Shannon Shaw Talks Going Solo And Overcoming Self-Doubt

Napa, CA native Shannon Shaw blossomed in the surf punk scene playing in Hunx & His Punx and currently Shannon & The Clams. Now, she’s taken that scary step onto solo ground.

On June 8, she released her debut solo album Shannon In Nashville produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and The Arcs via his label Easy Eye Sound. Despite her talents and accomplishments, the creative process was no cakewalk for Shaw. To create her solo album, she had to conquer her own insecurities.

“This process was different than what I’m used to,” Shaw tells BTRtoday over the phone. “I was very uncomfortable at first, just feeling out of my element.”

Half of the songs Shaw brought to the studio were mostly good-to-go and with just a little tweaking needed. The other half Shaw co-wrote from scratch with Auerbach and the studio musicians, which Shaw says was initially a struggle with her self-esteem.

“[I was] like, ‘I don’t belong here; I shouldn’t be allowed to sit in front of these legends doing my stupid thing,’” she says. “I was having a hard time letting myself have fun and once I eventually got over it and got more comfortable it was totally fun—I had no idea how the songs were gonna end up even when there were three of us working on it.”

Tracks like “Golden Frames” and “Make Believe,” Shaw says, came out almost exactly how she imagined. But then tracks like “Leather Metal Steel” exceeded Shaw’s own imagination, saying, “[they] definitely turned out cooler than it was in my brain.”

Still doo-wop-inspired like The Clams, Shaw takes her music to a new heart-wrenching level by combining her doo-wop style with garage rock and old-school country influences. Her vocals combine a bold Etta James rasp with a punk rock siren’s wail like Patti Smith.

“Throughout the years I’ve saved some rejected demos [and] I would think, ‘maybe someday I’ll do a solo record,’” she says, adding that she never really thought it would actually become a possibility. “Then [Auerbach] was like, ‘you need to come to Nashville and we need to make a solo record’—I definitely was like, ‘this guy is crazy, he thinks I’m something I’m not…’ I think I was just feeling too self-conscious to want to do something like that, but he was very excited and encouraging and adamant that we do it and him being so excited about it gave me the push I needed to do it, so I’m forever grateful to him.”

Auerbach and Shaw met after Shannon & The Clams played a festival in Australia. She was surprised to learn that the promoter booked them because of Auerbach’s suggestion. Even though Auerbach had tried before to set up shows with them and followed them on Instagram, Shaw was still in awe. She was so grateful that she reached out to him to thank him and they began a strong musician-relationship where they would send each other their music and see each other’s shows.

Shannon Shaw, “Freddies ‘n’ Teddies”

“I felt like by watching The Arcs play it made me understand his mind better,” she says. After that Auerbach invited Shaw to Nashville to record a solo record—and the rest is history.

Fast-forward to after the release of the solo album and a lengthy Shannon & The Clams tour, the morning we chatted with Shaw she was getting ready for some fun in the sun. She had already visited her dad and was ready to go swimming with a friend. “It’s kind of my first day off at home in a really long time—it feels like the first day of summer.” (Little did she realize that the day was actually the official summer solstice.)

During this break between Shannon & The Clams’ tours, Shaw has made a few stops to see her boyfriend in Oregon and her fellow Clams’ bandmate Cody Blanchard, in Oakland, CA. Blanchard recently welcomed a newborn baby into his life and made Shaw the godmother. “[Being made godmother] made me so happy,” she squeaks with glee. “I did this really weird reaction where I was like cry-laughing.”

It has been a much-needed break for Shaw since she’ll be back on the road with The Clams in mid-July.

Right now, Shaw is going with the flow when it comes to her solo career, not knowing exactly where it may end up–though she will be playing the Second Annual Coney Island Music Festival in August. She does, however, plan to tour the solo album (hopefully) this coming winter.

In the meantime, catch her playing with Shannon & The Clams and hear the entire interview with Shannon Shaw and Shannon In Nashville in its entirety on this week’s The Music Meetup.