Today (October 25), Shawn Williams debuts a new single, “If You’re Gonna Leave.” The New Orleans singer-songwriter-musician is currently in the throes of a third album, a project for which she launched a GoFundMe. As she continues to source funds for its release, she spoke with OffBeat.com about the first single to emerge.
What would you say “If You’re Gonna Leave” is about? What’s behind the song’s breakup-centric lyrics?
I was driving along the bumpy roads of Grand Route St. John when (talking to myself, ha, about my current situation) “if you’re gonna leave me, leave me now” popped into my thoughts, as I was struggling to figure out my place in someone’s life, someone who feels like they might not be able to or is too scared to be vulnerable again, as they had gone through a long and unpleasant relationship prior. The person was wanting to be free, but at the same time keeping me around but not knowing what to do. I was starting to feel a distance, a sudden silence between us starting to happen.
The next day, I went to a songwriters retreat, Songs On the Bayou, in Morgan City. They dropped me off in the middle of the woods, surrounded by all this beauty in nature, and all I could think about was this relationship possibly crumbling. I was seeing/feeling them in the water, the trees, the sun, the wind, my body. So, I started writing the song. All my songs are stream of consciousness writing, not filtering and just letting it all flow. I love imagery in writing. It all came out within a few minutes.
I guess the song has very conflicting emotions. Baring it all, giving all and willing/wanting to try and make it work, even if it does hurt for a while, wanting to give strength and courage. Like, here’s my heart and all the safety and love I want to give you, and I can do this with you, but if you’re not willing…
The bio on your website describes your style as “alt-rocka countrybilly serial killer blues.” What does this mean? How do you find a successful intersection of all these styles, and where does the “serial killer” part come from?
My style is a combo of alt-rock, country, rockabilly, dark, dirrty, and blues. So, I came up with the title to incorporate it all. People always ask me what style I play. When I write songs, I don’t write with an intention of them being in any specific genre. I don’t have a structure of writing when I write, and I know nothing about music theory.
If I’m doing a live show, I’ll go from one of my songs sounding like a dark indie rock song with an undertone of delta blues, mixed with a vocal of classic country with a twist of some gritty rock to a lyrically and instrumentally sexual and raunchy delivery with an r&b vibe that has an undertone of rock.
I love all types of music from classical to blues to hip-hop, rock and country. I don’t want to limit myself from what I write and play, just like I don’t want to limit what I listen to. That would be too boring for me.
The serial killer part comes from my morbidity in some of the lyrics.
How was the experience of recording at Blue Velvet Studio?
I love recording at Blue Velvet Studio! It’s where I recorded my fist two albums, Shadow and Motel Livin’. Tom Stern is a one-man show over there, and he does it brilliantly. He knows his sound. He’s super laid-back, makes you feel comfortable. Plus, he’s a badass musician himself! I can’t wait to record album number three with him!
How do you plan on following up 2018’s Motel Livin’? Is “If You’re Gonna Leave” a sign of your direction moving forward?
As of right now, “If You’re Gonna Leave” will probably be the one that is slightly different from the other songs that would be on the album. The third album will be kinda on the heavier and more orchestrated side. The lyrics, I feel, are even more unfiltered. It will be a combination of my first two albums, but with expanded arrangements and diving deeper on several different genres in each song.
Since you have a Gofundme going to help create your third album, does this mean the songs on a prospective 3rd album have already been written?
All the songs have been written for the third album. That being said, I currently have enough songs to release (that I’d want to release), for at least 15 albums. I’ve had a GoFundMe going since March, and since then, most of the songs that I’ve wanted to put on the album have been replaced by newer songs I’ve written in the past few months. So, by the time I record this album, who knows which songs I will put on it. I’m more of an in the moment, what I’m currently feeling kind of person — though, there are a few that I wanted originally on it that are still on the list.
For more information, visit the official website for Shawn Williams.