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Shelley Short

| February 28, 2006 | 0 Comments

Shelley Short
O Captain My Captain

Coming here was a very intense time,” Shelley Short says about uprooting her life from Portland to Chicago in September 2004. “I moved here with a friend and another close friend lives here that I’ve known since high school, so I wasn’t all alone, but I left a lot of people behind.” Her cell phone still has a Portland number, “So I can talk to my family for free,” she says.


Homesickness still creeps into her voice when she talks about it, but bad times often make for good music. If that’s proportional, Short’s bad time was devastating: Captain Wild Horse (Rides The Heart Of Tomorrow) is an astonishingly good sophomore release.

Not much in her debut, Oh, Say Little Dogies, Why, pointed to a next effort on this scale. An intimate and off-the-cuff acoustic, country folk collection, it was long on lyric potential and quirky melodies, but it sounded as if it could’ve been made in your bathroom with your more talented roommates.

“It was recorded [in 2003] partly in Portland and partly in New Mexico,” Short says. I wrote a couple of [songs] in New Mexico because my friend had a studio there and I wanted to use it. The whole thing probably took a week to record, so it was kind of spur of the moment.

“A friend sent it to a small label [Keep Recordings] in Tucson, Arizona. [They] only made 150 of them, so between my family and friends they’re pretty much all gone, but I did sell some at shows.”

Short, you see, recorded with friends in friends’ studios, and a friend sent the record to a label. The more you talk to her, the more friends she talks about. And she makes more friends wherever she goes.

In Chicago, a Portland pal set her new geography in motion for her. “My friend Colin [Meloy] who is in The Decemberists, was coming to town to play solo and he called me up and asked if I would open for him at Schubas. That was really nice of him, because I would never have gotten that show on my own.”

Besides wowing the audience with her irresistibly charming, not-quite-girlish vocals, and establishing her reputation in the Chicago music scene, that first Schubas show eventually started her on a path to her first real band. “I found Andy [Rader, bassist] at The Hideout when I went to see Can-Ky-Ree. He had actually seen me play before at Schubas, solo, so he already knew kind of what the songs were like, so he came in and recorded and now he plays with me live.” Rader led her to drummer Jamie Carter, who also recorded and mixed Captain Wild Horse.

Linda Ray

To learn more about Shelley Short’s friends, pick up the March edition of Illinois Entertainer.

Category: Columns, Features, Monthly

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