Country Next: Shelby Darrall
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Shelby Darrall.
Photo Courtesy Shelby Darrall
Rising country artist Shelby Darrall is building her name as an incredible storyteller with a powerhouse voice. Born and raised on a vineyard in Napa Valley, the talented singer-songwriter sparked a passion for music early on, thanks in part to her father, Chuck, who performed in a band called Silver Creek.
At the age of 20, Darrall moved to Nashville, Tenn., in hopes to pursue her dreams even further. After studying at Belmont University, she immersed herself in the country music scene, eventually signing with Reservoir for a worldwide publishing deal.
Now, Darrall is opening up to her fans even more with the release of her debut EP entitled Entertainment For The Brokenhearted. The six-track collection, produced by Grammy-winning icon Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Carlton), pulls from Darrall’s own diary, highlighting relatable real-life stories f heartbreak and loss with depth-filled lyrics. With all songs co-written by Darrall, the project includes autobiographical tracks –“Wrong Hands,” “I Want You to Leave,” “Pick Me Up,” “Love Me When I’m Leavin,” “Lied To Too,” and “Happy First.”
“I named it Entertainment for the Brokenhearted because essentially that’s exactly what it is, there’s a chapter for every emotion you might be feeling so go pick your poison,” Darrall shared in a recent press release. “It’s really highlighting the ups and downs you have when you’re kind of blindly holding on to a relationship that you knew was never going to work but still didn’t want to let go of.”
Darrall, who has been opening shows for Restless Road on their Bar Friends Tour, caught up with Country Now to talk about her path in country music, her highly relatable new EP, and what’s to come.
Read on to find out more about Shelby Darrall in this exclusive Q&A below.
Was a career in country music always the plan for you?
It always was. My dad was into music. He was in a band when I was growing up. So I learned music from him and picked up on it. But, I was probably around 18 years old when I decided I wanted to pursue music as a career. Then, I moved to Nashville when I was 20 years old and went from there.
What does your dad think now that you’ve started your own path in country music?
He loves it. He loves to live vicariously through me a little bit. But it’s cool because he taught me about music and how to love it and respect it. So, I love growing and expanding my career here and then going home and telling him about it. It’s so different now from what it was when he was in the business. So it’s so special to be able to share it with him.
You also received your degree at Belmont University. How did that experience help shape your artistry?
I started school at the University of Arizona. I was there for two years before I finished up at Belmont. I moved to Nashville not knowing a single soul. So, it was nice to be around people my age. It forced me to get to know people and write. So that whole community kind of happened quickly for me. Nashville and Belmont are both so full of talent. It’s impossible not to find it and cultivate it. So, going to Belmont was a good move for me, I think.
How about the songwriting? Did you write early on in your career?
I always wrote. The songs were pretty shi*** in the beginning. But, I honed in on my craft when I got to Nashville. I wrote when I was at Belmont, but I wasn’t super focused on it. I was trying to finish school. Then after I graduated, I started co-writing and meeting people and publishers. I didn’t sign my first publishing deal until this past year. So, I held out on that one.
Tell me about your publishing deal. How has that experience been for you so far?
Before the deal, I had written alone a lot, and my manager was setting up writes for me. He was acting like a publisher for a while. So we didn’t feel it was necessary to sign a publishing deal. But then we met John Ozier and Greg Gallo at Reservoir. They are such great guys. We just opened up that conversation. Then, somehow I fell into a really good one with awesome people. I’m grateful I met Reservoir, but it was not initially in the plans to be signed.
With your deal, do you write songs every day?
Part of the reason why I think Reservoir is so great is that they knew that I was signing more as an artist. I am a songwriter too, but most of my focus goes toward my stuff, like trying to tour and getting that part of my career rolling. So they don’t overwhelm me with writing. I mean, they are very lenient with how much I need to be writing. For the most part, it’s for me to find out the next project. So they are amazing. It’s been awesome.
Congratulations on the release of your new EP! Tell me about that project.
Thank you! It’s called Entertainment For The Brokenhearted. It’s a six-song EP with a storyline from top to bottom with the tracklisting in order. But, what happened was, I got my heart broken by a mean, stupid boy. The first song I wrote for the project was “Lied To Too.” I wrote that with Emily Weisband. It felt so special to write it, and I wanted to tell the rest of the story. So it snowballed after that. I wrote the rest of the songs and told every part of that story. And it has been a cool experience from top to bottom. I recorded it with Ron Fair. He produced it. I have never worked with somebody of that caliber. He brought in such incredible musicians. I don’t know how I got into that room. But, I felt lucky.
What did you learn from working with Ron Fair?
A ton! In the beginning, I was terrified to speak up because he is so incredible at what he does. I felt like I just needed to let him do it. But, there were parts where I needed to remind myself that it was my music, and I needed it to sound the way I wanted. So, learning to speak up and saying, ‘I don’t love it that way, maybe it could be this way,’ was, I think, the most important thing for me. Also, to grow as a person and an artist, to be confident enough to do that. So, that was a big one, but he is incredible. I learned so much working alongside him.
With heartbreak being the focus of this project, do you ever get nervous sharing that kind of vulnerability with the listeners?
Oh yea, tons of nerves! Because, you know, writing songs about somebody, it’s such a weird thing. At this point in my life, I don’t wish him or the situation any ill will. It was just something that happened. But it created this art that I’m proud to be sharing. It’s a back and forth thing. I’m nervous about basically putting my diary on blast, but in the end, it’s worth it.
Was it difficult to record those tracks in the studio after experiencing that situation?
I think I confused myself with it, honestly. When I wrote these songs, it was on the backend because that relationship was done. And, when I was writing these songs, I was like, ‘I’m so beyond this. I can write about it because it doesn’t affect me anymore.’ But, when I went to record those songs, it all, kind of, came back. I think I cried when we recorded the song “Happy First,” which was surprising to me because I thought I was over the whole thing. But, it just goes to show how emotional all of this can be.
Is there a song on the EP that you consider to be the most personal for you?
They all are in different ways. But, two of them, I think, stand out the most. “Lied To Too,” that one is pretty personal. It explains the whole story. It’s like a letter to the other girl. Then, there’s another track called “Pick Me Up.” It’s about my dad and how I’ve had to call him when I was having a mental breakdown. We’re very close. So those two are the most personal for me.
In the writing room, how did you navigate sharing those personal experiences with your co-writers?
I am lucky to be able to write with a lot of my good friends. A couple of them, like Emily Weisband, who wrote “Lied To Too” with me, are some of my best friends. She was incredibly present for this entire period of my life. So, with her, it was very natural because she had already known the story. We would flesh it out and talk about it and pull something pretty out of it. I’m fairly close with a lot of my co-writers. So it was easy for me to vent and get something out of it.
What would you like fans to take away from Entertainment For The Brokenhearted?
For me, when I’m upset, music is one of the things that I run to when I need a therapy session. So, I would hope that would be a place for people to go with my music. This project has a lot of chapters to it. So, I would hope that one of my songs, in some way, would help somebody get through or express their own emotions and feelings. That would be the biggest thing I’d want people to take from it.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully another tour. My band and I just worked with this company to build our new set, and it’s so awesome. There are pop-punk mashups in there and Miley Cyrus. So look for more music and lots of shows. I’m going to play as much as I possibly can!
Fans can keep up with Shelby Darrall on Instagram.
Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Country Now, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.