Shaun J Wright. The name may not be familiar, but the voice should be.
Shaun is the owner of the beautiful baritone that graced the best bits of Hercules & Love Affair’s Blue Songs album, released in January 2011. A Chicago native, his work is a real treat for fans of house music, recalling some of the best vocalists in the genre, singers like Robert Owens and Peven Everett, while still retaining a distinct flavor all of its own.
This week, as he appears as guest vocalist on not one, but two separate releases (audio below); I sent him some questions for my notes column:
THE NIALLIST: Where are you based just now and how do you find it?
SHAUN J WRIGHT: I currently spend most of my time in my hometown Chicago. It’s interesting being back here as I haven’t lived here this long since I left for college. Before leaving I was in such a rush to go I didn’t truly have a chance to appreciate the city’s rich textures beyond house music. This time around I feel at ease with being here and it’s been just what I’ve needed to refocus and begin working on my solo endeavor and other collaborations.
TN: You have two new releases coming out, one with Stereogamous who are from Australia, and one with Kiki on Berlin’s highly respected BPitch Control label. Tell me how recording with these two different acts came about. Were there different processes and inspirations?
SJW: I met Jonny Seymour and Paul Mac backstage after a gig in Barcelona. They sent me a few tracks and instantly I connected with and recorded what is now “Face Love Anew” (which will be released Nov. 27th, on vinyl and Dec. 11th, digital format). They gave me a lot of freedom to write the lyrics and express them melodically as I imagined. It’s been such a pleasure working with them as they’re so talented and incredibly loving and sweet. It’s also been a great experience preparing for the release with Honey Soundsytem’s HNYTRX and CockTail d’Amore. Everyone has been so gracious and open throughout the process. The remix package is sick and quite the family affair. Honey Soundsystem’s Jason Kendig, my sister Kim Ann Foxman, my boys from Horse Meat Disco, The Miracles Club and Carry Nation! It’s just all types of ovahness going on with this release!
Kiki and I met in Berlin. My other sister, Aerea Negrot, suggested that we meet up to work together. She was spot on. The chemistry was instant for me. He’s a very calm and patient producer and also allowed me the freedom to move as I chose over his sultry tracks. What’s interesting is that the music you hear now is completely different from the music I initially recorded to. He has the insane ability to recreate songs extremely fast and often. This is the second feature of mine being released on BPitch Control. A few months ago I was featured on a song by System of Survival on their album “Needle and Thread”. I’ve been a huge fan of the label and Ellen Allien for years. She’s been quite supportive of my development and it’s been nice to foster a relationship with BPitch Control.
TN: Who have been the biggest influences on you musically? Give us a bit of background on your discovery of music and getting into singing and writing…
SJW: Hands down, my greatest influences were creators of the second wave of house in Chicago in the early 90’s. I was still very young but the music was ubiquitous throughout the city and I found it infectious. Cajual was my favorite label at the time and I religiously followed it’s output along with it’s sister label Relief. I was also into the street dance culture which later become known as juke so alot of Dance Mania and ghetto house reigned for me. From there I ventured into the popular NYC sound at the time, particularly Masters At Work and the output from Tribal America.
Some of my favorite singers include Rachelle Ferrell, Minnie Riperton, Donnie Hathaway, Bilal, Norah Jones, and Bjork.
I began writing songs in my early teens but I eventually became more invested in dancing. I think I was hesitant because I was afraid to sing in public and share my writings. I also desired to begin DJing then but I found it intimidating. Now I’m engaging in them all and I think it’s a good time in my life to do so.
TN: Dance music and culture seems to be booming in America right now - how are you finding that? How as an artist do you feel you fit into that?
SJW: I don’t connect with most of the mainstream dance music and culture. Maybe it’s a matter of age or aesthetic. Either way, it doesn’t move me in the same manner as music found just below the visible surface. I’m not sure that I do fit into that boom. It’s not even a consideration of mine to do so. I’ll just continue to make the music and imagery that feels authentic to me and if it becomes apart of that dialogue I’ll be well pleased. If it doesn’t, I’ll still be well pleased.
TN: How was working with Hercules And Love Affair? Are there any more H&LA collaborations lined up for the future?
SJW: Hercules was truly a life changing experience. I got to venture to many new places around the world and develop great relationships. Andy took a big risk allowing a newbie to join the crew so I’m grateful for all that it was.
TN: What does the near future have in store for Shaun J Wright?
SJW: I’m looking forward to spreading my wings creatively. I have a few more collaborations on the horizon as well as a solo EP that I’ve been working on diligently for the past year. Hopefully, they’ll all see the light next year.
The first of Shaun’s two singles released this week is an appearance with the Australian duo Stereogamous called “Face Love Anew”, which is released through San Francisco’s Honey Soundsystem’s HNYTRX label:
The second release is a collaboration with the Berlin-based producer Kiki called “Spending Time Together/Through Darkness”, and is released through the BPitch label: