Shawn McDonald Interview as published in The Phantom Tollbooth Sharing time with McDonald is refreshing and real...

much like spending time with his music.

Shawn McDonald Interview
Friday, April 26, 2013

A sense of peace and honesty pervades the environment when meeting one-on-one with Shawn McDonald. The CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artist, known for his earthy folk style, was completing a recent tour in support of his latest release, The Analog Sessions. Alone in the artist’s lounge of the Cup ‘O Joy music venue in Green Bay, Wisconsin, we discussed his latest release, what keeps him tracking to course, and what his future may hold.

ScottThe Analog Sessions represents a step back in time by recording with a full band rather than studio musicians, cutting tunes live in the studio, and using vintage analog equipment.  What motivated you to take make these moves?

Shawn: Sparrow Records (McDonald’s label) had given the direction to produce a best hits album. They provided some leeway in the production of the album and a small budget to give the collection a different flavor. We chose to use fabmusic and Welcome To 1979 studios, taking advantage of vintage analog audio effects and live, full band recording. The analog recording provides the raw, old school flavor. Also, we added two new songs to the album in both the live, analog version and a radio version as bonus tracks. Performing with a band rather than studio musicians also added to that old school flavor.

Sc – Nine of the 13 songs on The Analog Sessions are from previous recordings. How did you select the nine?

Sh – We were able to review recent requests, a handful of top iTunes downloads, and some of our favorite tunes. Some of the selections were obvious choices.

Sc – Tell my about the two new songs, “Through It All” and “What Are You Waiting For”.

Sh – “What Are You Waiting For” is aimed at the audience. The message is to open up to experience life fully. So much is wasted through our daily trials. “Through It All” is a  declaration of God’s mercy – ‘You love me through it all’, in spite of our selfish and sinful lives.’

Sc – One of my favorites you’ve written is "Mystery" from the Closer album. What was behind that tune?

Sh - "Mystery" is about our journey with Christ. Man has always had a need to define everything, to make his knowledge of a higher priority than his faith. The idea and message behind Mystery is to let go of man-made definition and ‘canned’ knowledge of faith and religion and to remind us of faith’s mystery, and the wonder and God’s love and grace.

Sc - How do you keep your tools sharp, both as an artist and as a Christian?

Sh – I work with musicians who are better at their craft than I am. This keeps me sharp and continually improving. I practice my craft continually. As for Christian growth, I want to be someone who can further God’s kingdom. Also, I spend time alone in the woods or elsewhere to gather inspiration and clear my mind. Everything has a season, I like to poor myself into my gifts but also need a season to unplug, be quiet, and be closer to God.

Sc -  You’ve been with Sparrow Records since the beginning of your career. What are the ups and downs of being with a label?

ShSparrow has been very good, being not only in support of what I do but also part of what I do. Keeping the music and message fresh can be difficult, at times a label does not allow for time of inspiration and new direction. As an artist, you never want your art to be manufactured. Art needs to be pumped up, flush.

Sc – What does the future hold for you? Any changes in direction professionally or personally?

Sh – I’ve been writing on my blog, Ramblings Of A Beggar on Wordpress. Also, I’ve been studying music production, building a home studio, and bringing demos up to the current scene.

Sc – Any closing thoughts?

Sh – In my life, I try to love God with all of me, and people too. I hope to make great art, be a great musician, make a difference. I am learning to correct my way of thinking and not control everyone else, only me and how I respond to God.

Something down to earth, truthful and well grounded is ever-present in McDonald’s offerings. As an individual he is unassuming, humble, and pervades a sense of what is right and true. Sharing time with McDonald is refreshing and real, much like spending time with his music.

Note: See related ‘The Analog Sessions’ album review and recent concert review in the June, 2013 edition of Phantom Tollbooth.

 Scott S Mertens

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