Promoting Las Vegas Arts & Culture

A Conversation with James Shahan

James Shahan

By: Michael M. Humel

Recently I sat down with James Shahan to talk about his new album Selfish Bastard released last May. We talked about music, life, family, art, depression, and sex. His album seems to be a mixing of rap, singing, R&B, rock, and soul. The message and the story in his lyrics are an important element in what I consider one of my favorite albums of 2012.

Culture of the Senses: What was your first experience with music like and when did you first realize you had a talent for music?

James Shahan: I guess when I first realized I had talent for music. I don’t know. I mean I started writing when I was twelve and what I wrote at the time was horrible, and I did it with a friend of mine. So I don’t think that it was something right away that I felt that I was talented at. I started doing it a lot and started to get passionate about it and I just kept doing it. People started hearing about it and they would ask to hear my stuff. They started thinking it was really good probably the beginning of high school. I’m not sure if it was because I was actually good or they were surprised that I could actually rap at least somewhat decently. So that might have been it. I don’t remember my first experience with music but every time I was in the car with my mom she would be playing something.

Culture of the Senses: Yea that’s how it was with my mom too. The Four Seasons, The Supremes, The Temptations.

James Shahan: Okay, yeah, its funny – you just jogged my memory. Even before that, because that was like elementary school. Before that, we lived with my uncle for a while. He would have the radio on a lot. He would have it on the 50’s station. So there would be a lot of Little Richard, Elvis, The Temptations; things like that. So just all over the place.

Culture of the Senses: Tell me about the recording of Selfish Bastard.

James Shahan: The recording of Selfish Bastard. Well, I recorded the whole thing in my bedroom. I was working two jobs because I needed money to get the equipment. It’s so funny. I didn’t know what microphone I should use. Back in California I used a snowball. It got the job done but it wasn’t great for recording in that way. I met Mike Z (from who everybody knows here. I met Mike Z before Vegasonthemic started. I knew him back when it was just an idea that he was talking about. We met because Mike Austin introduced us and said, “Hey, my friend Mike Z; he’s a great engineer. So then Vegasonthemic finally started up. We talked about it and he said use an SM 58; that’s the mic we use at the open mic. I said, “Okay.” As it turns out this guy I used to do music with years ago back in California, like shit that no one would ever hear if I have my way, he gave me a mic and it just so happened to be an SM 58. All these years I’ve had it and I didn’t use it. I think that was the universe kinda having my back in a way, cause it worked out great.

Culture of the Senses: What is your writing process?

James Shahan: That is a good question. Well it’s a pain in the ass. It’s very frustrating a lot of the time. Especially if I sit down and say okay…well. Okey, I won’t say anything about that yet, it’s too early. If I sit down saying there is a concept that I have to fit into, it’s a lot harder for me to write because I’m super critical of myself to begin with.

Culture of the Senses: So am I.

James Shahan: Yea so you know how much of a pain in the ass it is. If I just go with an emotion its usually easier for me. A lot of the time I’ll  just have lines come to me. I’ll just think of lines and things that they rhyme with. It’s about all the stuff I hear in my head, capturing what I can and building around those things. And I cry during a lot of my writing. I often need tissues or napkins. I like to write at coffee shops, so it’s usually napkins. I cry a lot cause it’s such a release for me.

Culture of the Senses: When I write sometimes I feel like a weight has been lifted, I feel refreshed. It’s like new.

James Shahan: Yeah, totally, just like being emptied out. I find it so funny that people are always so surprised when they see me perform or whatever, even if I’m not performing, but they see that I’m angry at something: they are so surprised that I am a human being and I get angry.

Culture of the Senses: I never see you angry.

James Shahan: Yea it’s like “James is angry, that’s insane.” It’s really not because I get angry a lot, I just don’t give myself the permission to let out the anger unless I have a microphone in front of me, most of the time. So it’s definitely a release.

Culture of the Senses: Who is Angie?

James Shahan: Who is Angie? Angie is this girl from Canada that I met when I was at work a couple years ago. I used to work at a clothing store. I worked at Juicy Couture, of all places. She came in and I noticed her right away. I was just instantly attracted to her. So we started talking and she had to leave, I don’t remember why. I hadn’t gotten her number at that point. So I was kinda bummed but she was like, “I’ll be back. I’m gonna come back in and I was like, ‘Oh, okay.'” You know just thinking that was…

Culture of the Senses: Kinda bull crap.

James Shahan: Right. But she did. And I told her that if she did come back I was gonna get her number. So I did. She asked me if I wanted to get a drink the next day, which was a Saturday, so we went out. We had a really good time and we kissed and I mean she was my first kiss. It was just one of those magical things where time stops. Regrettably, we didn’t go any farther than that. I found out later she had just gotten out of a serious relationship. So I could understand the resistance. She was only in town for a few days. The second day we hung out she told me that she loved me. I wasn’t even weirded out about it cause we had such a strong instant connection. A couple days went by, I saw her for the last time, I told her I loved her too. I wanted to do the long distance thing, I didn’t care. She didn’t want to and said it was unfair to me. She had other things going on I didn’t know at the time. We agreed to be pen pals. I sent her a letter and she promised me she would send me a letter back and she never did. We talked on Facebook after that and I discovered some of the things that were going on behind the scenes that I didn’t know about. Everything that I talk about in that song is true. The way that I felt about her was very true. A day or two after she left, I went to the Fashion Show Mall, sat down at the Starbucks, cried my eyes out, and started writing that song.

Culture of the Senses: Does she know you knew all the things she didn’t tell you?

James Shahan: Well, yeah, because she told me, but she didn’t tell me until months and months and months later. This was a long time later. So at the time I didn’t fully understand some of the things that were going on. I just knew that I wanted to be with her and I didn’t care if we were in different countries but it’s not how it worked out. I got past it, I had other experiences. I had a relationship after I met her and we’re friends; we talk.

Culture of the Senses: Talk about the relationship, or non-relationship, between you and your father.

James Shahan: Fuck (laughs).

Culture of the Senses: You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.

James Shahan: I’m so open it would be silly of me not to talk about these things I talk about anyway. I think that’s kind of a cop-out when people do that. It’s really funny, that’s a question ’cause, it was my birthday a couple days ago.

Culture of the Senses: I know, happy birthday.

James Shahan: Thank you. I had a really weird adult birthday. By the end of the night when I came home I saw he had wished me a happy birthday on Facebook. I have chosen not to talk to this man for three years, maybe going on four years. So that’s been hard. He can be a great guy. A lot of qualities about him are amazing and I hope that I have at least a tiny drop of. I mean he is super intelligent, very articulate, funny, charming. He can walk into a room full of strangers and make friends with everyone. And there is another side to him that most people don’t see. It wasn’t a physical abuse thing but he knows how to get what he wants by making people feel small or feel like shit. He knows how to manipulate. He knows how to play with people. He knows how to abuse people emotionally. So I just reached a point in my life where I felt like I had to become this other person who was smaller than I really am to be around him. I didn’t want to deal with any of that. I just got tired of it. So I wrote him this huge letter just saying, “Hey I know these things about you that you probably don’t know I know, and this is the man that I see a lot of the time and I don’t like it, and I don’t know how to deal with it right now.” Right now, I’m really conflicted because it was a way of protecting myself and I know that he is always going to be that way, at least to a degree. I know when I get back in touch with him that’s what I’m going to be getting into again. Over the years I realize that I still love him. I don’t know if there is anything he could do to make me stop loving him. I don’t know why it works that way but that’s how it works. He probably thinks I don’t love him, which is not true. It took me a long time to get to that point. Because I started out just fucking angry, sad, and like, “Fuck you, I don’t love him,” but I do, and I miss him in a lot of ways. It’s something that I’m still trying to navigate within myself.

Culture of the Senses: Since your love of music and career has grown, has your mother shown you her writing?

James Shahan: No. It’s always been under lock and key. I mean, I have no idea where any of it is now: it’s probably in storage somewhere in California. So for many years if I really wanted to, I’m pretty sure I could have snuck in the garage and taken the box out. I could have looked at it. She never wanted me to and she always asked me not to so I respected those wishes. Probably more than other people would because I understand. I hate showing things to people I consider half-baked. Whether or not they think it is good is kind of irrelevant to me at that point because it already feels like a violation almost. I’m really open and I’m going to share the experiences with you I need to share, but I’m going to do it on my terms. If I’m working on a song and I can hear what it’s supposed to sound like in my head and someone reads it or hears it in a way that is nothing like that, it kind of takes the magic away for me. It’s like being a magician and showing someone the trick while you’re working out how it works. The mystery is gone.

Culture of the Senses: What is your take on the East Coast/West Coast rap war, as well as Tupac and Biggie?

James Shahan: (Laughs) Taking it back to 96′! That’s a question that hasn’t been asked in a long time. You’re mixing it up, that’s cool I appreciate that. I mean it was bullshit. Everybody beefs now. People beef now as a marketing strategy, which is stupid. When people beefed back then, they were a lot more serious about the grudges that they held. Even with that, it was two musicians beefing with each other. It wasn’t a war between two coasts. It wasn’t a civil war in hip hop. I think the media has a lot to do with how big it got and how intense it got.

Culture of the Senses: They always do.

James Shahan: Yeah, they always do. They manipulate what they can. They sell more that way. It’s a tragedy because if Biggie and Pac were alive today hip hop hopefully would be. (Pause) I don’t want to make that blanket statement but what you hear on the radio, what popular culture deems as hip hop, I think if they were still alive it would be way different. I feel like everyone talking about the things that they talked about without actually living those things. I feel like they would have never had a chance. I think Pac especially would have outgrown thug life. I know what he was trying to do with it and there was a message behind it. I think that would have evolved into something that was still very powerful and in your face. Our neighborhoods need reform and things are not good, we need to change them. I think it would have moved away from the actual thug lifestyle. He knew in that lifestyle there is only so far you can go. I love Biggie. I liked the fact that they talked about what they did, Biggie especially, having suicidal thoughts. They were platinum artists talking about those things. You don’t have platinum artists talking about those things today. I think that’s definitely something that needs to come back. As an artist who is just as commercially successful as anyone else talking about things that actually matter to them and not just, “Okay, I get it; weed matters to you. I understand.”

Culture of the Senses: I heard on Facebook that if Biggie and Tupac were alive, Lil John wouldn’t have a job.

James Shahan: Well, see, I don’t agree with that. I think Lil Wayne is an easy target. People like to take who’s on top and bring them down. They are an easy target out in the open all the time. I think a lot of people have no idea about his back catalog. Say what you will about what he is doing now. I know for me, personally, back when he was doing stuff like, hitting the mix tape game hard with Dedication and Dedication 2, he was the hungriest person on a microphone. That’s the thing: if you’re gonna talk about pussy, weed, cars, money and shit like that, at least make it interesting. He made that shit more interesting than anyone else. He did it in such a way that you could not deny, for what he did, he was the best. A lot of people like to make fun of him for what he is doing now. They aren’t familiar with what he can do at his most capable and it’s mind-blowing. He has been an inspiration to me. Obviously, some of his material is better than other projects. I think he would still have a job. He may be doing his job differently or he may not. People who have this idea of what real hip hop is supposed to be and put it in this box and say this is real hip hop, they are the ones who say that.  In reality it was way more affluent.

Culture of the Senses: What do you go through, emotionally and psychologically, with depression?

James Shahan: What do I go through when I’m depressed? Well, at its worst, I don’t want to be alive. At its worst I want it all to end. I want to go to sleep and not wake up. In the least violent way possible, have my life stop. Thank God those thoughts haven’t really been with me for a while. Depression is something that I struggle with a lot. It’s a lifelong thing. I’ve felt like no one in the world could possibly understand how I feel. And that kind of sounds like an asshole thing to say, like, a very privileged, American thought-process. Like, “Oh, nobody understands me, life is so serious.” When I say it out loud it sounds stupid. The reasons why I do what I do. The reasons why I make music and the reasons why any kind of regular job tears my soul apart for no apparent reason. The reason why it’s so hard for me to be happy a lot of the time. I can’t explain it without sounding crazy. When I’m depressed I feel really sad and lonely. I just feel like I’m a waste.

Culture of the Senses: What is your opinion of music today?

James Shahan: I love it. I think when you put a genre on music that already limits what that piece of art can do. Because if you call something hip hop, rock, or country, that’s already weeding out people without them ever hearing it. I think a lot of people are going back to experimentation, which is good. I think a lot of people are just testing out new ideas, which is good. I think music is more diverse than it’s ever been. It’s a shame so few people know about it. It’s growing but the people who are content with being spoon-fed, and not challenging what their being fed, they should be seeking for themselves as well. They are totally missing out and they don’t even know it.

Culture of the Senses: What is your opinion of different genres coming together to make different sounds and music?

James Shahan: I think that needs to happen. I mean, why the fuck not? It’s just the next thing to do. Everyone who is involved is gonna win. I wanna work with Josh T. Pearson, that guy’s my hero.

Culture of the Senses: Have you heard Mumford and Sons?

James Shahan: I haven’t heard their album. I know I can go without hearing that one song ever again.

Culture of the Senses: Which one? Fun?

James Shahan: Fun too. Adele is very talented, an incredible talent. If I hear “Rolling in the Deep” one more time….

Culture of the Senses: I love Adele. One thing I don’t like is how little of her music she writes. Being a writer, I have more respect for you if you write your own material. Adele, her two albums are great. She hardly wrote any of it.

James Shahan: I think songwriters have a lot more room with that. I mean, it’s very common for singers to have songwriters or to co-write with other people and I totally agree with what you’re saying. Some people are just amazing songwriters and I want to hear their work, regardless if they are the one singing it or if an established singer is singing it, just because the song is so strong.  People fascinate me. I want to know their story. That’s why when I listen to Josh T. Pearson; he was one of the biggest inspirations for Selfish Bastard.  Susie and the Banshees and Sonic Youth were also inspirations for the album. I wasn’t inspired by a lot of hip hop. I still did it ’cause that’s what I do.  The whole idea behind lineage and talking about my family came from listening to Josh T. Pearson’s song I think its called “Country Dumb,” and he talks about: “I come from a long line in history of dreamers.” One more something than the next. I thought that was so poignant.
When Danny Brown came out, he’s a hip hop artist and I think his stuff is awesome, when he came out with Triple X, he came out with a song, “DNA,” where he talked about how his mom and dad liked to get fucked up just like he does off pills and whatever. I thought like that train of thought is so poignant. I started to think about it and both my mom and dad at some point had music be an integral point in their lives and they totally gave it up.
It’s so easy to do. I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to quit. Everyday there is a point where I just want to give up. Fuck this, it’s an obsession, it’s taken over my life. It’s so hard to get into and be successful. Why even bother? Ultimately it’s not a choice for me anymore because I have given it up a few times. I can never give it up for good and be happy. I hear words regardless. If I give it up, I hear them more than I do when I’m focused on it. I think it’s important for artists to listen to all types of music. If you don’t like a certain kind of music, don’t force yourself and say, “Well, everyone likes this, so I have to like it too.” If you really don’t like it then it doesn’t matter. Right now, the only one who has put something out recently in hip hop that I’m inspired by is Kendrick Lamar. He put out this album late last year, fucking brilliant. It’s one big story about him coming up in Compton, and he’s brilliant, and his writing is great. Not many people are willing to take the time to sit down and be great writers. The most basic thing they think is gold, and they probably have people around them that tell them it’s gold. They have the career so why not think that it’s the best.

Culture of the Senses: Do you like collaborating with other artists or do you see yourself more as a solo artist?

James Shahan: That one’s a little tough for me to answer. I would like to collaborate with artists a lot more than I have been, and it’s not for lack of trying. At the same time, my particular form of what I do is so personal to me, and it’s hard for me to invite people into that because I need to be alone when I write. I don’t like writing around people. I don’t like people hearing what I’m writing because I have to say it back to myself . I don’t want them hearing it and saying it sounds good when it’s not done yet. As far as recording, I want to invite people into what I do. Because I want to know their story, and ultimately, I’m just trying to tell my story. I think it’s way harder when people try to invite me into what they are doing. I’m so used to writing very personal things. If they want to talk about things that aren’t necessarily personal, or if they want to talk about how dope they are – not that there is anything wrong with that, I have definitely done a lot of that. First of all, talking about how dope I am: I’m probably my worst critic anyway, and I’m never happy with what I do. Secondly, that’s just not interesting to me. I mean if you’re a rapper, that’s the first thing you should be doing: talking about how good you are. Some artists do that in such a way to inspire me. Lil Wayne, in Dedication 2, did it all the time. The way he did it was so impressive. That’s not particularly interesting to me right now. If I’m not trying to compete with people. It’s hard for me to put myself in that head-space. If people invite me into something where I can utilize what I’m good at, I think it’s a lot easier for me.

Culture of the Senses: Would you like working in the studio producing and working on the technical side, or do you strictly want to write and perform?

James Shahan: I went to school for recording, which is really hard to get into. Everyone is doing home studios now. Not that I’m complaining because that’s what I do too. If I had to choose, I would definitely choose just being an artist. I didn’t engineer Selfish Bastard because I knew someone else could do it better than I could, and also because I didn’t want to do it again. Almost all my other projects I recorded myself, I mixed it down, I mastered it, and it became gruesome. I’m that close to it already. I got to the point where I was making half a decibel changes and sending mixes to friends who sent me beats, and I would ask them, “Which one is better?” They would tell me, “There is no fucking difference, you’re going crazy!” I want to be involved in the process of mixing. Let’s say, on my next project, I have someone else mix it down. I want to be there and work with him that way and give him my input because I obviously have ideas in my head about how the song should sound, and that involves engineering effects. The creative side is what feeds me and nourishes me. That’s how I want to spend all day, every day. And sex, but mostly that.

Culture of the Senses: Do you think social media, file sharing, and MP3s have hurt the music industry and the music-making process?

James Shahan: The music-making process: I think it’s absolutely helped. If I wanted to, I could work with someone in Sweden tonight. That was a lot harder before the technology, and I think that’s amazing. I wouldn’t have a lot of the relationships that I have with people, and I wouldn’t have a lot of the music that I have with people, without the technology. That is how I found the people I wanted to work with, how I sent them what I was working on, how they sent me beats. As far as whether or not it’s hurt the industry, I don’t know. I think it’s helped the industry a lot in terms of being creative, because there is so much more collaboration that’s able to happen now. I also feel like things like social media and YouTube is a number now. Everyone can see your numbers. Record labels don’t really know how to deal with that. We know what the intentions are when they sign someone who has millions of views in a couple of weeks. They think those numbers are going to equate to actual sales or success. The majors aren’t scouting for talent so much anymore as they are scouting for numbers. To sign someone who has never performed live, they’re doing that all the time now. I think that’s a huge mistake. I feel like just the process of performing live, booking your own shows, having a show where no one is there, having a show where you fuck up. I feel like that’s invaluable to an artist. The whole copyright thing is just getting out of control. Everyone is suing everyone and it’s a shame. I was talking about copyright with a friend the other day. You might make a lot of money, but once you’re dead, the art that you created, the stories that you created, are so limited to what you did with them because you have made sure even after your death that no one else can add on to what you did.

Culture of the Senses: In the news now, Jimmy Page is being sued for copyright on songs he wrote forty years ago.

James Shahan: Those kinds of cases shouldn’t even hold water. You’re going to sue someone today for something that happened forty years ago? Really? It’s that big of a deal for you?

Culture of the Senses: If you go on YouTube, they have multiple videos about all the copyright infringements Led Zeppelin has done. I think Led Zeppelin is the greatest band of all time. I think what they have done to add to music, even if they didn’t originally write it was incredible. I agree if it’s that old, let it go.

James Shahan: That’s the other part that sucks about copyrights. They may have taken things that they didn’t create initially, but what they did with those things was so beautiful that it’s getting to the point now where if I want to do that, or if I was a major label artist and someone wanted to do that with my stuff, they would have your balls on the dresser. They would have your balls. As artists, the most important thing to us should be the art. Is money important? Absolutely! I know I fucking need it. I’m trying to make art that’s important to me and important to other people. I would love to see what people could create out of the things that I did.

Culture of the Senses: Art is more important than money.

James Shahan: Yeah. I mean there is a reason we dedicate our lives to it. Because it’s important to us in a way that nothing else is. Basically, by saying, “If you touch my shit I’m going to sue you for everything you’ve got,” we are limiting the ability of art to do that for future generations. I don’t understand if you’re suing someone because your art is so important to you, how could you not realize that these things you have made, you’re totally killing their life span by not letting anyone else incorporate new ideas! I mean, Mickey Mouse, his growth has a character is dead. Because if anyone tried to touch him, Disney would take everything, and that’s a shame. I would love to see Mickey Mouse in a Fritz the Cat type of environment. If you think that character is so important to you, why would want them to be one-dimensional? That sounds like negligence.

Culture of the Senses: How seriously do you think people should take lyrics?

James Shahan: (Laughs) Fuuuuck! I think there are times when you should take lyrics very seriously. I think there are times when you take lyrics not as seriously. I don’t think the issue is whether or not to take them seriously. Because it’s like anything else. In a conversation I could say I am gonna kill you. Or I could say (with a serious look on his face) I’m gonna kill you, I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you. I feel like it’s up to the person who’s listening to be able to tell the difference. A lot of people take words at face value, and words are very important because they do mean things. A lot of people don’t use words correctly. However, a lot of people don’t pay attention to the communication, like all the communication. I go to open mics all the time. A lot of hip hop artists talking about how they drive a Benz, fucking three broads, they have all this money. You’re at Money Plays, eight at night on a Thursday – and that’s not a knock on Money Plays; I love that place, I’m there all the time, – what I’m trying to say is if you’re really like that lifestyle you wouldn’t be there, and if you were you would be more decked out in that car you were talking about. It’s my responsibility to know what you’re saying is not true. Just because you say that it’s true, it isn’t. When a Josh T. Pearson has an entire album about certain experiences and I can hear the pain in their voice, it’s my responsibility to understand and receive that communication. I can understand why certain artists don’t want to tell the truth. I feel like there is a certain liberty to that. There is a certain liberty that I feel like I cheat myself out of because I’m fixated on writing about my life. When my whole album is about struggling with depression and suicide, it’s up to you to know I’m telling the truth.

Culture of the Senses: What would you say to people who are dealing with depression?

James Shahan: I would say you’re not alone. No matter how much you feel that way, or how much you feel in your heart you’re the only one and there is no possible way that anyone else is feeling that way, there are other people who feel that way. You don’t have to believe it, but it’s true. The things that drove me to thoughts of suicide were beliefs. They weren’t rational and they weren’t true. A belief doesn’t have to be rational or true. If you believe it, then it’s your truth and that’s as good as reality at that point. I discovered this book called Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns and that introduced me to the idea that what I was thinking wasn’t a normal or healthy thought-process, and most people don’t think this way. I thought everyone thought this way and I was just the one who couldn’t handle it. The book is all about cognitive behavioral therapy. When I moved to Vegas I looked for a therapist who practiced that; I worked with them, and that put me on the road to recovery.

Culture of the Senses: What do you think of the local music scene?

James Shahan: I think Lucky Cuss is great. I’m actually looking forward to their new album. I really like The Objects. Most of the local stuff in Vegas I don’t know much about, and in a way it’s understandable, because we’re all doing our own thing. At the same time, it’s so scattered. I don’t feel like there is necessarily a sense of community, where we can all say, “Hey, we’re all doing the same thing, we all want the same things.” Everyone is trying to do it on their own, or because we are doing it on our own, we are unaware of a lot of people. I feel like it’s very fragmented. I feel like a lot of times there is competition between events. “So-and-so doesn’t come to my event, so why should I support them?” It may or may not be a malicious thing, or a conscious thing. There is definitely a capacity for us to come together and actually be a unit, and move together with each other in a way that I don’t think is being done yet.

Culture of the Senses: Tell me about the organization, OneTaste, you are working with.

James Shahan: The organization is called OneTaste. They have this coaching program, to train people to be coaches in Orgasmic Meditation (O.M.). It’s something that I really just jumped into. They have a group out here in Vegas now. They do events Tuesday nights at the Arts Factory. I started going to them. It was just communication games that they would play and they still do it. I would always discover something new about myself. They had an open house for the coaching program, and I heard a little bit about it.
I don’t believe in coincidence. I feel like the universe kind of told me just to do it. It was something I thought I would never do, and it’s out of my comfort zone. It’s super-messy, really hard and fucked up. It’s one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done, just because it’s challenging me to grow into the person that I want to be, and I’m capable of being. The main reason I went into the program was self-development. That has always been a passion of mine. I’ve always been working on myself, and I am still very much working on myself. Once a month, in San Francisco, they do a training weekend up there. I have only missed one weekend. It really sucks to miss it. It’s always a struggle to make it, but anytime I can go, I do. It would be really cool to coach people for a living while I’m doing this music thing, which is a lifelong thing for me. Whether or not I will end up being a certified coach, I don’t know.  Either way, the experience will have been worth it, because I’ve gotten so much out of it. I’ve changed and grown in a lot of ways.

Culture of the Senses: Where do I want to go as an artist?

James Shahan: I ask myself that all the time. Everyday I’m trying to figure that out more and more. I know I want to do a lot more singing. I was surprised by how many people liked my singing on “Angie’s Song.”

Culture of the Senses: I’m not. That was one of my favorite parts of the album.

James Shahan: Thank you, thank you. I sang a lot as a kid, in the car with mom. I sang all the time. When my voice changed ,and the changes of life happened, I didn’t really know how to use my voice. My dad made this comment one day about how I sounded like a sick dog or something. I really took that to heart, even though it was just like an asshole thing to say in the moment, trying to bust my balls. So I always thought I couldn’t sing. “I can’t sing, I’m not a good singer, I can’t sing.”
I put this album out and people are asking me, “Who was singing on ‘Angie’s Song?'”
“That’s really good.”
Like, PM Dawn: they are my favorite group and they don’t do a lot anymore, but it was basically half-rap/half-singing.  There was probably more singing than rap past a certain point. I’m always going to rap, because that’s just how I create. I definitely want to do a lot more singin,g and maybe incorporate more R&B elements. I don’t necessarily want to make depressing music. I want to make honest music. A lot of my truth has to do with what people may find depressing. There is something I like about working with the dark side of things. I feel like there is a certain kind of richness working with the darkness. I guess the trick is to talk about the light things that still really has that depth, or maybe talk about the dark things and smooth them out a little bit. Maybe singing could help that. I want to talk about love and sex more, because it wasn’t until my album that I could talk about loving someone and it not completely sucking. I want to continue to do that as well.

Culture of the Senses: Thank you.

James Shahan: Thank you.


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