Share & Connect
Her autobiographical songs are both heartfelt and raw, but they also show a certain sense of defiance. Shannan Stone is the kind of music phenomenon that sticks in your head but also in your feelings. Her songs and covers, posted on YouTube, have garnered thousands of views and 2012 is poised to become a big one for the talented musician.
I recently chatted with Shannan Stone about our generation, underdog pride, the stories behind her tunes and how edgy, revolutionary, and emotional can go together. This is what a superstar in the making sounds like.
Toonari Post (TP): You claim your music is inspired by after-parties crammed with hipsters and cross-dressers, family disapproval, wild tantric sex. Are all those elements present in your everyday life or have you built up a onstage persona to voice your rebellious side?
Shannan Stone (SS): Some of those elements are present in my everyday life, and some are not, however, that passage is not intended as a confession of my lifestyle. I tend to speak in metaphors in order to communicate my passion, and my passion has always been positive social change and revolution. All those metaphors represent a fundamental rebellion which my generation has birthed, and it is not an idle rebellion.
I am infinitely driven to fight for social change and the power of love. the passage I wrote is a dedication to those who suffer, and a promise that I will always fight to end that suffering.
TP: Tell us about our generation, the one you’re lending your voice to.
SS: I am so proud of my generation for rebelling in the way that we have to fight for universal love and acceptance; especially, people like Lady Gaga who have literally changed how our society looks at the “underdog”. She has single-handedly made it ‘okay’ to be openly homosexual, or whoever one wants to be.
But there is still much social change to be done, and whether or not people realize it, we are in the middle of a second civil rights movement; namely, in the fight for equal rights for the LGTB community.
The underdogs of my generation sometimes rebel against social oppression by ‘acting out,’ as I, myself have done in the past. we party, we get drunk, we do drugs, we tattoo comforting prose onto our bodies, we have random sex, we do anything we can to try to kill the pain of not being accepted by our society and sometimes even our own families.
TP: When did you fall in love with music? What does music mean to you personally?
SS: I started singing professionally when I was four, and I’m not joking! I fell in love with music because I realized that music is a way to communicate the intangible, and it serves as a common ground between people who would otherwise have no common ground.
To me, it’s magical, especially in a world where we are all so disconnected. I can connect with a complete stranger through my songs, because we all understand what it feels like to be happy, sad, in love, heartbroken, afraid, courageous, disappointed, victorious etc.
I suppose, that when I spill my guts to a complete stranger on stage, and they understand exactly how I feel because they have felt the same way, it makes me feel less alone.
TP: Digging music is one thing, collecting albums and singing in the shower, but mustering up the strength to venture into the music industry takes some bravery. When did you decide you wanted to do this professionally? How has that changed your life?
SS: I started singing country songs at local Opry’s in Dallas and beauty pageants around Texas, and I loved it so much that I just decided I was a singer. When my elementary school teachers asked us to write essays about what we wanted to be when we grew up, I told them that I already was what I will always be: I am a singer.
TP: Just in case there’s someone misinformed out there thinking you’re only a pretty girl. What is Shannan Stone bringing into the music scene?
SS: Shannan Stone is her music. My songs are pieces of my heart. I pride myself on being genuine. Everything you see or hear comes from me. So whether or not you like me, at least your opinion of me will be based on something truthful. All of the songs are about specific situations in my life, or at least situations that I was inspired by, and all of the pictures and outfits and performances came from my inspiration.
TP: How involved are you in the making of your music?
Art is a manifestation of one’s soul. If one just sings what other people write, then one is just a singer, NOT an artist. I am so inspired by the music of the 60s and 70s because most of it was written by the people who performed it. The famous musicians were actually artists, and it was so honest and pure. Today, it is hard to find people who actually contribute pieces of themselves to the formation of their product. I am hoping that music cycles around to become more simple and authentic again!
TP: Most people only see the glitzy outcome of the entertainment industry. You’re incredibly talented but what does it take to get a radio station to play your music? How do you promote your material?
SS: The music business is all about money and politics. I know a lot of amazing artists who haven’t made it, because they haven’t been lucky enough to be able to fund themselves or meet people who are willing to do it for them. You see, it takes millions of dollars to break a new act, and because of the poor state of the economy, labels are very hesitant to take any financial risks.
I have met with labels who have literally told me that they generally don’t sign artists who haven’t already generated a preexisting media presence and/or large fan base by themselves. Such labels maintain this policy for monetary reasons: an artist with a pre-existing fan base is a for-sure money maker.
This is why a lot of the popular artists now made it by being staff writers for the label first. The label figures that if the artist can write hit songs for other people, then the artist will be able to produce hit songs for themselves. Of course, there are exceptions to this generalization. A few completely “unknown” and still-developing artists do get signed, but this is very rare. The days of walking into a record label’s office and blowing them away with just a phenomenal voice are pretty much over.
TP: As of today More than 45,000 people have seen your video for ‘Bridge Ledge’, a very emotional break-up song that features Jarell Perry on vocals. What’s the story behind this incredible tune?
SS: I left Texas to move to LA to pursue my music, and in doing so I had to leave behind a boy I had been dating for two years. We were very in love, and we had all these plans to move him to LA as well, as soon as he saved enough money. But, such is life, within the first couple months after my move, he met another girl, and cancelled all of our plans.
I remember sitting at the piano writing that song, and I said to myself, “how do I put this feeling into words? This is the worst feeling of my life and I really just feel like jumping off a bridge, or anything to end the pain.” Thus, Bridge Ledge was born!
TP: Have you had to brave any negative feedback? How do you react to harsh criticism?
SS: Of course I have had to brave negative feedback. There will always be people in the world who disapprove of what you’re doing, no matter how “perfect” you try to be. Even if I changed myself according to the opinions of the naysayers, there would still be a different group of people who disagree with that change. So, the best thing to do is to be yourself and cross your fingers and hope that people will like you. This way, whether people love you or hate you, the relationship is based upon honesty.
TP: A video for ‘Lovedrunk’ was released on December 12th and everyone seems to be loving it. Can you guide us through the creative process of writing, producing and finally putting a video together?
SS: That song was written about the boy in the video, who also recorded the guitar part of the song. We were at my apartment, drinking wine and making music at 4am, and he was sitting on my floor in his underwear playing guitar, and I looked at him and thought, “wow, I am so in love. I wish I could stop time and just make this last forever. I don’t ever want it to end”. But I feel like love is always transient, which is why the song, while lyrically is a happy tune, has an undertone of sadness.
I have been very into minimalism with my music lately, so much of what I am releasing on my own has been acoustic. I feel like this type of arrangement really exposes the soul of the songs.
That song took less than an hour to record. I made the video at home, mostly with footage I took of my dad’s farm last Christmas. Some of those horses are mine, and the girl riding the horses is actually my sister, not me. And whatever footage I didn’t already have, I found in online archives.
TP: Some of your fans are wondering if you’re planning on re-editing ‘Lovedrunk’ and ‘Bridge Ledge’ with more instrumentation or maybe a remix for radio. What are your current plans?’
SS: I’m working with several production teams who will be making radio versions of my acoustic songs. These production teams are very well established and have delivered many of the hits currently on radio. A dance/dub-step remix of ‘Lovedrunk’ is being made as we speak.
I am very picky, however, about people remixing my songs. I have always loved dance music, but lately the market has been so over-saturated. I want my dance remixes to still be unique, and not sound like everything else on the radio. No matter what kind of instrumentation is added, it is critical to me that the emotion which the song conveys is not buried.
TP: As a woman, do you think the pressure of the industry is higher?
SS: There is more pressure to be physically attractive as a female. This can work for or against you. I have seen women advance in their careers, when they otherwise would not have, because they are exceptionally beautiful. Then the overemphasis on appearance can backfire when people focus more on your appearance than on your music or your message.
I get really tired of people commenting so much on my appearance, whether it is negative or positive, because that is just a very small facet of the incredibly complex person I am. I have considered taking up Bagism. John Lennon and Yoko Ono practiced this in hopes that people would appreciate them for who they really were, rather than judging them by their appearances.
TP: Tell us about your idols. Which fellow female artists do you feel a connection with?
SS: I love John Lennon and Yoko Ono! They are two of my idols. I admire many female artists! Off the top of my head….Yoko Ono, Regina Spektor, Janis Joplin, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga, Adele, Alanis Morissette, Miranda Lambert…anyone who is fearless with their art, and passionate about communicating their spirit.
TP: A few days ago multi-platinum singer Kelly Clarkson voiced her support for presidential candidate Ron Paul. How involved are you in politics and social issues?
SS: I am extremely passionate about positive social change, which means that I have to be political. Whether you are gay and suffering because you have not been given the same rights as your fellow citizens, or struggling to survive in our failing economy, the problems you face all feed back to the same issue: social corruption in the form of selfishness.
To me, selfishness is the greatest form of evil. It infects everything, from politicians imposing their personal beliefs onto an entire population by trying to ban gay marriage, to corporations inefficiently managing their money, thus screwing innocent people just because they can and it will make them a few extra bucks.
TP: When penning a new tune or talking to the crowd at a show, do you ever fear your views might affect your career?
SS: Of course I am afraid that my views will affect my career, and everyone I work with tells me not to talk about politics or social issues. But if everyone were scared to speak up, then nothing would ever change. It is my responsibility to do my part, and to fight for what is right.
My song ‘Army Strong’, that was inspired by the social and economic oppression of the times we live in, is about fighting selfishness with the power of love for your fellow human beings. we are all in this world together and we have to care about each other.
TP: They say musicians can’t live off record sales anymore. What’s your take on piracy?
SS: Most people have no idea how much hard work and sweat goes into a successful music career. How would you feel if you worked an eight hour day, and then your boss refused to pay you? This is the perfect analogy for how piracy affects the artist. This is how artists make a living, and we have to feed ourselves. (and I have two kitties to feed, as well! Don’t let Zippy and Wabbit go hungry!) If we don’t make any money from our music, then we have to get other jobs, which means we won’t have time to make music anymore.
TP: We’ve seen you don fishnet stockings, a pink wig, worn-out shorts… How would you describe your style?
SS: I just wear what I feel like wearing. As people change over the years, my taste in clothing also changes as I change. Right now, I am really digging a minimalist version of 60′s and 70′s rock n’ roll fashion. I really need Jim Morrison’s entire wardrobe. Edie Sedgwicks, also.
TP: Tell us about your live gigs. Do you keep it acoustic? Put on a fun show? Maybe a little bit of both?
SS: I enjoy doing both!! I love acoustic gigs because I feel it is easier to connect with my audience on a deep emotional level…I love the intimacy of pure emotion with no distractions. But I also love “fun” shows. I have been a dancer since I was a teenager, so the “fun” shows give me an opportunity to really dance and let loose creatively. I am also very into theatrics and shows with a storyline.
TP: What can your fans expect from you in 2012?
SS: I am releasing a lot of new music this year – acoustic songs which will be released to my YouTube channel and iTunes, plus radio versions of all my songs.
You can follow Shannan Stone on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/shannanblystone