Exclusive Artist Interview: Shannon Labrie
Adept on the piano and guitar, the singer/songwriter says she was “raised on James Taylor and Lauryn Hill.” Music Connection named her as one of the “Best Unsigned Artists of 2013” and at Labrie’s debut at Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin Chronicle raved “Labrie is a true guitarist and singer/songwriter from Nashville whose soulful voice’s sensual honey-crisp highs brings to mind the late, great Jeff Buckley.” We recent conducted this exclusive interview with Labrie.
Q: When did you start playing music? Was guitar your first instrument? Describe the process of learning to play?
A: I’ve played music since I was a little girl. I grew up in a really musical family. My first instrument was piano. I used to sit and listen to classical music and pick it out by ear. My Dad was an amazing guitar player, and when he passed away, I picked it up immediately and never stopped.
Q: What was the music scene like in your household growing up? Did you come from a family of musicians?
A: My Dad was a songwriter and an amazing guitar picker. My Mom has a beautiful voice and is an amazing piano player. All my siblings sing. We were always sitting around the dinner table at night and singing harmonies to my Dads songs. Some of the best memories of my life!
Q: Tell me about the contrast between growing up in Lincoln, NE and life in Nashville?
A: I grew up on a small farm about an hour away from Lincoln. My siblings and I were constantly playing outside in the woods, building forts, swinging across the creeks, playing house. Honestly, I feel so lucky to have had an upbringing that encouraged art and imagination. We were allowed 1 hour of TV a week. Once my Dad passed away, life changed drastically. We had to move into Lincoln, and I got the itch to move away.
I always wanted to move to NYC, but, after moving around the country on my own for a few years, Nashville, just seemed to make the most sense. I moved here almost 8 years ago, and it’s been home to me ever since.
Q: In your bio, you talk about remaining true to yourself in a life where uncertainty is certain. What does this mean for you? Is this a statement about the life of musicians, a musician in Nashville, or more of a general life statement?
A: I think that rings true in the life of a musician, but, I meant that about my life personally. I don’t usually make general statements. I’m a pretty literal and to the point kind of gal. Life is most certainly uncertain and at the end of the day, life is uncontrollable. The only control we have is over ourselves. My songs are almost always written in the first person and about the impact life has had on me as a woman.
Q: ‘War and Peace’, your latest album. How long did you work on this album? What was the process like?
A: I don’t ever sit down and say to myself, “I’m going to write my next album.” I’m constantly writing songs every day. Usually, I’ll write a couple that hit me in a way that no other song has, and that’s when I know, “It’s time to make my next record.” If I could, I’d record a new album every six months.
Q: There’s some large, complex, and I’d assume emotional topics covered on this album. Was this a cathartic songwriting experience?
A: Songwriting is always cathartic. Writing is how I process life. Writing helps me grieve losses and also deepens my experience of love. This album, in particular, was very personal and very healing. There’s something very satisfying about putting life’s experiences into song. In a way, I feel as though releasing ‘War & Peace,’ strengthened me and helped me carry life’s struggles in a healthier, lighter way. Releasing an album is like telling a secret. You feel great once it’s out of your mind.
Q: You call out American politicians in the fiery opener “It’s Political”- was that written in response to the recent presidential campaign circus or well before? Or is there another type of politics you’re speaking to. Is there an event or occurrence which spurred this songwriting?
A: I’m constantly writing about media and politics because I honestly don’t trust either, and I think they are the greatest manipulators of our time. I wrote “It’s Political,” way before this election year and I find it to be ironic how this year’s candidates fit perfectly into the verses of the song.
Q: What’s next? Are you touring? Working on the next album? What’s the summer have in store for you?
A: Always working on my next project. Yes, I have been touring and will continue to travel on the road. We have a string of fall dates that will be released soon. Also, keep and eye out for the new “It’s Political,” music video which is set to release in August!
Q: What would your life be like if you were not playing music for a living? What would you be doing?
A: Honestly, I’m not good at anything else so, this better work out for the rest of my life.
Q: What’s the best way for folks to connect and learn more about you, and listen to your music?
A: I’d say the internet. Keep an eye out for tour dates. That’s the best way to connect but, if I’m not in your town, check out anything on social media. You can stream my music on Spotify or Apple music or go purchase it. I’ll also be releasing a series of videos so, check out my youtube channel. See you on the road!