Steve Schuman and North Valley Productions kick off the summer concert season with Shawn Colvin and Patty Larkin
North Valley Productions concert promoter Scott Schuman is busy this week. First he’s bringing multiple Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin to Cedar Grove on May 15 ("Been trying to bring her to town for about five years!"). Four days later, he’ll be setting up for blazing guitarist Patty Larkin at the Chico Women’s Club (see Larkin preview this page).
This is not surprising. Over the years, Schuman’s North Valley Productions (he also owns and runs the similarly named organic-produce business North Valley Produce) has brought many widely known folk-pop, roots, etc., performers to the Chico area: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Cheryl Wheeler, Greg Brown, Bruce Cockburn, Dwight Yoakam, Nickel Creek, Janis Ian, Slaid Cleaves, Laura Love, Rickie Lee Jones and more.
Schuman tells a funny story about how he “got into the [promoter] biz by accident with a wrong phone number” back in 1997. Meaning to call Bruce Cockburn in the course of trying to help his friend, singer-guitarist Alice Di Micele, book gigs, he accidentally called Arlo Guthrie’s house (Cockburn and Guthrie at the time had the same agent, who mixed up the phone numbers) and ended up chatting with Guthrie’s daughter Sarah. One thing led to another, and Schuman, with the help of co-producer-at-the-time Pat Kopp, had Di Micele opening for Guthrie at Chico State.
During a phone conversation with Colvin, I shared Schuman’s words, as he attempted to paint a picture of the scene for the upcoming concert he’s planning: “Cedar Grove … Picture this: family and friends, neighbors, too. Grassy meadow surrounded by redwoods and cedars… sitting on grass or lawn chair. Sun setting over the canopy of trees, early stars coming out. Possible moon. Stage set up in front of a very large oak tree. Very comfortable space … Out steps Shawn! You get the picture…”
“That’s very sweet,” the Austin, Texas, native responded gently, in her slightly husky speaking voice.
The soft-spoken Schuman is very proud to be able to bring Colvin, whom he describes as an “awesome songstress,” to town, especially to the lovely setting of Cedar Grove. “[I] love what she writes,” he bubbles, “and what she chooses to cover: Sting, Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel. Her new CD Polaroids contains the Beatles classic ‘I’ll Be Back.’ Most folks do not recognize it the first time they hear it, as she completely rearranges it and adds so much to it!”
Colvin is described by Rolling Stone magazine as “one of the best, and first, of the current crop of female singer-songwriters who meld folky introspection with pop-rock hooks,” and her Amazon.com profile compares Colvin’s music to that of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss and even Colvin’s long-time idol Joni Mitchell, among others.
When I mention to Colvin that she is right up there with Mitchell these days, she slightly shrugs off the praise, responding humbly and realistically. “Some people can sing and play a bunch of instruments. I’m a good folk singer. I have a good voice that goes with the acoustic guitar. I think it’s a sign of maturity when you finally figure out what your strengths and limitations are.”
“I just really enjoy performing,” Colvin continues, matter-of-factly. “I just do what I do. [At Cedar Grove] I’ll do a couple of songs [that I’ve planned to do ahead of time], and then I’ll just wing it. I just really enjoy the intimate setting. It’s sort of a personal interaction. A conversation between me and the audience—that’s what they can expect.”