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With music described as “gritty and soulful, raucous and beautiful,” Seattle singer-songwriter Shelby Earl was named by NPR/LA Times music critic Ann Powers as her "new favorite songwriter," and her solo debut album, Burn the Boats (produced by John Roderick of the Long Winters), was named the "#1 Outstanding 2011 Album You Might Have Missed" by Amazon.com. She has since garnered praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine, NPR, KEXP, No Depression, American Songwriter and many more. Earl’s sophomore album Swift Arrows (produced by Damien Jurado), was released in 2013 to further critical acclaim, and in the words of Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie/Postal Service) it “proves [Shelby] has the most heartbreakingly beautiful voice in Seattle.” Earl has toured with and been main support for Benjamin Gibbard, Rhett Miller, Tom Brosseau, Loudon Wainwright III, The White Buffalo, Crooked Fingers, Portugal The Man, and many more.
Shelby’s first single for London Tone Music, “Burn The Boats” has a very unique backstory. Her 2011 album of the same name, was already fully tracked and mastered when she first wrote the song and, consequently, only a very short outro made it on to the CD. Over the past three years, the song has become somewhat of an anthem at Shelby’s live shows. The song, inspired by the story of Hernan Cortez, who in 1519 set out from Spain with a small army to seize the great treasures hoarded by the Aztecs in Mexico. After arriving on the shore, to motivate his army he asked them to “burn the ships”, thereby, making their journey all or nothing, raising their commitment to succeed to the highest level.
People are so inspired by the story behind the song and Shelby’s own “all or nothing” journey, that they often approach her after the shows with their own stories of "burning the boats." When Shelby agreed to record a song for London Tone and suggested recording the first full band version of what had become one of her career defining songs, the label jumped at the opportunity. Working closely with producer Jonathan Plum to re-envision "Burn the Boats," Shelby enlisted the help of two of her bandmates, Michael Knight (drums) and Anna-Lisa Notter (backing vocals), to flesh out the new arrangement. All of the other vocals and instrumentation were laid down by Plum (guitars/bass/backing vocals) and Shelby (lead vocals/guitar) at London Bridge Studio.