'I Think Iíll Stay For a Whileí
When you have an insatiable hunger to make music, youíll do anything it takes to follow your dreams. That is exactly what Shannon Curtis has been doing for the past three years since shunning her pre-med biology degree and leaving her old band to tour the US alone, playing in coffeehouses, record stores and college campuses.
Singing from deep in her soul, Curtis belts out love songs the way club crooners did in the 1940ís. A romantically painful liaison, Curtisís new EP Why Donít You Stay? is an anthology of broken hearts and shameless flirtation. While anchored in streamlined piano notes, Why Donít You Stay? has enough poppy guitar riffs to create a unique final product; blues melodies intertwined with poignant piano ballads and Italian Minuetto inspired guitars. All of this culminating with the honest and unpretentious singing voice of Curtis, Why Donít You Stay? is a poetic collection of forlorn love tunes, destined to strike a chord with jilted lovers everywhere.
Taking some time to talk with Shannon Curtis, Exclusive magazine learned about the hurdles, the heartbreak and the joys of chasing the dream to make it in the spotlight.
Your music has itís roots in jazz, blues and pop. Who were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? [Curtis] "I grew up with my dad playing a lot of 30ís- and 40ís-era standards on the piano. We also listened to a lot of oldies from the 50ís and 60ís on the 8-track player on our familyís boat. When I was a little older, I wanted to be Amy Grant. Iím still a pop fan and most of what I write is plain olí pop. But I also hear echoes of those old standards my dad used to play in what I write. And every once in a while, a 60ís girl group sneaks itís way in as well."
As an up-and-coming artist, describe the sound and style of your new album Why Donít You Stay? "Itís an EP of pop songs with lush instrumentation. I think it sounds beautiful."
You tapped into your fan base for financial backing to create the new album. How did you come up with this resourceful idea and how much money did you raise by doing this? "About a year and a half ago, I got a MySpace message from Charlie Peacock Ė a Grammy-winning producer who lives in Nashville Ė saying he liked my music and asking if he could have a shot at producing my next record. I was telling a friend of mine in LA about the opportunity and that I was trying to figure out a way to raise the funds needed to make it happen."
"My friend said, ďCount me in for a thousand!Ē And then it occurred to me that there might be more friends, family, and fans who would enjoy the opportunity to be involved in helping me get to Nashville to work with Charlie. So my fiancť and I produced an exclusive CD single of the song ďGet Outta TownĒ and sold a limited number of them to my fans across the country for $25. People gobbled them up and some even donated more than the $25 for the CD. All in all, we raised about $5000, which paid for all the recording costs in Nashville."
In 2008, you packed up for Volkswagen Jetta and traveled over 40,000 miles to play 125 gigs across the country. Tell us a little about this experience and how this adventure helped in your success as an artist "I have driven a lot of miles Ė I get funny looks from the guys at Jiffy Lube stations all across the country when they see how fast I put miles on my car. But the reason I drive all those miles is because I love to play music for people, and I can think of no better way to do this as often as possible and for as many people as possible than to put myself on tour as frequently as I can. Even with the digital age of music weíre in, there is still Ė in my opinion Ė no replacement for the experience of a live show. There is something electric in a space where music is being experienced in a live setting, a give-and-take exchange between artist and audience that canít yet be replicated in any digital way. Playing live for people is still the best way to earn fans for life. I travel far and wide to earn the loyalty of my fans."
Youíve now produced three full-length albums; Boomerangs & Seesaws (2007), Paris Canít Have You (2008) and your most recent release, Why Donít You Stay?. Which album do you feel says the most about you as an artist? "Boomerangs, Paris, and Why Donít You Stay? are actually EPs, not full-length releases. I think each of them speaks equally about me as an artist. But I think my songwriting has gotten stronger with each release."
Critics have called you the musical love child of Fiona Apple and Norah Jones. How does this make you feel and where do you think these comparisons stem from? "Well, the obvious reasons for the comparison are that Iím a girl and I play the piano. There are really only a handful of people to point to in that category. That said, Iím honored to be placed in such company. Iím a fan of both of those ladies and respect them very much as artists."
How easy or hard is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderments and accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "I think it would be a frustrating and futile effort to try to write what I think people want to hear. I try to write songs that I am satisfied with. Iím my own toughest audience. If I feel happy with something Iíve written, chances are much better that other people will enjoy the song, too."
MTVís hit show, The Hills, featured your single Before the Sun on an episode How were you approached for this opportunity and how did it gain exposure for your music? "There are a few people who have started working on my behalf to present my songs to music supervisors for use television shows and films. This is the first one thatís hit. The placement in the show definitely helped expose my music to new fans -- in the weeks following the premiere of that episode of The Hills, my MySpace listens tripled and my iTunes sales got a good bump as well."
Youíre currently in the middle of a 30 date summer tour. Where can fans see you play and what can they expect from a Shannon Curtis live set? "Fans can see me play in venues, clubs, and coffeehouses all over the country. My full schedule is always updated at www.shannoncurtis.net/tour. They can expect to hear piano and love songs and to have a really great time."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today and why? "I think the only song that satisfies all the criteria of this question is ďWe Are the World.Ē :-)"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins, do you? "Whatís not to love about penguins?"
For more information about Shannon Curtis, including how to help raise funds and awareness for her music, visit her myspace page and personal website.
Interview: Erin M. Stranyak
So, if you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Shannon's new CD, just answer this easy question: When she was 7, Curtis' classical piano teacher told her ... what?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful AUTOGRAPHED CDs by Shannon Curtis! Just send us an e:mail here before October 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: SIGNED SHANNON CURTIS CDs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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