Band: An Intimate Evening with Amanda Shaw
Date: Saturday, March 3, 8 p.m.
Venue: The Listening Room of Mobile, 78 St. Francis St.,
Tickets: $25 artist donation; call 251-367-4599 for reservations
The Listening Room of Mobile invites music fans to spend an evening with the charming and talented Amanda Shaw.
When she was just 4 years old, Shaw began training classically on the violin, and a few years later embraced the raucous Cajun sounds of Acadiana. Since then, Shaw has developed her own style of this traditional music, adding elements of soul and pop combined in a live delivery filled with energy. Her latest single, “Soulful Dress,” and an upcoming album might herald another step in the evolution of her sound.
This longtime veteran of both Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest spoke with Lagniappe about the development of her sound as well as her latest offering.
Stephen Centanni: You started training classically on violin at a very young age, and it wasn’t long until you found yourself in the world of Cajun music. How did that happen?
Amanda Shaw: It was just growing up here in the South. There’s a lot of really great music and really great culture all around. My parents always had lots of different kinds of music in the house, especially with my mom. One minute, it might be classical. The next minute, it might be Etta James or Billie Holiday. So, I grew up with a lot of different music in my house. Nobody else plays musical instruments, but there was definitely a musical appreciation in my house. I think one of the fun things about music is that you can try all kinds of different things. Cajun music really resonated with me, and it has stuck with me.
Centanni: One thing I’ve found interesting about your music is that you’ve incorporated all kinds of musical elements into traditional Cajun sounds. How did your style come into being?
Shaw: I think it’s not about it coming to be as much as it reflects different parts of my personality. I like to think that none of us are one color. Even within those colors, we’re not one shade of those colors. For me, music is just a way of expressing myself. So, I think all those different shades and all those different colors of my personality kinda come through.
What really ties it together in the end is me. I like to have fun, and I love music so much. There’s nothing like when you’re having a bad day, and you turn on a song. All of a sudden, your day can get turned around. I love that about music. I think the constant within it all is that love for music.
Centanni: During your childhood, you established yourself in the Cajun music community, and then you evolved over time, which all musicians do. Talking to other bands from South Louisiana such as the Lost Bayou Ramblers, there are a few Cajun music purists who aren’t too keen on bringing other musical aspects into the traditional sound. As your music evolved, what kind of reaction did you get from longtime fans?
Shaw: Yeah, for sure! One of the things that I think you have to keep in mind is that you can’t please everybody. I’m certainly no different. I know that I have people that don’t like my music. I’m even further away from traditional than the Lost Bayou Ramblers. However, I know people that do love my music. It just amazes me every time that I play a show, and there are people there to hear me sing and hear me play. It makes me feel awesome.
When you’re writing music, you just kind of write what you think. A lot of times, I try to put a sense of humor in my music, because we should take life with little bit of sense of humor. When you’re writing songs, there’s no guarantee that people will like your song. You write it and hope for the best. I’ll be in the grocery store, and someone will come up to me with a great story about how they first heard me play or a song that I sing that really clicks with them. It just makes it all worth it. Focus on the people who support you.
Centanni: I love your version of “Soulful Dress.” To me, you’re taking your music into new places with that old-school, ‘60s garage sound. What made you want to take on this song?
Shaw: The original version of “Soulful Dress” is done by Sugar Pie DeSanto, and it is a ‘60s tune. It’s really awesome, and I strongly encourage people to go check it out. That original track is so cool, and her voice is so good. It’s a simple song, and there’s nothing complicated about it at all. It’s just a feeling. You can tell when she’s singing that song that she’s is feeling every single word.
I was a teenager when I first heard that song, and I’ve loved it. It’s always been on my playlist, whether I’m getting ready for something or going to work out. It’s always resonated with me.
I’ve always actually wanted to do that song. I’ve tried it a few different times and never found the right time and place, until I was working on this record. Zak Loy (Alpha Rev), who produced the upcoming record, is a friend of mine. I told him, “This is how this song makes me feel.” He got it, and he helped bring it to life for me. It’s different from the original, but the sentiment is the same.
Centanni: Tell me all about the new record.
Shaw: The new record will be out on April 4. It’s called “Please Call Me Miss Shaw.” I’m really proud of it, and I’m really proud of all the songs that I’ve written for this record. This is not one that I can say that I like more than the others. They’re all unique. Each of them has their own sound, but they go together. As a collective, they push my boundaries a little farther, which I can’t ask for anything greater as an artist. I think you should always challenge yourself and push yourself to go to these places. It does that. I wrote all of them, except one or two, and I’m really proud of them.
Centanni: You’ve played all kinds of festivals, but you do love a listening room setting. How would you compare the two shows?
Shaw: I love both of them just as much. I really mean that. There’s a tiny festival that I play in Larose, Louisiana. I’ve been playing it for maybe 13 years. I’ve had a few years that I’ve missed, but I play it constantly. I love playing in these settings, because I get to connect with people. It’s so awesome, because I see the same people every year at this festival. It’s not particularly rowdy like Jazz Fest or French Quarter Fest.
The people who come out appreciate me playing the festival. Every year, some people will bring me a little present, or they’ll take a picture and collect the pictures every year and line them up in their house. They’ll come up to me and be like, “Look! This is from last year, and this is us from 2010!” It’s awesome to make that connection.
A listening room is a lot like that. It’s these smaller settings where I’m able to connect with people in a different way than those shows. Music is about connecting with people, but it does bring a different perspective to be able to talk to people after the show and shake hands and give hugs. It’s awesome for me as an artist to know that people really care or that a lyric I wrote helped them get through some time. I’m just a girl with a fiddle and songs in my head. When I play shows, like, it puts it together for me.