Shawn James is an Americana artist from Chicago who Shawn’s music is twinged by a southern gospel sound incorporated into sets of lyrics that ask very pointed questions regarding love and society among many other topics. There is something about his slow almost bluesy drawl mixed with stomp and holler beats that absolutely captivated me. I was very excited to chat with him.
Emily Carde: How did you get started writing music?
Shawn James: I didn’t get started writing music til I was a bit older. I’d say around 23 or so. Before then I just wrote lyrics for the bands I sang in but never was really involved in the songwriting. I decided then it was time for me to write my own songs since I felt things that others couldn’t write for me.
Emily: How did you develop and grow into your southern musical style, since you grew up in Chicago?
Shawn: Well, I grew up in Gospel churches in Chicago and they were heavily influenced by southern gospel. I’ve also spent many years living down south where I learned a lot about their culture of music.
I wouldn’t say that my music is solely southern in influence though. I take inspiration from many musical genre’s.
I love to hear about how my music has been able to help someone move on or release something that they didn’t know how to get out or say something that they didn’t have the words to express.
Emily: How do you think your musical style and creativity have developed or changed since your first album Shadow?
Shawn: I’ve become more aware of what my songs can do for people and myself. Also I’ve become better at knowing what I want to say and how to express that in a song with the right emotion and power.
Emily: Where do you draw inspiration for your creativity (be it in literature, life, other musicians, etc.)?
Shawn: Everything I come into contact with inspires me in one way or another. So I’d say all those things you mentioned and even more.
Emily: Are there overarching themes in On the Shoulders of Giants, and if so, can you tell us about some of those themes?
Shawn: I think one of the main themes in a few songs is taking a look at society and the problems it has and just shaking my head and wondering how can we fix this? It sometimes feels hopeless, but I know if we keep moving forward, things will improve.
Emily: Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind your song ‘If That’s Love’?
Shawn: That song is a very personal one for me. I’ve been in a wonderful relationship with my wife for 14 years this august. We’ve been married 6 but have been together long before then. I always saw my friends bouncing in and out of relationships and one night stands and I never really understood it because of my unique perspective on love. So I wrote that song from the perspective of a character I created looking for love but not being able to find it and being thrown out after letting someone into their most vulnerable and intimate space.
Emily: Which of your songs are you most proud of and can you tell me a little about the song?
Shawn: I see my songs like I would my children and I’m not necessarily proud of one more than others. They’re all unique and based on different things I was feeling at the time or different characters I’ve created or ideas etc.
Emily: What is the most rewarding part of being a musician, and in contrast which is the hardest?
Shawn: The most rewarding thing for me is being able to help people through music. I love to hear about how my music has been able to help someone move on or release something that they didn’t know how to get out or say something that they didn’t have the words to express.
The toughest would be touring a lot sometimes keeps me away from the people I love and that can be difficult.
Emily: What do you most hope to communicate through your music?
Shawn: I want to help people feel things more deeply through music and hopefully inspire others to create. Also I want to give people what music has given me, a way to release and deal with lots of different emotions whether that be anger, sadness, happiness, joy, love, sorrow etc.
To learn more about Shawn James check out his website.