“Paper Van Gogh,” the lead-off track from Shelby Lynne’s latest album, I Can’t Imagine, released last month, opens with what comes off as a fairly angry line: “I threw these colors down in a fit of rage.” But instead of delivering the phrase with vitriol, Lynne, much like the Dutch master in the title, proceeds to paint an extraordinary canvas of a song that evokes myriad emotional responses.
The likewise beautifully rendered music video for “Paper Van Gogh” is a simple, uncluttered affair. As Lynne plays acoustic guitar throughout, members of her backing band, Kudzu, are heard but only glimpsed briefly. Wearing a red sweatshirt with the word “Heaven” emblazoned on it at the start of the clip, Lynne conveys a range of emotion in her facial expressions. While splashes of color and images, such as pages of sheet music, are laid on top of Lynne’s performance, the focus remains on her startlingly confessional lyrics: “Red wine spills out over ivory pages/The looking glass reveals what the strokes display/The greatest fake of all hangs on the wall/My paper Van Gogh.”
“Paper Van Gogh” is one of five songs on I Can’t Imagine that Lynne wrote by herself, although she had a hand in penning all 10 tracks on the LP. The decision to tackle a tune as a solo writer, she explains, comes down to instincts and, like much of what she does creatively, doesn’t involve over-thinking.
“A writer knows, ‘Oh, I’ve got this,'” Lynne tells Rolling Stone Country. “It’s instincts. You have to have them and you have to use them. If you put your brain into it you’re just going to have a brain record and who the fuck wants that? I don’t want to be thinking too much. I want to be feeling a lot but not thinking any. That’s why my records are such a mess. OK, they’re a good mess but I am not going in there with some kind of plan except to make a fucking stellar record.'”
Lynne, who has been performing I Can’t Imagine and her breakthrough album, I Am Shelby Lynne, in their entirety during her live shows, will play Pershing Square in Los Angeles on August 1st.