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Shelley Short Bio

SHELLEY SHORT  By Darren Hanlon

Kimya Dawson had expressed interest but appeared to have pulled out the day before the session. At the time I took it personally but it’s funny now looking back how fortune often arrives with bad news. I desperately needed a female vocal for a duet (All These Things) I was recording for my album; I felt it was an important song and was duly worried I wouldn’t find the perfect counterpart it needed. The engineer Adam Selzer, being a luminary of the Portland music scene, gave me a list of names of local singers he thought would be appropriate. I noted one of them- Shelley Short – was actually playing that night at a local club near the studio so I wandered down after we’d locked up and sat anonymously in the crowd.

She gave a impressively beguiling performance so we called her up the next morning and she came in and sang. She ended staying around for another day or so, singing on most of the other tracks and soon I realised her parts, for me at least, gave the whole thing it’s shape and flavour. So much so that when I got home and contemplated a band to present the album it couldn’t not include Shelley. That first trip around Australia just seemed to grow into another, and then another overseas… and here we are a year and a half later, having not really stopped since.

Man, it’s a joy to sing with Shelley. It’s so effortless and after a hundred or so shows it feels maybe like our harmonies have grafted together a bit, the way they often do with repeat contact. She sings neither loud nor quiet. Her voice isn’t something that sounds studied or affected, it just comes out with her breath. It’s so naturally her, like another body part.

But the reason I’m writing here is because Shelley Short writes songs too.

Words and singing have always been a part of world. Her parents were freethinking hippies, and music came with that. At the end of a US tour recently we shared a wonderful banquet with them and afterwards I got to have a long talk with her Dad in the kitchen. He had great stories and I paid rapt attention. Amongst other things he told of how he’d attended the first acid tests in the 60s when they came through Portland, and a party where a drunk Ken Kesey played a button accordion with his feet.

“Wow!” I beamed, “What about Neal Cassidy? He drove their bus right?”

“Oh yeah,” he remembered, “I saw him there. He was running around with this ball of yarn. He’d secretly tied it on to someone and was wrapping it round people and then suddenly he’d pull it and cinch them all together!”

Shelley would pass through the kitchen unamused, having heard all this before. She grew up amongst all this counterculture and when not being confused and terrified by it, learnt from it.

Lenard Cohen and Joni Mitchel spun on the turntable, heavy literature lay scattered around the lounge room. She told me during one of our long car journeys how for a school project she wrote every verse for Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row across Portland’s Broadway Bridge in fluorescent chalk. That’s pretty intense for a 10 year old.

Her Dad would tell her to read this or listen to that. And he still does. Saying goodbye with full bellies that afternoon in Portland he handed her on rented library DVDs some obscure documentaries and old Polish films in black and white he thought she should watch.

So I present to you now this latest collection of Shelley’s work. When I got the album masters back I sent a copy to an avid music fan friend of mine and he wrote back one simple line that I guess could sum up the whole thing, “she has a voice that could un-curdle milk.”

Discography @ Flippin Yeah Industries

FYI007 (February 2011) – Split 7″ with The Gold Coats featuring the track “Right Away”

FYI009 (November 2011) – Then Came The After (Album)

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