This Ain’t No Crazy Cat Lady
By Arrissia Owen-Turner
Tracy Shedd couldn’t help but follow in her mother’s footsteps. Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., the country singer’s daughter went on to become a performer as well, cutting her chops crooning along with Patsy Cline songs like “Crazy” on her family’s living room PA system.
It could be because one of Shedd’s most vivid memories from her childhood was seeing her mother performing in Mayport, all decked out in cowboy hat, boots and fringed jacket.
“I remember thinking, ‘I have a cool mom,’” Shedd says, now a touring musician based out of Tucson, Ariz., where she lives with her lead guitarist/husband James Tritten. She visits Palm Springs Friday, Dec. 23, to perform at the Ace Hotel.
That sort of musical influence in Shedd’s life led to an early start on her musical path, starting with classical piano lessons. At age 6, she composed her own takes on Bach and Beethoven.
But while she was in high school, Shedd’s parents divorced. The baby grand piano went to her mother in the divorce, where Shedd lived part-time. The rest of the time she resorted to a cheaper version of keys.
That led to Shedd picking up the guitar, and by her senior year stepping up to share lead vocals in her high school band, Sella. She was able to utilize her skills on the 88s in the ’80s for that band, taking on Moog and analog synths.
“I guess I just stopped because a keyboard never really satisfied me the same as the grand piano,” Shedd says looking back.
After moving to Arizona and embarking on a career as a singer-songwriter-guitar player, Shedd returned to her first love. The local radio station KXCI FM asked Shedd to join its Winter Solstice radio broadcast. But because she is self-taught on guitar, Shedd didn’t feel comfortable reading music for traditional Christmas carols. But she did know how to read music on that other instrument.
“I thought, ‘Why not try and learn the Christmas songs on piano?’” Shedd recalls. She went out and purchased an electric piano and got to jingling. “To my surprise, everything came back pretty quickly and I immediately started writing songs. It has been a treat to have two instruments to write on.”
With her new instrument at her fingertips, Shedd composed the songs on piano for her most recent release, the aptly titled EP88, the follow up to 2008’s Cigarettes & Smoke Machines. The songs exhibit fuller, admittedly moodier compositions. She combines her folky medium with shoegaze influences, bands like My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and other ’80s Manchester acts.
“Writing EP88 was definitely by default different than any of my other records being that it was written on piano,” Shedd says. “It’s way more somber. It’s funny, now I’m ready to pop it out again on guitar when we get back to Tucson.”
Joining her on the recordings is her husband, James, who has played on four of Shedd’s albums since 1991, starting out on drums and adding lead guitar for the last three. Inevitably, their relationship finds its way into the songs, too.
“The songs seem to write themselves,” she says. “I definitely pull from personal experience: dreams, life, et cetera. The only thing off limits would be my cat, Kickflip. She has asked me not to include her in my songs. She prefers to keep her personal life out of the public eye.”
Besides, writing a song about her cat, well, now that would just be crazy.
Tracy Shedd performs with Young Mothers and JP Houston at the Ace Hotel, Amigo Room, 701 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, (760) 325-9900; www.acehotel.com. Fri, Dec. 23. 9 PM. Free. 21+.