Sharon Little opens for Robert Plant, Alison Krauss on Saturday at Harveys Outdoor Concert | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Sharon Little opens for Robert Plant, Alison Krauss on Saturday at Harveys Outdoor Concert

Tim Parsons, Lake Tahoe Action

Sharon Little was a waitress six months ago. Today she's on tour with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

Sharon Little is the anti-Madonna.

Two big breaks have come Little’s way, and Little’s way is a little bit Zen.

“We’re all going to die anyway, no matter what we do in life, so why be pushy about it?” Little said. “If I’m gonna make it, I’m gonna make it. I definitely don’t want to try to control my life because life isn’t about control. I just let it happen.”

The singer inked a deal with CBS Records, and Robert Plant was so impressed with her CD he picked Little to be the opening act on his tour with Alison Krauss and T Bone Burnett.

Little is the understandably bashful member of the tour. After all, just a few months ago the 27-year-old was a waitress in a Chinese restaurant in Pennsylvania.

“It’s funny, I get up on a stage in front of thousands of people, but I’m a shy person naturally,” she said. “I feel a little shy when I’m around them.”

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The only sibling of seven to become a musician, Little acquired her craft under a tragic circumstance. When she was 16 years old, a traffic accident killed her close friend.

“She was 15 years old and she had 700 people at her funeral,” Little said. “We were like two peas in a pod. We wanted to be the Indigo Girls. Her mother gave me her guitar, and said ‘I want you to play for her.’ “

Little wrote songs to deal with her grief: “It was a necessity,” she said. “I had to get it out.”

Music was the only high school subject Little cared about. She was inspired by a teacher named Mr. Heller and his solo performance class.

“It taught me how to perform music in front of an audience,” said. “A lot of days, I would only go to school if I had class with him that day, and a lot of times I wouldn’t even come in until his class started. That’s what I needed to learn.

“In my opinion,” Little said, pausing to chuckle at her thoughts, much in the manner of Janis Joplin, “I think the schools are run completely wrong. I got what I needed from high school. I don’t need a degree to prove it. I felt like a degree was a waste of my time. I don’t need to do math. I know how to add, I know how to subtract. I know how to use a calculator. I don’t need to know what pi equals. It doesn’t mean anything to me. But the school makes you feel horrible if you feel that way. They don’t look at the artists. So I said ‘Fine, I’m going to go down my own road. I’m not going to follow what they say I have to follow.’ “

Little stayed true to her philosophy when an investor brought her into a studio. He tried to make her a pop singer but she refused. That’s when she met Scot Sax, with whom she co-wrote the 11 songs on her album “Perfect Time for a Breakdown.”

“He never tried to pin me as a pop star but he got me to appreciate some of the pop stars,” she said. “Like Fleetwood Mac. They’re a pop band. You never think that because they were just great. The Beatles and the Stones, all of those guys, they were pop stars. I grew to like the more poppier stuff.”

Little and Sax have been collaborating ever since. They toured by train for two years, performing and writing songs that tell story.

“We are completely different writers,” she said. “There’s nothing similar about it at all. We don’t even like the same kind of music. Even though it’s going to be harder to write with someone you’re not familiar with, you’re probably going to get a pretty unique song.”

“Perfect Time for a Breakdown” shows off Little’s vocal range. The styles go from bluegrass to soul to rock, and the definitive song is, yes, pop.

“I think ‘Ooh Wee’ is the strongest song,” she said. “You don’t have to be in the same mind as all of these people. ‘Ooh wee don’t make a sound and no one gets hurt. If you want to stick around, get in line with the world.’ It’s just saying, ‘Since when did everybody have to go to college to be successful?’ I love singing that song because it’s kind of liberating being in my position, being able to sing it to thousands of people. That’s how I feel.”

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