Singer-songwriter Shawn James just kicked off a month-long tour carrying on promotion of his latest album “The Dark & The Light,” during which he will be stopping by SOhO Restaurant & Music Club for his first ever Santa Barbara performance on November 5. Mr. James expressed excitement at the opportunity to perform his blend of blues and soul music in a new town and continue playing his new music in a live setting, which he has done since February of this year. Preferring live performances over the sterile environment of recording studios, he loves seeing his studio work transform with increased vitality when taken to the stage.
“Whenever you take something from the studio to a live setting, it’s going to be more energized, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing how they’ve grown and adapted to a live setting,” he told the News-Press.
Of all the songs from “The Dark & The Light” he has played before an audience, the singer named “The Curse of the Fold” as that which has benefited the most from live performance. Naming it as his favorite song on the record, Mr. James recalled how he and his band were able to come up with compelling sounds onstage that made the song “surge.”
“It took on a huge, new feeling,” he said.
Hailing from Chicago, IL, Mr. James’ career as a recording artist began in 2012 with the release of his self-published debut album “Shadows,” which he produced on his own with low-fi recording technology. Despite the limited means with which he had to make the album, the singer-songwriter told the News-Press that it has gone on to become his most popular album and the one of which he is most proud. When asked if he has a favorite song on the record, Mr. James wasn’t able to pick just one because so many of them carry such significant meaning.
However, the singer named the album’s sixth track “Through the Valley” as by far his most popular song, having been used in the trailer for the forthcoming Playstation 4 video game “The Last of Us Part II.” According to his event page on the SOhO website, the song has more than 60 million streams between Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube. Mr. James said he is genuinely surprised that song in particular has become his most popular.
“I never expected that song to be popular. It’s one of the darkest songs I’ve written,” he said.
As proud as he is of “Shadows” and its low-fi sound, he would never even attempt to try and recapture its feel. Describing the album as a “timestamp” of where he was at that point in his life, Mr. James believes replicating it at this point would be futile and even come across as inauthentic.
“It was honest, it was genuine, it was real… I feel trying to recreate that would be fake,” he said.
While some people get into music with the ambition of becoming a superstar, Mr. James said when he was starting out he had no choice but to write music as a way of getting over past trauma.
“I was writing music because I had to. It was therapeutic, it was my release,” he stated.
Sometimes he writes from his own experiences. Other times, he writes about separate characters and tries to insert himself in their shoes. Either way, Mr. James described his lyrics as dwelling in “heavier emotions of sorrow and anger.” It’s not how he prefers to feel, but in his experience it produces the best songs.Tickets for Mr. James’ November 5 concert at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club cost $12 and can be purchased online at the venue’s website www.sohosb.com. Doors to the venue open at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8:00 p.m. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is located at 1221 State St.