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STAR Views: Shawn King

By: Estella Pan

Shawn King has and guest-starred in several television shows and worked as a reporter for Hollywood Insider. Having released her debut country album, In My Own Backyard, Shawn chatted with me, not as a celebrity married to another high-profile individual (her husband is Larry King, host of Larry King Live on CNN), but as a multi-tasking wife and mother who loves passing on her message of hope through music.

Shawn King

Estella: You recently attended the CMA Awards show, held in New York for the first time. What did you think of the move to the Big Apple?
Shawn: I thought it was fantastic! I love New York! Country music is not just a "southern thing" or a farm[-oriented], blue collar business anymore. People seem to have embraced country music over the last decade. It used to be amongst people in the city, they would say, "I hate country music!" But now, I think it's the "hip" thing to like country music. People can't deny anymore that it's a driving force in the music business.

[A call comes in, which she takes.]

Shawn: That was Larry. He's been working on Shrek. [NOTE: Larry was Doris the bartender in Shrek II. He phoned Shawn to tell her he'd finished voiceovers for his part in the forthcoming sequel.]

Estella: So, he'll be in Shrek III, then?
Shawn: Yes! He'll have a much bigger part. He's singing a duet with Regis Philbin, the Rosemary Clooney song "Sisters." [She launches into an impromptu solo of the song.] And, Larry's tone deaf, so that should be interesting! But he gets an A+ for enthusiasm! Actually, on the DVD version of Shrek II, they do a singing contest and Larry's voice won for "Best Song" or "Best Performance"! You know, Larry could have a smash record before I do!

Estella: But, you're the one with a CD!
Shawn: I am the one with a CD; I have a jumpstart on that part!

Estella: Being that your parents were a major record company executive and a top Hollywood studio singer, respectively, how did that affect your musical background, in terms of what kinds of music you grew up listening to?
Shawn: It affected it profoundly! Some of my earliest memories are being in recording studios and remembering the smell of cigarettes! My family never smoked, so that was a very distinct memory I was exposed to so many genres of music that I have an appreciation for all sorts. I remember my dad would take me to Capitol Records; I would sit under his desk and color while he was having meetings with artists like The Beach Boys, Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry, Anne Murray – I was lucky enough to be able to see [the industry] from the inside out. There are certain genres that touch me in a deeper place, but I just love music! The power of music is so huge! If you view a movie without its soundtrack and then you watch the same movie with the soundtrack, that music can scare the daylights out of you, it can fill you with joy, sorrow, anxious, or love! Music is truly the universal language.

Estella: Does it feel different to be interviewed than being the one conducting an interview?
Shawn: Asking questions, getting to know the people who made the movies, I had been in their shoes – I had acted before and I was a journalist – so it came very naturally. It was a really magical and fun time in my life, but I don't think it felt different. It's just a different aspect of the entertainment business. Let's say my dad was a baker. So today, we're going to make bread, tomorrow it's cupcakes – make sure you get the frosting right! – and the next day it's doughnuts. They're all different but yet the same concept. It was easier to ask the questions than it is to answer them. I had a natural curiosity, so that made it fun to be able to ask whatever I wanted. Certain times, if people were going through a divorce or another sticky situation, they would request I not ask about those things. I always respected that, because there are plenty of other stuff to talk about! People's private life – if they want to keep that private, that's their right. And, I think it got me further along than trying to "break" the latest story; that wasn't what I did. Hollywood Insider wasn't a gossip show, but rather a celebrity-friendly show.

Shawn King

Estella: Take us through the working process of your album, In My Own Backyard. What kinds of songs were you looking to record and how long did it take for you to find those songs?
Shawn: From the time I began recording with Keith Follesť and Carl Jackson, it was two and a half years before the CD actually released. [The songs on the album are] a bit of a casserole! But, that's just me, because I chose songs that I really loved! The process of selecting which songs were going to go on this album was excruciating! It was as though I had to choose between my children, because each song we worked on became like a part of my fiber, being, and family!

Estella: You co-wrote the song "Closet of Ruby Red Slippers." What inspired it?
Shawn: Carl [Jackson] and I were talking about, "What message do we want to send out there?" We started talking about going back in time, decisions that you make, and that even though sometimes we may make choices that we regret, our lives are full of wonderful memories! The things that I cherish the most are my family, friends, and my relationship with God. There is no escaping from challenges in your life no matter if you're a millionaire or someone struggling with finances, whether you're married or single. The driving force of that song is, during those tough times, don't forget the good times and the blessings you have. Remember those people who have been there for you through thick and thin.

Estella: That's a beautiful message and as a listener, I think it really comes through in that song!
Shawn: I always want to send messages of hope. It doesn't really matter what challenges come our way; what matters is how we deal with them. It's like a muscle – if there's never any resistance and you're not having to tug, pull, and work that muscle, it is not going to be strong! When I used to teach Sunday school, there's another analogy I used. If you look in a garden and see a weed that's never been touched – that weed can grow to look magnificent, like it's the biggest and strongest thing in that garden. But, if there’s a smaller weed that's been tugged even a little bit, the roots will naturally grab into the ground a little tighter. The more it's tugged, the deeper the roots will try to hold on to that earth, because that's its sustenance. It's like if people have never had any difficulties in their life, then when the first obstacle hits them, they fall apart! They've never had to face any challenges so they're not equipped to deal with it. Well then, you go and tug on that other weed that may not have grown as tall above the ground. But if you look beneath where the roots are, that plant is the one that's going to stay strong. They may not be the most beautiful plant from what we see above the ground, but the fiber that’s inside them is the part that has been tested, tugged, and pulled, and it's strong. It will stay and hold fast if it learns to dig deep in the right spot.

Estella: Having previously worked on television, was it difficult switching over to recording music?
Shawn: I'd been doing it forever, so there were no surprises when I went into the studio. The only difference was before, I was singing backup for somebody else and now it's my project. What prodded me along was [the organizers] of the 2002 Olympics wanted people who had connections with the state of Utah to contribute to a commemorative CD. They asked me to record a song that David Foster produced. Don Rickles heard it and asked me, "How would you like to open for me in Las Vegas?" I said, "Sure! That sounds like a lot of fun!" – not really thinking through of everything it would entail. But, I really try hard to stick to my commitments, so once I said, "Yes," I started digging in. I surrounded myself with the best people I possibly could, and I couldn't have had a better team to help me: Debby Allen and her staff worked with me on the staging of the show. George Slaughter worked with me on what I was going to say. Sheila E was available to be my percussionist, and Jerry Williams, who is an unbelievable composer and arranger, was my musical director. Well then, I got bitten really bad by the [performing] bug! And, Larry pretty much said, "There's too much there for you to just hide it all under a rock! You'd be doing yourself a disservice." So I [went in to record my album], and I'm glad I did because I'm having a blast! It's really, really fun!

Estella: Those are some lovely photos included in the CD booklet!
Shawn: Thank you! Randee St. Nicholas is the woman who took them! She's a really sweet and a very nice person to work with, which makes it that much more fun! She's really good at knowing your best angles and how to make everything come together; I couldn't be happier with her work! When we did that series of photos in the middle [of the booklet], somebody had said something that made me laugh and she caught it all on film. It shows how I react when I laugh at something funny.

Estella: It sounds like you had a ball working on your debut album. Will there be a follow-up album from you?
Shawn: Absolutely! There's a lot more to come! I have a whole other CD ready to go, as soon as this current CD plays itself out! It's in the can already! We may find some other songs that we record later, but we've got some really, really great gems.

Estella: While you were a reporter, did you ever watch yourself on television?
Shawn: Oh, I always did! It was exciting to see which sound bytes we ended up using and how each piece or story turned out!

Shawn King
Shawn and Larry King

Estella: Do you watch Larry's show?
Shawn: I watch a good portion of his shows. It's on at 6:00 [at night], so I'm sometimes getting the boys ready for dinner or giving them their baths. But, we try to keep it in the background. Larry's so sweet! It's important to him that I watch his show; if I don't, he gets disappointed. I want to make him happy; that's my job; I think it's a wife's job to be a partner and a comfort to her husband.

Estella: How do you and Larry maintain a sense of balance between your respective careers and raising your children?
Shawn: Priorities are always in the forefront of my life. If it's a choice between my husband and my children or my career, my career has to wait. Don't get me wrong, my career is very important to me; you do have to focus, and I've worked really hard on my CD. I have a blast doing it, it fills me up, and it is so much fun!! But, what fills me up even more is reading to my kids and tucking them in bed at night. I take my kids with me as much as I possibly can – I think it's really important that your kids know what you’re doing when you tell them, "Bye, bye. I'm going to work now." So, they went to the studio with me and we take them to CNN to watch Daddy; they know those processes. When I need to be away, I tell them, "Mommy's going away for four days, so each of you pick four books. I'll take them with me and before you go to bed each night, I'm going to read you those book." We have this chat [device] where we can see each other's faces on the computer. They tell me about their day and I tell them about mine; that's how we stay connected. If they have a scratch on their knee, I tell them to put their knee up to the screen and my lips go right to their boo-boo. When things are in order at home, everything else seems to fall into place pretty well. Everything can't be perfect all the time; I just do my best.

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