This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

(Soundbite of song, "Polite Society")

Ms. MAIA SHARP (Singer; Songwriter): (Singing) I will never be a part of your polite society.

BLOCK: The new album "Echo" from Maia Sharp.

(Soundbite of song, "Polite Society")

Ms. SHARP: (Singing) I've been looking from the outside in and it seems so good to me.

BLOCK: This is Maia Sharp's fourth album but mostly she's made her living writing songs for other performers.

(Soundbite of song, "Don't Come Around Here Tonight")

Ms. CHER (Singer): (Singing) So don't come around here tonight. But that doesn't mean forever.

BLOCK: Cher recorded a Maia Sharp song.

(Soundbite of song, "Don't Come Around Here Tonight")

Ms. CHER (Singer): (Singing) I trust you to spare us a fight. And humor my endeavor. There was something…

BLOCK: So did the Dixie Chicks.

(Soundbite of song, "A Home")

THE DIXIE CHICKS (Musicians): (Singing) Not a night goes by, I don't dream of wandering through the home that might have been.

BLOCK: And Bonnie Raitt has recorded three.

(Soundbite of song, "Crooked Crown")

Ms. BONNIE RAITT (Musician): (Singing) I'm holding steady. I'm holding steady this crooked crown, knowing I'll lose it if I look down.

BLOCK: Maia Sharp's says having Bonnie Raitt cover her songs was her dream.

Ms. SHARP: It was kind of the holy grail of songwriting. And apparently, I had been kind of on her radar for a while. I didn't know this until we met in '05. And on her record, "Souls Alike," she sang a few of my songs on that and it just, you know, the validation of that. I was such a fan of hers and then she comes forward and says that she's a fan of mine too and then sings that hell out of these songs - was amazing.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Well, Bonnie Raitt is featured on one of the songs on your album. This is "Death By Perfection." Tell me about that song.

Ms. SHARP: It's trying to appreciate the imperfections and maybe even celebrate them, and being okay with something just being what it is and there's no need to change it if you love it.

(Soundbite of song, "Death By Perfection")

Ms. SHARP: (Singing) Used to be so innocent and wild with the light all its own. This tragedy could have been avoided. If they just left alone. No, they took something beautiful, straightened the curves, and they filled in the cracks…

Ms. SHARP: It felt like the right palate for Bonnie Raitt's vocal on it. And she came in and I actually - I had a melody already for her and I sang it to her and she's like, okay, well, let me just kind warm up and she sang something else.

(Soundbite of song, "Death By Perfection")

Ms. RAITT: (Singing) I'm (unintelligible) wide open to rejection. Doesn't sound so glamorous I know…

Ms. SHARP: And she's like, okay, so - sorry I didn't quite sing your melody. How do you sing that? And I'm like, don't ever sing what I sang you. Sing what you just sang because it blows away mine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHARP: But she just owned it as she always does.

(Soundbite of song, "Death By Perfection")

Ms. RAITT: Oh, that's just no way. That's no way to go. Oh, this is something beautiful…

Ms. SHARP: It's also you know quite a relief to meet somebody that you think so highly of and then realize that they really are a really good human as well. You know, how sad would that be if it was a bad experience? But it's been wonderful.

(Soundbite of song, "John Q Lonely")

Ms. SHARP: (Singing) When I first shook hands with John Q Lonely, he was sitting in a room…

BLOCK: The song "John Q Lonely": Tell us about who you're imagining this man is he's turning 50. He home alone with a cupcake.

Ms. SHARP: Well, you don't find that until the end that he has lost in love. But his attitude is why would I ever want to go there. Who even needs that? I have everything I need alone. What could I love more than my freedom?

(Soundbite of song, "John Q Lonely")

Ms. SHARP: (Singing) It's these people like you and never complete without a ring on your finger, dog at your feet, a house on a suburb street named after a tree. Not me.

Ms. SHARP: And you don't find that until the end that he's only thinking this because it didn't happen for him in the past. And I feel for this guy - I'm happy to say that I don't feel like him.

BLOCK: And I keep thinking about that first line which is: when I first shook hand with John Q Lonely.

Ms. SHARP: Well, I figure that I had to meet him in order for me to write a song about him. And it just felt like more of a personal encounter.

BLOCK: The last song on the CD, "The Girl On Her Way," is just you and piano.

Ms. SHARP: Yeah.

BLOCK: And it's a really poignant, crushing song in a way about expectation and people who are expected to do great things and maybe fall short.

Ms. SHARP: Well, this album, of all of my albums, I feel like it has the most truth in it. I feel like there's some truth in every song. The last song is the truest of all, but I feel great having written it and gotten it out of my brain and my stomach…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHARP: …and onto the album. It's really the most cathartic song that I think I've ever written.

(Soundbite of song, "The Girl On Her Way")

Ms. SHARP: (Singing) How long can she be the girl on her way, for she's just a woman who never got there. How far can she ride dreams of some day…

Ms. SHARP: I've been hovering under the radar for a long time now. My first record came out in 1997 and I've seen a lot of close calls, a lot of them.

(Soundbite of song, "The Girl On Her Way")

Ms. SHARP: (Singing) Seeing everything that almost came, every spark that never made a flame. Are they saying what a star, or what a shame?

Ms. SHARP: There was a tour about two years ago where I heard it, I think, three nights in a row - Portland, Maine and upstate New York, and Pittsburg -and it was like, oh wow, you're on your way, you're on your way, you're on your way. And…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHARP: …like, Yeah? Okay, thanks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHARP: But it's time to arrive, I think. And there's something about this record, the whole vibe surrounding it. This is more of an arrival than an on-the-way. And so, it felt right to finish the record out with that.

(Soundbite of song, "The Girl On Her Way")

Ms. SHARP: (Singing) Oh, oh, oh…

BLOCK: Maia Sharp - her new CD is "Echo."

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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