Chris Shinn Talks Self-Titled Album
Tue, 17 Jan 2012 06:37:42
Chris Shinn's forthcoming self-titled solo album is a haunting and hypnotic ride through the singer-songwriter's most honest moments.
Blending bluesy Nashville atmospherics with a raw grunge approach, Shinn's carved out his very own middle ground between the South and Seattle. However, there's a decided intimacy to these songs which is utterly infectious and incisive. In order to realize this vision, Shinn teamed up with some of the best musicians on the scene—guys who have added their own stamp to the music of everyone from Neil Diamond and B.B. King to Taylor Swift and Sting.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief and Dolor author Rick Florino, Chris Shinn opens up about his new album and so much more.
What's your take on the album as a whole?
It wasn't preconceived to be what it ended up being at all. The year before this album, I came to Nashville to make a record of cover songs. It was something I wanted to try to do with some badass Nashville cats. The concept was I wanted to do songs that ranged from Björk to George Jones and pull them towards the center. For example, my parents could go, "I get that Björk now!" Then, my friends who aren't into country will go, "Wait a minute, that's George Jones?" An attorney down here told me I needed to do a record of original material with this same band. We started writing about a year ago. I'd present the guys material, and I completely trusted them. What they would come up with musically completely sparked something cool. There's also a lot of heart involved. [Drummer] Billy Ward's wife passed away, and that was really tough for all of us. I wouldn't hire anyone else. I was in no hurry. There was no master plan. I knew we worked great together, and we needed to see what happened if we got in a room.
How long did it take?
To get all of those guys together in a room on one day is logistically really tough. Our steel player Paul Franklin is legendary. He's considered the best on the planet. Some of the guys play with Vince Gill. Getting everyone in the same room took the most time. The songs on the record were never played more than three or four times. That's what I got from those players. I'd plug my iPhone into the console and play everyone my voice memo of the song. I'd be singing melodies over the verses, and I'd throw out the vibe. Then, I'd hear what everyone else would do with it if it was their song. It's incredible to see that many musicians in a room. No one stepped on each other's toes. It was a sign of absolute maturity. They're true veterans.
Is it important for you to tell stories in the songs?
I had a good run with my old band Unified Theory. I spent years doing variations of my rock stuff, which is more like Queens of the Stone Age or Jane's Addiction. That's why this record is so polar opposite of that. My record is more me than anything. I never intended for this to be anything more than something fun. I don't care what the fuck people think about it. If they like it, that's awesome. If I don't make music, I'm a miserable person. That's all I know. Some people have to work out every day or else they're angry and pissed off. This record is so open. I didn't try to sugarcoat anything or hide what I was talking about. I get chills when I hear a good singer-songwriter, and I think, "I can't believe you just told us that". I want to give him a hug or something [Laughs].
What's the story behind "Dragon, Fly"?
In a way, that's probably the favorite for a lot of us. Musically, that's all me. I wrote that sitting on the couch at my mom's house last Christmas. Once we put it together as a band, I really didn't know what I wanted the lyrics to be about. That was during the time that [drummer] Billy Ward's wife was ill with cancer. I approached him and I said, "I can't think of anyone else but your wife when I'm considering lyrics for this. It seems like the song needs to be about her in some way. Help me out with some lyrics." That's the one song on the record which is a co-write lyrically. It's about him and his wife. She was born in the year of the Dragon. They used to make jokes about that stuff and their own personalities. Billy saying, "Dragon, Fly" is like releasing her. It's such a beautifully heavy song.
Have you heard Chris Shinn yet?