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Shawn Colvin: How Low Expectations Led to a Grammy-Winning Song 20 Years Ago

Shawn Colvin's award-winning album, "A Few Small Repairs," was released twenty years ago.

Before "Sunny Came Home" put her on the pop music map, singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin had earned a following in the folk music world, and even won a Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy for her debut album, "Steady On."  But Colvin was hardly a household name.

So when she and her collaborator, producer Jon Leventhal, went into the studio to record the songs that would become the album, "A Few Small Repairs," their expectations were modest, and Colvin says that was fine by them.

"We kind of made a pact," she said before a recent show at Milwaukee's Turner Hall Ballroom, "that we don't care.  We think our songs are radio-worthy, but maybe in an alternate universe."

It turned out the song, "Sunny Came Home," was radio-worthy in the universe in which we all exist - to the degree that it reached #4 on Billboard's mainstream Top 40 chart, and #1 on two other Billboard music charts.  It also earned her Grammys for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, along with two other Grammy nominations.

Colvin says 20 years later, she retains fond memories of making the album - largely because they didn't feel pressure to create a commercial success.  She says she and Leventhal agreed they would trim down songs or edit solos - or do anything else purely for the purposes of getting radio airplay.  "We're just going to hand it in," she remembers thinking, "something we love and stand by, and that's the end of it.

"So it definitely made for a sense of freedom and looseness and fun.  And that's not always the case."

Colvin and her full band played an October 25 show at Turner Hall, in support of the 20th anniversary re-release of "A Few Small Repairs."