Tender, beautiful, airy, and nostalgic. These are just some of the words used to describe the lucky few who have had an advance listen to Shawn & Shelby‘s debut album, Stay With Me Lover. A follow up to their 2015 EP, Sleeping in a Spell, the duo, made up of Cleveland musicians Shawn Brewster and Shelby Lynn Sangdahl, have been working tirelessly on their newest release. With the help of renowned Cleveland music producer, Jim Stewart, Shawn & Shelby have created a warm, seamless album with rich vocals and ethereal cello undertones. I was able to catch up with both musicians as they prepare for their album release show at the Beachland Tavern on Saturday, May 14 and talk about working on Stay With Me Lover, and what it means to them.
How do you both think you’ve grown since Sleeping in a Spell? How does Stay With Me Lover differ?
Shawn: We have played so much music as a duo, as well as in other projects. Spending time together is the biggest difference. We wrote songs specific for an album instead of me having songs laying around without a home. We also took much more time and layered this album to fill out the sound. It was a much more deliberate project.
Shelby: The first album was mostly for fun and to take a break from rock and roll. The response was greater than expected. We put a lot more thought and care into this album after seeing how much people cared about our music.
What would you say are the resounding themes for Stay With Me Lover?
Shawn: Love, intimacy, loss of love, relationships in general, wanting what you can’t have or missing what you did have.
Shelby: We carry some level of intimacy and honesty in this album and the same balance in instrumentation.
You’ve added more instrumentation in the new album. What prompted this decision from the regular “quick set-up” of guitar and cello?
Shawn: We didn’t want to hold back the songs potential because of self imposed boundaries. But also I did not want a full band, drums or other players on the album. So we kept it right in the middle.
Shelby: We wanted to give the songs everything they needed to be the best they could be. Like I said we put a lot more thought and care into each song.
How will you incorporate this in live shows?
Shawn: I would love to play piano on at least one song, or add an electric guitar. Shelby has some neat ideas too. We will see how it goes now that we have opened up that door.
How do you collaborate with each other when creating a song?
Shelby: All lyrics are Shawn’s, with the exception of “Carry Me Home”. I wrote that song in high school and gave it to Shawn as an idea. He kept most of it, and added a “Brewster” twist to it. I write all the cello parts and collaborate more on general structure to lyrics.
“Carry Me Home” features Shelby’s vocals, which are not prominent in other songs. Why this song?
Shelby: I wrote the song and Shawn strongly suggested I sing on it. One day Shawn will play cello, and then all will be fair.
Shawn: Shelby is a self-described non-singer. But I couldn’t be more proud of her!
Jim Stewart worked on both projects with you. How does having him produce your music help amplify what you’re going for musically?
Shawn: His attitude in the studio. We also have a great relationship. We are always talking about things, sending each other funny pics and videos, discussing music or the process. So when it comes time to work we already know so much about how we both work and what we want to get out of it, all while also having a great time. The best thing that can happen in a studio is never worrying about the clock, but also being efficient and getting work done.
Shelby: Jim Stewart is a great friend and wizard in the studio. We owe a lot to him for make us sound so good!
How do you hope your music inspires people?
Shawn: We feel like we are on an adventure. We have gone through so much as people in only a couple of years together, and we hope that our songs and attitude can inspire people to enjoy life, enjoy the ride, and hold on to the special moments. We just love playing music and hope we can connect with others. We hope to bring out a spectrum of emotions at our shows, and that people will want to take that with them when they leave.
Shelby: This whole album has been a work of community. It’s amazing to see what can happen in this town when people put their talents together. Cleveland has a crazy amount of talent and it’s been a blessing to see so much of it in the making Stay With Me Lover.
What’s next for Shawn & Shelby?
Shawn: Regional touring for sure! We would love to get our album on vinyl, and maybe get with a label to help with some of the burdens as we do everything ourselves. But for now, we are just making music and playing shows or local festivals and private events. Most of all enjoying this ride we never expected.
Shawn & Shelby’s album release show starts at 8:30 p.m. at the Beachland Tavern. Tickets are $7 advance or $12 day of show. Charles Hill Jr. and The Benjamin Liar support.