Shannen James On Her Debut EP 'Arrows'
Ahead of the release of her debut EP Arrows we had a chance to chat with Australian songwriter Shannen James about finding inspiration, collaborations and goals for the future.
Arrows is a perfect combination of introspective lyrics and summery musical hooks. With her 2019 debut single ‘Something In The Water’ clocking up over 800,000+ plays on Spotify, EP title track ‘Arrows’ featuring in the top ten most played songs on Triple J, as well as supporting bands such as G Flip, Clews and Men I Trust, it’s easy to see why Shannen James is on everyone’s radar.
The Creative Issue: Arrows is a very personal collection of songs, what inspires you the most lyrically?
Shannen James: Lyrically I find myself being inspired by a lot of different things that spark ideas but I tend to write about the connection and relationships I have with other people and myself. Although there might be something I see in a movie or hear on the street or even a phrase of something I’ve read in a book that can spark an idea or a line for a song. Even though I mostly write in the first person because it feels more emotive to me, that doesn’t necessarily always mean it’s something that happened to me personally. Sometimes it’s things that have happened to family or friends but even if it’s a specific anecdote, it generally has universal feeling that most people will be able to understand and connect with.
TCI: Your EP was recorded with Dylan Nash who has worked with artists such as Dylan Lewis and Angus and Julia Stone. How did that collaboration come about?
SJ: Back in 2018 I was set up with Dylan for a couple of writing sessions while I was in Sydney. We hit it off straight away and both worked really well together. ‘Something In The Water’ was the first song we wrote together and we did it in a day! It’s great when you just instantly gel with someone, it makes the process that much better.
TCI: The studio where you recorded Arrows is located in Donvale, Victoria. The studio and surroundings sound like quite a departure from fast paced modern life. Do you feel that environment influenced the sound of the EP?
SJ: I feel like that space we were in was really perfect for us to work on this EP. We just had a little studio that was a friend of Dylan’s and it was really minimal and we only had our guitars and a keyboard. I think this really allowed us to use our imagination a little more and hone in on exactly what it was that we wanted to add to these songs. I feel like if we were in a huge, fully equipped studio, we may have got carried away with trying to use a bit of everything and I feel like that would have just been so overwhelming and not made sense for this EP. In fact most of the time we would say to each other, ‘You know that part that does this, let’s maybe halve or simplify it, or maybe it doesn’t even need to be there!’
TCI: You have achieved so much in such a short amount of time, what are some of your all time musical goals?
SJ: Ever since I was a little kid I just always imagined myself singing up on a stage in front of people. Whether it be ten or 10,000, I just knew that’s where I wanted to be. So nothing has changed really, I hope to be able to travel around the world with my amazing band and play great shows.
TCI: ‘Something In The Water’ was the first single you released, how do you feel your song-writing has grown between that song and the Arrows EP?
SJ: A lot of the songs on the EP were all written within a year of each other so I do feel like that’s why they all make sense as a collection of songs. But I do think you can hear a little more confidence and conviction within the song-writing between ‘SITW’ and Arrows. I feel with every song I write, I’m learning more and growing more as a song-writer and getting a better understanding of who I am not only as an artist but as a person as well.
TCI: The EP covers a lot of ground stylistically, what are some of your main musical influences?
SJ: That’s one of my favourite things about this EP. Different influences of mine float in and out of these songs and has set a pretty diverse tone for what I’m able to create in future. That’s one of the most exciting things to me about music, there’s no rules and particularly in today’s music landscape, artists are able to be fluid through multiple styles and genres and really explore all their different influences and ideas without feeling confined to stick to one lane. Some of my music influences just to name a few are Fleetwood Mac, Tame Impala, Haim, First Aid Kit, Shania Twain, Arctic Monkeys.
TCI: With over 800,000+ Spotify streams you obviously know how to write a great song. What do you feel makes a great song?
SJ: For me a great song is something that just makes you feel a feeling. If you don’t feel anything when you listen to a song, I don’t think it’s done its job. But other than that being pretty obvious, I think a great song is one where all the elements in the song are working together and complimenting each other. But I also think the best songs are the ones that if you can strip them back to just a guitar or piano and voice and it still stands up, then you’re onto something.
TCI: Even though it’s been such a busy time, what is on the horizon for Shannen James?
SJ: More music! And hopefully some live gigs in the not so distant future. Looking forward to working on new music and trying out some different things but mostly just excited about getting back into playing live with my band.