Interview: The Revivalists’ David Shaw Steps Into Solo Spotlight

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Photo: Alysse Gafkjen

Acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer and Revivalists front man David Shaw recently unveiled the first two singles from his forthcoming debut solo album: “Shaken” and “Promised Land.” The new music, both deeply relevant and poetically poignant, showcases a deeper side of the enigmatic Shaw’s talent as artist and storyteller.

The first track, “Shaken,” is a groove-ridden song about confronting fears and insecurities and trusting the path that makes you who you are. The second single, “Promised Land,” is a powerful statement about systemic injustice and the gap between the haves and have-nots. Both will be included on Shaw’s debut solo album tentatively scheduled for release early next spring.

I recently spoke with David Shaw about his new music and more in this exclusive new interview.

What prompted you to do a solo record at this point in your career?

David Shaw: I always knew I would do it at some point, I just didn’t know when. The band has been a well-oiled machine moving on its own and I thought now was a good time. I was also noticing that I needed to grow in ways a band culture doesn’t necessarily foster. The process of doing everything myself was such a learning experience. The main thing surrounding the project was me wanting to see how much joy it could bring to my life. That’s what I wanted a lot of the songs to focus on. I realized early on just how much my own psyche can be affected by the music that I listen to and the music that I make and wanted that to permeate through the recording process.

What’s your writing process like?

DS: It can start with anything but most of the meat of my writing comes from a clever lyric that will come to my head and then I’ll explore it. Other times I might just sit down with my guitar and play chords and start scatting melodies. Sometimes words will come along with those melodies. If there aren’t words in my “fishing expedition” I’ll go through my notebooks and skim through my random meanderings and put words to the melodies. That’s always been my process.

Let’s discuss the new tracks, beginning with “Promised Land.”

DS: That was a song that was written before George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all of the latest civil unrest. It’s a song about the haves and have nots. There’s a lot going on in this country with people walking around every day with a target on their back. For me, as a white, privileged male, I need to be vocal about how we can change. I hope the song can be a facilitator for good.

How about the track, “Shaken?”

DS: That was the first song I started writing when I realized I was going to do a solo project. At my core I’m a giver and a lot of times can give almost to where I lose myself in the picture. That’s gotten me into trouble, health-wise, in the past. It made me realize I needed to set out on a crusade of self-care. I needed to do something for myself and see where it would go. This song was that first step. It’s a personal anthem that says: “You know what? You may not be feeling so good about something right now but you’re going to make it through. Let the song be a guiding light.”

What can you tell me about the video for “Shaken?”

DS: The video touches on an important aspect of the song. A lot of times what happens to a person when they’re young can follow them around and manifest themselves later in life. It all boils to down to self-love and care. With the video I wanted to show people that even though things may happen to them when they’re young, they can still come out on top. There is no courage without fear. You just have to persevere. You may be feeling pain and anxiety but just push through it and you’ll come out on the other side a stronger person. It’s got to start with you.

What’s next for The Revivalists?

DS: Right now we’re in our practice space working out new material. It’s daunting but fun. We’re sifting through the various feels and vibes we all have but at the end of the day it’s all about the songs.

What excites you the most about your new solo material and this next phase of your career?

DS: I’m excited about having this new outlet I can go back and forth between. It’s fun for me to be able to have a project that’s mine that I can whittle the way I want. Me and the guys in the solo band have a great relationship. I’m looking forward to planting some seeds, giving them the proper love and seeing how they grow.

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