Blue-in-Green:RADIO

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Shawn Lee: "Riding Again and Again" [Interview] (+ GetToKnow... exclusive)


Shawn Lee returns to centre-stage with his new album 'Rides Again', released through the excellent Légère Recordings.

Hailed as something of a passion project, Lee takes the opportunity on 'Rides Again' to revisit his Wichita roots and fully immerse himself within the soul-inspired country music that shaped his informative years and contributed to him becoming the inexhaustibly versatile artist that he is today.

There's something about projects carrying the name 'Shawn Lee' that generates a genuine form of excitement from fans - namely, because we never know what he's going to do with each project.  And this is in relation to an artist who's technically capable of doing anything.  Singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, DJ... Lee's boundless talent and skill have seen him deliver a range of projects as a front-man, as part of numerous collaborative full-lengths like Young Gun Silver Fox (with Andy Platts), The Brothers Nylon (with brothers Mike & Nick Rufolo), projects with Chinese guzheng player Bei Bei and of course as head of his Ping Pong Orchestra.  Just as inclined to celebrate golden era hip-hop as he is to immerse himself within the deep funk of bands like The Monophonics, The Mighty Mocambos or The Soul Surfers, Lee's only limitations rest within those his imagination can set for him - and it would seem there are none.

To further emphasise that point, in the same year that Shawn Lee helps to deliver a truly stunning funk and soul project with Hannah Williams & The Affirmations by producing their Record Kicks album '50 Foot Woman', he has somehow mustered up the time to unveil his country music inspired album 'Rides Again' once again subverting any expectations anyone could dare to restrict him to. 

The nostalgia-ridden 'Wichita' kicks the album off perfectly really showcasing Lee's comfort within this world and his masterful ability to make it his own.  Having tackled the production and bulk of the instrumentation throughout, the project does benefit from a handful of invited guests including saxophonist Andy Ross (The Brand New Heavies, Incognito), pedal steel guitarist Joe Harvey-Whyte (Comet Gain, David Atkinson), keyboards on two tracks by Carwyn Ellis (Rio 18, Sarah Cracknell) and a contribution from violinist Everton Nelson (Jamie Cullum, Nick Cave).

'Rides Again' is a further testament to Lee's abilities and a further credit to Légère's immaculate catalogue so the only thing left to ask is... what's Shawn Lee going to do on the next project?

We're thrilled to have secured time with Shawn Lee for a Q&A regarding the new album, and to further celebrate his fantastic music, we're releasing Blue-in-Green:RADIO's GetToKnow... special exploring his productions and session work through a diverse range of projects including Alice Russell, Diane Birch, Peder, The Monophonics and much more...



IMRAN MIRZA: Congratulations on the release of 'Rides Again': I understand this project has been in the making for a long time - are you happy with how it's been received so far?
SHAWN LEE: The genesis of this album started with the song 'Wichita' which was recorded over ten years ago.  Since then, I never seemed to find the time to make this record.  Last year, I finally pushed the button on writing and recording and finally completing 'Rides Again'.  It’s been well-received and I’m ultimately very happy with that.

Having amassed such an incredible body of work now, do you still feel the pressure of releasing new material?
I don’t feel pressure per se, but I still feel the burning need to write and record new music.  I love the process and I’m always learning.  Making music is a magical thing.  It’s one of the things that gets me out of the bed in the morning!

How much of an influence has country music had on you, and who were some of those early influences that made you a fan?
Country music was always there in the background when I was growing up in Wichita, Kansas.  I loved people like Glen Campbell, Jerry Reed and Roy Clark.  Great guitar players!  I loved watching the TV show Hee Haw too.  Saw some great people on there.

Can you talk about the process of putting 'Rides Again' together?
Once I started working on it went really fast.  I would go with the first idea I’d have and I’d run with it.  It was a very natural and organic process.  The whole album was done in a few weeks.  Typically, I would write and record a song in about three hours total.

How would you say the creative process in writing, producing and recording new music usually work for you?
I’m all about working fast and being intuitive.  I believe in that whole 'first thought/best thought' kinda vibe.  That’s where the magic is.  I think music should be fun and not laboured over.  Knock it out and move on!

On a personal note, 'Soul in the Hole' (Ubiquity, 2010) was my first Shawn Lee album: do you have fond memories of that project looking back at it ten years later?
'
Soul in the Hole' was very enjoyable to make - there are a lot of talented singers on there.  I had an emergency surgery back then and had only been out of the hospital for a few days when I got an email from Jeremiah saying he was in London for a few days.  I got in a taxi and went to my studio in a lot pain.  I was really fragile, man.  We recorded the song 'Lucy Lucy' and it really lifted my spirits and I managed to come alive while we were in the studio.  The power of music is a real thing!

You've been a part of so many collaborative projects from artists including Bei Bei, Michael & Nick Rufolo and Clutchy Hopkins: who would be another artist you'd love to create a full-length project with?
I’d love to do something with Michael McDonald.  That would be epic!

You've developed such a strong and loyal fan base – how would you describe peoples' expectations of your music?
That is a good question... I honestly don’t know what people expect of me?  I just make records I wanna make and I believe in both quality and quantity.

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