Jason Shannon
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Jason Shannon

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Rock

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Jason Shannon likes to think of his band as a car.

"A car Steve McQueen drove," he says. "An old '60s or '70s hot rod. Not a badass car. Just a car with good integrity. Something that's built to last, but not showing itself off. A Classic.

"Something like that," he laughs.

The car metaphor is appropriate. Shannon's song "Maybe Mexico" begs for an old jalopy and a stiff breeze. Ever the storyteller, his prose often seems stuck in that fork in the road between Lover's Lane and Heartbreak Hotel.

Shannon and his band are playing in Dinkytown's Kitty Cat Klub, a surprisingly romantic and chic diversion in a college town that is aching for the latest drink special. The band, complete with a keyboardist and a horn section, is spilling off the tiny stage huddled in between the venue's swaths of exposed brick and collection of antique mirrors. It's the perfect setting for Shannon's love songs and tales of hope and hopelessness. Outside, the sky is gray with a brewing storm. Inside, it is equally as electric. The atmosphere sets nerves tingling with that introspective feeling everyone gets when looking at the world through a rain-streaked window, seeing only your reflection.

The band plays a mix of blues, rock, and folk with a bit of twang. And though he may have mixed feelings about applying the term "soul" to his sound, Shannon's crooning is full of emotion. A lot of these influences, he says, he gathered growing up.

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"I grew up in Texas and Louisiana," he says. "So I think I was always around country music and blues music. But no one ever said, ‘This is what we're listening to and this is what this is.' I think it's sort of a genealogy thing, where I had it in me somewhere, but I never consciously tried to have it in me."

His love of music he gained through childhood osmosis.

"My dad managed a cable company. We had MTV right when it came out," he says. "I grew up playing sports, but I loved MTV and I loved the videos and I loved the songs. I would watch it all the time. Robert Palmer. Duran Duran. Tom Petty. INXS. I would just watch it all day. My mom would say, ‘What is your problem.'"

Shannon isn't new to the music scene. He spent time in a hard rock band and, as a solo artist, he considered a future in indie rock.

"I was kind of hoping I would adopt some of the values," he says of the genre, "but I can't. I gave up trying to do it. I guess it's not even values, but it's sort of like... you hope to fit in. I'm an adult, but it's an acceptance thing. I gave up trying to do it. And giving up has been really good for me creatively."

In a city that can feel clogged with bands latching onto musical trends of the moment, Shannon's classic Americana sounds fresh. His quality storytelling is even more refreshing. It's his words, Shannon says, that move him onstage.

"If I'm connecting with a particular lyric, I will feel the lyric," he says. "I try to pay attention to what I'm singing all the time. I'm paying attention to my voice. I never have to think about my guitar playing. So I'm listening to the band and I'm listening to what I'm singing. If the lyric has a certain emotion, I'll feel it and when I do feel it, it's inspiring."

Tonight Shannon shakes like his head is filled with phantoms, former romances and memories of escape. Missing is his near-trademark top hat, but its absence allows onlookers to more clearly see his face twist as he is connecting to that emotion. The sound bellows and his voice is thundering. Just like the clouds above. - Rake Magazine (Mpls/St. Paul


Ladder, Hat, and Jason Shannon

With the advent of the American Idol T.V. show, it's not hard to realize that there is a large group of people out there who have pretty talented vocal abilities. Having that talent however is not necessarily a free ticket to super stardom, as many contestants find out.

Local singer/songwriter Jason Shannon has an incredible voice but also has the other qualities of someone who should be successful in music. He is good looking as well, and we all know that's all it takes to get ahead in the music business. Actually I was going to say it's his hard working attitude and his ability to create a song that fits his voice.
His new album bluesy, soulful and also meanders into folk, rock and reggae. Jason answered some questions about the new album and also how to do a dangerous photo shoot without getting fatally injured.

Rift: Who played on the new album and will this be the same as your live show?

Jason Shannon: The cast of players that contributed to my record is too long to name. You'd have to buy the record and read the liner notes to find out (hint hint….). But I can say that my live band emerged from these sessions and I'm very happy with the lineup right now and we're working hard to sound tight and cohesive, yet free to interpret the songs according to the moment.

The live show, in my opinion, is probably a lot more energetic than the record. Don't get me wrong, the record has good energy and the core of each song is a live take. But we're a lot more rocking now, and I'm not just saying that either. I've switched to electric guitar in the live setting and that definitely brings a different vibe to the sound. So hopefully we can get back in the studio sooner than later and document the evolution. All in all, I'm very proud of the record but I'm equally banking on live performance as being the vehicle which brings people back to the music… that and the songs!

Rift: You have a huge voice, that always seems to stay in tune and always sounds great. Is there a method to it, vocal exercises, or does any drinking and smoking add to it?

JS: Well, I'd have to kill you if I told you the answer. So take your pick. I will say this: I practice hard and pay attention, moment to moment, to what is projected outwardly. I feel like I'm getting better and better all the time. I even listen to the record and think, "Damn, I wish I could do that one again!" That thinking, however, may be a whole other dilemma. Drinking and smoking don't add to my approach. Other than that, my voice is what it is.

Rift: Do you have any influences that might surprise people?

JS: Yeah, but listing a pile of names is not my thing. I consider myself more of a creative human than a musician or songwriter or singer. Those titles are the cars I drive. At the core, I'm imagining things all the time or things are imagining me. It's been that way since I can remember. I guess I haven't grown up and gotten stuck in the mud. A lot of influence comes through re-arranging the realities of the present moment via imagination. It's almost like playful projection rather than mundane projection. That's one way to explain it, and that's happening all the time. I think everyone's like that. The here and now is my biggest influence.

Rift: Are you really standing on a ladder in that picture on your album cover, or was that done with photoshop? If you were, was that difficult or scary?

JS: I am really standing on that ladder. And if you don't believe it, well then you don't believe in miracles because it's a miracle I'm not dead or gravely injured.

The album shot was done up on Lake Superior last July. I went up there with a bunch of ideas and props. All my ideas bombed. I was bummed. Then, in the last hour, before being overtaken by a wind and rainstorm, I just sorta walked up there. Suddenly, I'm standing barefoot on the ladder and screaming at the photographer, Darin Back, to "Take the f—–ing picture!" I remember being scared but there was a point where I became really calm and gave myself about 30 seconds of peace to stand there and be still. I guess some part of me knew that this was maybe gonna be the shot. It was windy and rainy and really intense and I think Darin transcended the conditions and captured a moment. If you were to ask me what my first album's cover was gonna look like, I would never have thought it would be what it is.

Rift: What's with the hat? Is there a story behind it?

JS: It was the summer of '86. I was eight. I ran away from home. Crazy from the heat. I hitchhiked all the way to Minnesota from Louisiana. I was like a little salmon traveling upstream with the mighty Mississippi and the Great North Star as my traveling guides. I played guitar along the way. Wrote my songs, got my sounds. I called it the Salmon Sermon. My guitar case got filled with pennies and nickels and dimes from busking on the streets. There was nowhere for me to store the loot. I met a man who sol - Rift Magazine


Jason Shannon, who is arguably Minnesota's finest young Americana soul musician, plays the Varsity tonight with Molly Maher, Erik Koskinen and The Wars of 1812.

Shannon never stays in one genre long, moving from jazz to reggae to blues without even changing songs. His compelling voice, poetic narrative, and charismatic showmanship serve as earnest Americana tour guide, tying styles into a seamless yet raucous serenade.

He and his 7-piece band will be celebrating the release of his self-titled debut album tonight. - MetroMix Twin Cities


Discography

Jason Shannon (eponymous debut)

Release Date: December 16, 2008
Recorded: January-June 2008, Wild Sound Studio, Minneapolis, MN
Produced by: Jason Shannon
Mixed by: Matthew Zimmerman and Jason Shannon
Mastered by: Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, NYC

1 Mister Miracle Mile
2 Long Lost Friend
3 Sons & Daughters
4 All I Want Is You
5 Slip Away
6 Slow Down Love
7 Where Are You Tonight
8 Maybe Mexico
9 Mighty Mighty River
10 Can't Erase Love
11 Woman On My Mind
12 Sleep Tonight

Photos

Bio

The Jason Shannon Band is a four-piece rock and roll outfit from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Specializing in driving guitars, funky keyboards, soulful vocals/harmonies held down by a heavy groove, Shannon, the principle songwriter, and his group collaborate to produce a sound reminiscent of early-era Wilco and The Band with hints of folk, blues, and roots reggae. The band completed a 2009 nationwide tour and will be hitting the road from May through September in support of monthly single releases that will be accompanied by videos and studio footage.