OffBeat Magazine

Today (October 25), Shawn Williams debuts a new single, “If You’re Gonna Leave.” The New Orleans singer-songwriter-musician is currently in the throes of a third album, a project for which she launched a GoFundMe. As she continues to source funds for its release, she spoke with OffBeat.com about the first single to emerge.

What would you say “If You’re Gonna Leave” is about? What’s behind the song’s breakup-centric lyrics?
I was driving along the bumpy roads of Grand Route St. John when (talking to myself, ha, about my current situation) “if you’re gonna leave me, leave me now” popped into my thoughts, as I was struggling to figure out my place in someone’s life, someone who feels like they might not be able to or is too scared to be vulnerable again, as they had gone through a long and unpleasant relationship prior. The person was wanting to be free, but at the same time keeping me around but not knowing what to do.  I was starting to feel a distance, a sudden silence between us starting to happen.

The next day, I went to a songwriters retreat, Songs On the Bayou, in Morgan City.  They dropped me off in the middle of the woods, surrounded by all this beauty in nature, and all I could think about was this relationship possibly crumbling.  I was seeing/feeling them in the water, the trees, the sun, the wind, my body.  So, I started writing the song.  All my songs are stream of consciousness writing, not filtering and just letting it all flow.  I love imagery in writing.  It all came out within a few minutes.

I guess the song has very conflicting emotions.  Baring it all, giving all and willing/wanting to try and make it work, even if it does hurt for a while, wanting to give strength and courage.  Like, here’s my heart and all the safety and love I want to give you, and I can do this with you, but if you’re not willing…

 

The bio on your website describes your style as “alt-rocka countrybilly serial killer blues.” What does this mean? How do you find a successful intersection of all these styles, and where does the “serial killer” part come from?

My style is a combo of alt-rock, country, rockabilly, dark, dirrty, and blues.  So, I came up with the title to incorporate it all.  People always ask me what style I play.  When I write songs, I don’t write with an intention of them being in any specific genre.  I don’t have a structure of writing when I write, and I know nothing about music theory.

If I’m doing a live show, I’ll go from one of my songs sounding like a dark indie rock song with an undertone of delta blues, mixed with a vocal of classic country with a twist of some gritty rock to a lyrically and instrumentally sexual and raunchy delivery with an r&b vibe that has an undertone of rock.

I love all types of music from classical to blues to hip-hop, rock and country.  I don’t want to limit myself from what I write and play, just like I don’t want to limit what I listen to.  That would be too boring for me.

The serial killer part comes from my morbidity in some of the lyrics.

How was the experience of recording at Blue Velvet Studio?

I love recording at Blue Velvet Studio! It’s where I recorded my fist two albums, Shadow and Motel Livin’.  Tom Stern is a one-man show over there, and he does it brilliantly.  He knows his sound.  He’s super laid-back, makes you feel comfortable.  Plus, he’s a badass musician himself! I can’t wait to record album number three with him!

How do you plan on following up 2018’s Motel Livin’? Is “If You’re Gonna Leave” a sign of your direction moving forward?

As of right now, “If You’re Gonna Leave” will probably be the one that is slightly different from the other songs that would be on the album.  The third album will be kinda on the heavier and more orchestrated side.  The lyrics, I feel, are even more unfiltered.  It will be a combination of my first two albums, but with expanded arrangements and diving deeper on several different genres in each song.

Since you have a Gofundme going to help create your third album, does this mean the songs on a prospective 3rd album have already been written?

All the songs have been written for the third album.  That being said, I currently have enough songs to release (that I’d want to release), for at least 15 albums.  I’ve had a GoFundMe going since March, and since then, most of the songs that I’ve wanted to put on the album have been replaced by newer songs I’ve written in the past few months.  So, by the time I record this album, who knows which songs I will put on it.  I’m more of an in the moment, what I’m currently feeling kind of person — though, there are a few that I wanted originally on it that are still on the list.

For more information, visit the official website for Shawn Williams.

The Advocate Print Newspaper

The Advocate

New Orleans has its share of singer-songwriters, but no one quite occupies Shawn Williams’ country-noir terrain. For her perfectly titled second album, 2018’s 'Motel Livin’,' the unbridled Williams sings of lust and longing at the dark end of the street. She’s dubbed her music alt-rock-a-country-billy-serial-killer-blues. You could call it hillbilly-post-punk-goth-rock, too, or Hank Williams meets The Smiths meets Siouxsie and the Banshees. After 13 years in radio as an on-air personality, producer, music and program director in Atlanta, New York and New Orleans, she left radio to pursue music fulltime.

Shawn Williams returns to Baton Rouge on Saturday, Aug. 3, for a Dyson House Listening Room show at Zeeland Street Market, 2031 Perkins Road. Dana Abbot opens the show at 7 p.m. $10 advance, $15 door. dysonhouselr.comshawnwilliamsmusic.com.

Offbeat Magazine New Orleans

So f'n ecstatic to have been nominated for two Offbeat New Orleans 'Best of the Beat Music Awards' 2018!! You can VOTE HERE, if you like what you hear :).  I've been nominated for 'Best Roots Rock Artist' and 'Best Roots Rock Album' for Motel Livin'!! They've also named it one of the best albums of 2018! Major props to everyone involved in the album, the Kickstarter pledgers, and all the supporters! Huge thanks to Offbeat for the continuous support for both of my albums!! You can also attend the awards show! Info in the voting link.  Voting ends Jan. 15th. 

 

Country Music People Magazine Europe

Whaaat!!!! Thank you so much to Europe's Country Music People's magazine's Paul Riley for listing my new album Motel Livin' as one of the top ten Best Albums of 2018!!...right alongside some killer artists, like Neko Case😍!

It's in the January issue which is now on newsstands or get it digitally at CMPcountry.com! Pistol Annies on the cover!

You can also get the October issue where Chris Smith interviewed me! Also, you can check out Paul Riley's 5-star review of the album in the August issue! Read them on this page or CMPcountry.com!

Thank you very much for the support, Country Music People magazine!! And major thanks again to all the kick ass musicShawns on this album, as well as Tom Stern (engineering & mixing) at Blue Velvet Studio and to Bruce Bariellle (mastering)!!

Country Music People Magazine - Interview - Europe

Country Music People Magazine - Album Review - Europe

Offbeat Magazine - Album Review - New Orleans

 

In an interview with OffBeat’s Laura DeFazio, Shawn Williams refers to her music as “alt-rocka country-billy serial killer blues.” As far as genre signifiers go, it pretty well sums up her sound. She wears her country and rockabilly influences—Lucinda (and Hank) Williams, Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley (whom she honors with her all-female tribute band, Pelvis Breastlies)—on her sleeve, accenting her soulful voice with tasteful flourishes of mournful pedal-steel guitar or jangling honky-tonk piano. She showed them off last year on Shadow, an impressively mature debut record.

It’s her less obvious inspirations, such as Billie Holiday and shoegaze icon Mazzy Star, that set her apart from the pack on her recently released sophomore album, Motel Livin’. These manifest more subtly, often emerging on slower tracks, where Williams has room to wander gloomily about her desert landscapes, her voice warping into blue note territory but never devolving into the cutesy warbling of her country predecessors.

Williams’s past career in radio has given her a keen ear for production, pacing and track selection. She opens the album on a disarmingly quiet note with “Leave,” a slow-burning breakup anthem that bleeds seamlessly into “Touch, Love, ’n’ Rub,” a much more upbeat ode to one-night stands on the road. Windblown chimes usher in “Desert Baby,” a gorgeous, meandering love song and immediate album standout. It clocks in at a whopping 7:34, but is immediately followed by the short, cabaret-style, keyboard-pounding “Chop.” And so on. By the time the dust settles on the closing, title track (and the hidden bonus track gift-wrapped into the end of it), you’ll be left wondering how your last hour went by so quickly.

The “serial killer blues” bit of Williams’s self-proclaimed sound is the hardest to find in her music. Unlike her fellow local, country-adjacent act Guts Club, whose folk melodies and quiet arrangements thinly veil lyrics full of violence and viscera, Williams mostly writes about different types of romance. But deep below these love songs, there is a very long fuse burning very slowly, possibly with something very sinister at the end. We’ll just have to wait for another album to find out what it is.

Louisiana Music Factory - Feature

The Advocate - Write-Up - New Orleans

Georgia singer-songwriter Corey Smith has good taste in opening acts. Over the years, the then-unknown bands who have preceded him onstage have included the Zac Brown Band, Florida Georgia Line and Brantley Gilbert, all of whom have gone on to become arena headliners. Smith, meanwhile, has spent years building a sizable nationwide following more gradually as an independent artist; he sold tens of thousands of albums without the backing of a major record. He finally made his Grand Ole Opry debut in 2013 and scored a legitimate country hit with “If I Could Do It Again.” His most recent release, “While the Gettin’ Is Good,” was the first of his albums that he didn’t produce himself. Instead, he entrusted veteran country music producer Keith Stegall to steer his acoustic compositions in a more radio-friendly direction. Jacob Powell and Shawn Williams open for Smith at Tipitina’s on Thursday, meaning they are likely destined for stardom.

Offbeat Magazine - Interview - New Orleans

“Some folks say they like my music because they can tell I don’t really have a filter. That could stem from me not being able to sit there and write a song if it takes me more than ten minutes… ADD? Or because if I do sit there longer, I wake up and start saying, ‘Wait, that’s too dark, too cheesy, too sexual, personal, etc.’ I don’t want to do that. If I’m going to write music, it needs to be raw. It needs to come from the heart, unfiltered.

Every song I write is different. I call my music ‘alt-rocka country-billy serial killer blues,’ because that doesn’t constrain me to a genre. A lot of people ask me what the serial killer blues part means, and if I had to answer in words, I’d say to imagine a serial killer hitchhiking through the desert with heartbreak and the blues.

My favorites are Mazzy Star, Neko Case, Lucinda Williams, Hank, Patsy, Billie Holiday. Sad music and music that makes me dance. Oh, and Elvis (Presley, of course). I started the world’s first-ever all-female Elvis band when I was living in Atlanta. Pelvis Breastlies is the name. I’m very proud of that.

I think I was 15 when I started playing guitar, but I’ve been writing since prenatal. I used to sit alone in my room, almost all day, playing music instead of socializing. I didn’t think anyone would ever want to hear my music. Plus, stage fright. It’s a huge feeling of nakedness up there.

New Orleans, my birthplace, is what really changed that for me. When I moved back here three years ago, the musicians and community were so welcoming, so encouraging. I went from thinking not a single person would want to hear my songs to playing music full-time. I enjoy being naked in front of people now. Ha ha. It’s like a big nudist colony in New Orleans—we’re all naked together.

I love the way Shadow turned out! I knew the sound I wanted, and [Blue Velvet Studios engineer] Tom Stern helped me get the best musicians that would help paint those songs. The album kinda has a desert-y darkness to it. It rocks, it weeps, it’s sexual. It’s a part of me.

What’s next? Hopefully another album. I have a piss-load of songs for many albums to come. I think the next one will be a lot more personal, more vulnerable. And I want to continue touring, continue pursuing music. I left my radio career this past May, after 13 years, to do just that. Several folks said that if the music thing didn’t work out, at least I had a good resume in radio to fall back on. And maybe they meant it sincerely, or with good intentions, but that kind of BS just adds to my drive. I don’t give up. Maybe it’s my Scorpio persistence. I go after what I want, no matter the obstacle or challenge.”

Offbeat Magazine - Album Review - New Orleans

If you’ve ever been to the “Stella”-shouting contest that happens in Jackson Square to honor Tennessee Williams every March, you’ll understand why Shawn Williams’ “Stella” is a song that needed to be written. The singer manages to channel Stanley Kowalski at his most hell-bent—no small feat for a woman whose deep voice and languid singing style bring Shannon McNally to mind. And she treats the Streetcar-themed lyric as an excuse for some good dirty fun, letting the character work up steam for the inevitable shouts at the end.

Shawn Williams already spends plenty of time on the radio—in her other life, she’s an on-air personality on The Alternative 106.1—so she’s probably got fewer qualms about recording songs that don’t stand a chance in hell of getting airplay. She drops some “fucks” into a few songs, and “You Got Some Growin’ Up to Do,” the other standout tune on her debut, is hopped-up punkabilly that’s frank about why she’s dumping the guy in question. But on the other hand, she’s got a good sense of what makes for a good radio sound: The production gets close to arena-big at times, and her voice is always front and center. And when she wants to get respectable, she’s more than able: “Gone Again” is a love song Stevie Nicks would love; “Shake Shake Shake” cops a Petty-esque heartland rock sound with its power chords and Hammond, and the country ballad “What If I Stayed” is almost a Nashville readymade. It’s easy to imagine her going for the gold if she tones down the words and turns down the guitars, which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t catch her in the meantime.