For this episode of the Sound Words STL podcast, Andy Ruzicka caught up with Shawn Mullins at Blueberry Hill before the singer's show at the Duck Room. It was far from his first performance in our city.
Mullins said he has "great memories of St. Louis," recalling his first performance in the city, an early '90s performance at MokaBe's Coffehouse in Forest Park.
"It's coming up on me now, 25, 26 years ago that I was playing there, and within four or five years of that happening my life changed a lot in music," he said. "All of a sudden, everything kind of blew up and changed, so I still connect to that time."
That success was headlined by the Grammy-nominated single, "Lullaby," which reached the number one spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks chart and seventh on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, while reaching the top 10 of at least a handful of other charts across the world.
"It's a weird thing to have one hit and not any more, but at the same time, it's a blessing. I mean, it certainly gave me some audience almost in any country, I want to go to -- I can play at least a little club," Mullins said.
"I don't really ever get tired of playing it," the Atlanta native added. "I enjoy it, and I'm thankful for it."
Though that song is the singer/songwriter's biggest, Mullins notes that the collection of tracks on 2015's "My Stupid Heart" hold up as some of his finest.
"I'm certainly proud of those songs. They're some of the best songs I've ever been a part of writing," he said.
Like a lot of artists today, the singer is able to take control of his art, taking a much more independent approach, having moved away from the challenges that come from being on a major label.
"When you have a lot of other people working it, you can get removed from certain aspects of it, including connection to the audience. I never felt that connection to the audience during my big hit."
In the late '90s, Mullins, who was in his late 20s at the time, felt out of place in a musical landscape that was highlighted by teen pop artists like Britney Spears.
"I don't even know what I'm doing here, I'm a folk singer," the now-50-year-old remembers thinking.
But his influences go deeper than what his work back then may have shown. From Isaac Hayes to Johnny Cash, Mullins said a wide range of influences will be reflected on his latest project, "Soul Core's Revival." The two-disc record is a re-imagined and re-recorded version of "Soul's Core," the 1998 album that featured "Lullaby."
"I love all music. There's not really a type of music I [don't like] -- I guess, maybe Norwegian Death Metal is the one style I've heard that I go 'Yeah, not for me.'"
For the new version of the album, Mullins said the style reflects the musicians he's collaborating with these days, collectively dubbed Soul's Carnival. Randall Bramblett, who's worked with Gregg Allman, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Winwood and others, is the keyboard player on a list of impressive sidemen for the new project, which is being crowdfunded through PledgeMusic.
"I didn't really tell them what to play or ask them to repeat any certain lines from the original recording. I just kind of let them have at it," he said. "Some of the songs are stretched much longer, for instance, or they're done in a different time signature than they were before."
Those recordings will make up one disc of "Soul's Core Revival" double album. The other disc will feature solo acoustic versions of the songs.
The crowdfunding campaign, which has exceeded its initial goal, has about two weeks before it closes. The majority of incentives, including a signed guitar and Skype chats, are still available for a limited time, here.