INTERVIEW: Willie Shaw

How have you been?

So good. Crazy busy but I love it!

Can you talk us more about your latest single?

Falling In Love” was one of the first songs I ever wrote in Nashville and it in turn, ended up introducing me to one of my closest friends. By shear luck I ended up getting in a room with David Evans and he started humming the the syncopation to what would become the main chorus line. The story of the song is not necessarily from a personal experience or anything in particular. It’s kind of a boy meets girl tale but we wanted to make it a little tongue and cheek. A little rhythmic. A little jazzy to make it feel like for those couple minutes the listener was at one of Gatsby’s parties. 

When we were writing it I remember playing out scenarios for the storyline with David. We were trying to walk a fine line of flirting and romance but not overkill (I mean, after all, the song says falling in love 41,325 times). Most of the time putting rules on a song would make it way more difficult but for some reason it provided a challenge for us that we were eager to tackle. I would say that the athletes in us even welcomed it.

Our favorite part is the bridge. Because we had such a repetitive hook we wanted to make sure we got away from it for a little bit. I remember playing different chord changes for probably 30 minutes or so trying to get the right combination to get us out of the chorus and then back in. Once we finally figured it out we then had to remember it, which became an issue for when we played it live haha.

When I wrote the song with David I was still working in the real world so this song wouldn’t be released until about 2 or 3 years after I wrote it. I tried recording it with multiple people and it just wasn’t landing quite right. It got frustrating really, I was able to nail down parts of it but the whole of it was a mess. After a long journey I ended up meeting my manager and they were the perfect connection to Robopop. Unsure of how this new direction would go, I showed up for another try, and very happy I did.

We briefly talked about where I wanted the song to go and after a while I remember asking “should we just go for it and see where we land?’ He said sure and after a few hours we were done. After years of wrestling with it I finally love it.

Video?

There will be a few teasers for socials but no official video planned at this time. Part of being an indie artist is working within a budget. Music is the catalyst for everything so that is where our focus remains.

Oxytocin– what’s the album title about?

Oxytocin is known as “the love drug” or the cuddle hormone. While putting this project together I wanted a linear story throughout the different songs. When you listen you might notice that from song 1-5 there is a progression of story throughout each song starting with telling your parents about someone and then ending at the altar. I wanted something that encapsulated that. Something that, when distilled down, could serve as an envelope for the project. After kicking some different terms around we almost landed on Falling In Love but I just felt that wasn’t enough. I kept digging and once I said oxytocin out loud I knew that was it.

How was the recording and writing process?

The writing process for these songs took place over the last year. Most of these songs are written with my great friend David Evans. David and I write every Tuesday at 11am. We usually start with coffee (him) and tea (for me) and then dive head first into whatever is top of mind that day. Sometimes the ideas come from a list of song titles in the notes sections in our phone and sometimes they just pop right into our heads on the spot. Most times we are simply trying to top what we did the previous time. Once we get a verse, pre, and a chorus down we take a quick break for goldfish, Cajun mix, and animal crackers. That’s our halftime fuel to keep us going. We then come up with the rest of the song and usually head for Mexican food for lunch. Rarely do we go longer than 2 hours to write a song.

Its a pretty traditional Nashville.

Is this a departure from previous music?

I’m not sure I’d call it a departure but it is definitely going to be a different side that people who have followed me aren’t used to seeing. I like that though. In my first year as a full time songwriter I wrote in the neighborhood of 150 songs and those songs would tell you I’m a little all over the place in regards to musical tastes and genres.

I love to write upbeat music. Music that makes people smile and dance. But- I also love writing songs that make people stop and feel. In Oxytocin the listener will definitely find the stripped down- acoustic storyteller version of me.

Nashville Role?

The biggest lesson I have learned in Nashville is that you have to have furniture in the room. There needs to be tangible elements that the listener can figuratively grab on to, feel, and recognize. At first that is a very difficult thing to learn but once you do it opens up places you didnt know you could go as a songwriter.

I think Nashville has also challenged me to be better a musician. Although that’s vague what I mean by that is that it is important to be able to captivate an audience with just a voice and a guitar. If I can tell a story that allows you to find something in yourself as the listener, or bring a smile, or some tears with just a guitar I can surely do it with a whole mess of production. Now- personally I like production more ’cause in my world it tends to lead to dancing. But- there is something significance in stripping all the flashing lights and subliminal synthesizers away. It’s pure. That’s what I want listeners to see first. I want them to see my talent without the gift wrapping.

Did your musical perspective and vision change as you move into the City of Music?

Yes definitely. Moving to Nashville showed me the power of a live show. It also showed me the honesty of music with a live band and how preparedness can make or break you. A live band on its own has no where to hide and it become immediately clear how much the crowd likes or dislikes your music.

Sports influence?

I think in short, yes. Although I’m not sure to what extent or how deep that goes. There are certainly aspects instilled in me through sports that shine through such like efficiency, work ethic, ability to work as a team etc. I think a lot of my character was tested through the trials and adversity of sports and that has shaped how I see the world. Certainly that comes out in my music, or specifically how I carry myself on stage however in this moment I’m not sure I could pinpoint it in my music.

I will say that my competitive drive in music comes from my athletic background absolutely.

Real stories?

There are two stories in particular that served as fuel for this. The first one is for Sunday Call.

I was about to play a writers round in Nashville and I was sick as a dog. We finished soundcheck at the City Winery and we were all sitting in the green room waiting. A few days before that I had been on a date and something the person said just sent the creative in my mind running. I couldn’t tell you anything she said in those 2 minutes. I immediately knew what the song was about though, where it had to go, and what the punchline would be. So I’m sitting in the green room and I start writing it. Get a few lines in and then had to go on stage. I show up to the studio the next day and wrote it in about 30-45 minutes.

Every Sunday I have a phone call with my parents basically to check in and tell them I am alive. If I miss this phone call I am convinced my mother will send a S.W.A.T. team to find where my body is. The question in my head with this idea was what does it look like when I tell my parents I think I’m dating “the one”? I will caveat this with I didn’t think the person on that date was the one, it just got me thinking. The storyline goes something like- someday I’m going to have to ask my parents what it was like when they met each other, and if they had the chance to do it again would they? The reason I am asking them is because there is someone I’ve been seeing.

The best part about this song is that my parents have no clue that this song is coming out. Can’t wait to see their reaction!

The other real life story is “I Always Knew”. That song was actually written for my college roommate and his now wife. I told David Evans I wanted to write a song for them that they could have as their first dance. We got to work. If you listen carefully you will notice that at the beginning it sounds like a breakup. Our goal was to write a song where you couldn’t quite tell what was going on until the end. As the song progresses you realize that you are actually listening to the groom and he is detailing his wedding day. Everything from waking up alone, to drinking with the boys while the girls spend a ridiculous amount of hours getting ready, to finally walking down the aisle. We knew it was special when we wrote it. And yes- I did play it at their wedding.

What’s next?

As I write this to you I am literally sitting in Robopop’s studio recording the next project. Lots of music coming- stay tuned!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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