Even before he could name-drop Elton John as a collaborator * and Shawn Colvin and Shelby Lynne, who both appear on his dynamic, richly textured new album, Beneath The Velvet Sun * Atlanta's Shawn Mullins could spin a pretty snazzy rock and roll yarn. Like, how a folk-pop singer/songwriter who for years enjoyed only regional independent success can, with proper planetary alignment, blow up on the world stage with a single song, the softly drawled Hollywood ballad Lullaby. Maybe those lean years are to thank for Mullins's appreciable humility despite platinum sales, a major-label deal, star status in Australia and all the trimmings that entails. Gabbing on the horn from California, the oak-voiced Mullins couldn't be more pleasant as he describes how he deals with people's sometimes wild perceptions of his lyrics, of how flattered he is by fan-run Web sites and how he'd wait in line to hear Joan Osborne sing.
But the Elton thing is the bomb, non?
"That came together partly because of my friend Ed Roland of Collective Soul," Mullins explains of the yet-to-be-released track he cut with the lion king. "Ed was recording demos in this amazing rehearsal space in Atlanta, where Elton lives a good bit of the year, and I asked if I could get in to record there, too.
"So Ed came in one day to hear what I was doing, and he said, "You ought to call Elton to play piano on that song. He lives just down the street.' And I'm like, "Uh, yeah, I'll go call Elton.' But Ed actually set it up, and we ended up * Elton, my wife and I and Ed * going out for dinner.
"Elton's just an amazing human being, so sweet and so funny. Cusses like a sailor, but he's also a gentleman. So he came by the studio and we laid down Border Song, off his very first album. I hope to put that out as a benefit single, maybe for one of his AIDS organizations, one day. That would be a totally cool thing to do."SHAWN MULLINS with CHANTAL KREVIAZUK, SARAH HARMER, SEAN VERRAULT and guests, at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), tonight (Thursday, December 14). Sold out. 323-1251.KIM HUGHES