For most the past year and a half has been difficult – from quarantine to adapting to our new normal. But for others quarantine allowed them to expand on their creativity – case in point, R&B singer-songwriter Shannon Lauren Callihan, who created her new EP during this time.
Speaking with IndustryMe, Callihan talks about her journey as an artist, finding success on social media and her new single – “Used to Be My Love”. We also delve into her musical inspirations, the development of her new EP and her upcoming shows later this year.
When did your musical journey begin?
It started at a very young age – my family’s very musically talented so it was kind of expected that I would do something within music. I started taking piano lessons at the age of four and that just kind of opened up all these musical doors for me. So I did the whole piano thing, I joined band, I played saxophone and then along the way somewhere in there I picked up playing guitar. Out of all the instruments I play, I really just took to guitar and it was the instrument that I enjoyed playing the most. I went to college, did my undergrad in Sports and minored in Oboe actually of all things – so my musical journey is very weird, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense – it’s a loaded answer. But yeah, it’s kind of how I got my start in music and it only progressed after I moved to Nashville after college and I really had the time to really focus and pursue it because I’d finished school and I was in the perfect place to do music – you know, it’s music city here. So yeah, I feel like once I moved here things really kind of started to take off and I could truly pursue being an artistic artist basically.
Who are some of your musical inspirations?
I grew up listening to R&B, Soul. I’m a huge Anita Baker fan – love Anita Baker. George Benson, Marvin Gaye…but I love all genres. I would listen to certain types of music, like I love Radiohead too so I don’t know, my taste in genres is kind of all over the place but in terms of the music I make, I think it aligns to my taste with R&B and Soul music. And as far as artists in today’s time, like I love Tom Misch, huge John Mayer fan obviously, you know just because I love guitar and I’ve always been very inspired by what he does – it’s kind of like he’s a very versatile artist; he’s not only a guitar player but he’s an amazing songwriter and he’s kind of done all these different genres and he’s been successful with that so he’s definitely one of my bigger inspirations musically for sure.
You started off on Instagram sharing your covers of songs – when did you realize that you were building a fanbase?
Well, it’s funny how all that kind of took off because it was very unexpected and all of a sudden. I hadn’t really ever posted much on Instagram, I just, you know, would admire other guitarists or people that I followed and I thought you know what the hell I’m gonna start posting stuff too and it really started to take off. The account that really helped me gain a following is called Pickup Jazz – I’m not sure if you’re familiar, they’ve changed the name to Pickup Music. Sam Blakelock is the guy that runs that account and yeah, he really kind of helped me start my, you know, fanbase off of Instagram. It’s crazy like, just by getting a couple shares of videos what it can actually do for you, so, I kind of owe it to him for like opening that door for me and then after that like, you know, it just kind of started to grow and grow.
It’s been a challenge though because it’s like a lot of people know me as like a guitarist but it’s like I’m also an artist too so it’s been fun like, trying to take people who only know me as the guitar player and kind of show them that there’s more to like the story. Yeah, I would definitely say that’s when things started to take off for me was when I started to build my fanbase on Instagram. It’s the same with other social media outlets too. It’s crazy like, there’s TikTok now and I have to start doing stuff on that and then you know, there’s a lot going on. I wish there was like one central location where you could just post something and it would go out to all the masses.
So, within the Pickup Music community you managed to link up with other artists – how did that happen?
So, Curt Henderson, he plays guitar in the band, he’s also produced our EP that’s coming out next month – he’s produced all out music. I write with him. I met him through the Pickup Jazz community. He didn’t originally live here in Nashville – he’s from Canada but because of his following and kind of growing his fanbase through Pickup and other accounts he was able to move to Nashville. So I saw he posted something on Instagram saying he was moving here and I was like “Hey, if you ever wanna play together, you know, hit me up” – and so that kind of led to us getting together and we’ve been making music together ever since. I’ve met a lot of really cool people through that platform; it’s opened a lot of doors and opportunities. It’s cool – it’s like this little tightknit community and everybody’s super cool and chill and they’re supportive of everybody’s career in music.
You also won the Emerging Artist Fund competition within Pickup Music…
Yeah. So, I don’t even know if they still do this but they did this emerging artist fund. Basically, you just posted a video of you playing with your band or playing one of your own songs and we luckily won the competition. If you won, you received a guitar from D’Angelico, and you also got to play a show in New York at Rockwood. So yeah, it was so much fun. It was a sold-out show. We got to play with Braxton Cook – who I was already a fan of, Miette Hope and a couple others. It was so much fun because it was the first time we had got to meet a lot of these people from the Pickup Music community in person. So, it was an awesome experience for sure.
Was that your first time performing in New York?
Yep – that was my first time. Hope to do it soon. It was a lot of fun.
Now your new single, “Used to Be My Love”, was inspired by a past relationship – do you find it easy to write about your own personal experiences?
Yeah, I think so. Anytime I sit down to write a song, I always try to write something that people can relate with. I feel like that happened a while ago and it wasn’t really like a present feeling but it was more so like me kind of digging back into my past and trying to find situations that occurred that would be good things to write about that people could relate to and we could reach a wider audience. When it comes to heartbreak, most people have experienced that at one point in their lives. So that was kind of the goal of that song to was take a look back at that experience.
Since you like 90s R&B, are there any artists that you would like to collaborate with?
Oh man, there’s a ton of artists. Let me think…I’m always really bad at tryna think of artists, it’s like if I could go back and look at my Spotify playlist, you know. I can’t think of anybody off the top of my head…
A lot of people that like Anita Baker like Mary J. Blige and Toni Braxton…
Oh yeah – I love Toni Braxton for sure. That would be amazing. I like Jazmine Sullivan – I am obsessed with her. She’s incredible. As far as more contemporary, I love Lianne La Havas – she’s a huge inspiration as well. I’d love to do something with her; it’d be amazing.
In November you’ll be performing in Philly and Boston. Will this be your first live performance since the pandemic?
We actually have a show before that here in Nashville. It hasn’t been announced yet but we’re playing that in October, so that will be the first official show that we play coming back from COVID – which will be awesome, but weird at the same time.
Are there any nerves? You have to be very precautious these days now…
I don’t know if I’d say nerves – I think it’s more just excitement really. We’ve already started rehearsing and we’re trying to get our chops back ‘cus we haven’t played together in quite some time. So, we already started that process and it’s always fun especially like, you know, making a show based off of our new EP. Just kind of coming up with how we want the set to work has been a lot of fun. Yeah, I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, just excited. I’m ready to get back out there because honestly before COVID we hadn’t really played that many shows. We released our first single in 2019 and I think we maybe played three or four shows and then lockdown kinda happened. So, we hadn’t really played that much together out live yet so I’m looking forward to it, getting back out there.
You mentioned an EP coming – is it September?
Yeah. So the first single (it’s gonna be two singles) actually comes out the August 6th but the full project comes out September 24th.
What can fans expect from this EP?
You know, I hope they like it. We had a lot of fun making it. It kept us all pretty sane during quarantine. We didn’t really have any plans to actually work on a project ‘cus we’d just been doing the single thing. But yeah, since COVID happened it gave us the opportunity to really like focus on a project; like an actual physical body of work. We had a lot fun. I think it’s very R&B, soulful – yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was a learning experience for all of us too. I mentioned earlier Curt – he’s the guitarist in the group, which you know, I play guitar too but he’s the main guitarist in the group. He’s a producer as well and it gave him the opportunity to really hone in on his producer skills. Myself, Nate Felty (he’s our drummer) and Sam as well; we all kind of helped produce a lot of this music too which was really cool. It’s rewarding, the fact that we did all this on our own, in our bedrooms where we wrote these songs and recorded them all in bedrooms essentially.
I was just going to ask if you were able to go into the studio to record or if everything was done at home?
Yeah, so Curt lives in this cabin basically in the woods. So we literally took a week and just went out there. We stayed out there all week and we just tracked. The way that we did it too was like, we recorded the bass drums and then we kinda got the meat and potatoes of the tracks that whole week. From there, we just built, we layered stuff on the music. It was a lot of fun being able to just be together for a week and work on this music.
With the world slowly opening up, would you like to travel to different countries to perform?
Oh yeah, I’d love to! I’d love to come to London – it’d be amazing. I’ve never been and I’d love to go. I’d be fun to do a little run over there at some point.
People associate Nashville with country music – so where does the R&B/Soul genre fit there?
When I first moved to Nashville I was like, this is country town, this country music city or whatever. But there’s a really cool underground R&B scene and Pop too. I think a lot of people don’t realise that but it’s just a great music town in general aside from country. So yeah, I was shocked by that when I moved here. It’s been kinda nice though; it’s played as an advance for me too because there are a lot of R&B acts but there’s not as many as there are country and kind of gives you an upper hand just because it makes you somewhat different and unique.
When I moved here I didn’t really know what I was doing. I moved here for a job and I thought while I was here I’ll do music too, like why not. I started networking and going to different writers rounds and you get to go up and play a couple songs and what not. I met some people and I started trying to write country-pop songs and it was a fun experience but just wasn’t me – I was trying to be something that I wasn’t. It was only until I realized that and took a step back and started doing what I actually wanted to do is when I first started to feel somewhat successful.
So, what do you have in store for 2022?
Well, I’m hoping that we can line-up a bigger tour – it’d be fun to go on a bigger tour. I’m excited though for city winery dates; it’ll be nice to get out there again and see how we do. My main focus lately just been getting this project done. Now that it’s finished and it’s gonna be released, I’m just curious to see how people take to it and how it does. I guess from there, work on booking some more shows. I’d love to do an album at some point as well. That’s my 2022 plan – if we don’t go back into lockdown!