INTERVIEWS SHAUNA BURNS
BURNS TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
COUNTING TO TEN IN SPANISH
BY BRIAN LUSH
the quiet girl that we all knew in high school. She's the girl that
drew a lot, smiled all of the time and sat on the grass barefoot
while the other girls did each others hair and nails and talked about
boys. It was easy to see the insecurity in girls like these but not
in one like SHAUNA. She stands alone and isn't terrified of what's
SHAUNA is the release of her debt CD EVERY THOUGHT. All the press
releases on SHAUNA compartmentalize her music as “..sounding
TORI AMOS” but this does the artist a disservice. While BURNS
AMOS have that penchant for haunting, stay-with-me-forever chord
progressions, lyrically, the two couldn't be more different. Whereas
AMOS relies on abstractions, BURNS relies on a more reliable
stream-of-consciousness narrative voice in her lyrics. The story of a
trying to understand itself unfolds before the listener.
opportunity to speak with SHAUNA BURNS over the phone. We talked
about the anticipation of releasing her first CD, her one-year stay
in Europe and Anthropology (not a subject that comes up with much
frequency here at ROCKWIRED) this is how it went.
How are you doing today?
actually just back from NEW YORK and it was so lovely. It was
Do you have family
in New York?
was actually visiting some friends there. We all got together
and we saw SINEAD O'CONNOR.
Yeah. It was a real
rarity. We were beside ourselves and that was the first time I ever
saw her. It was amazing!
Where did you see
was at WEBSTER HALL. It's an amazing venue. I guess it used o be the
RITZ. It's kind of small and the decor is quite magical. It's got a
lot of good energy to it. It was life altering.
You own CD
EVERY THOUGHT is being released in MARCH. How does it feel to have
this CD finished or close to finished?
It's strange in a way.
These songs, some of them have been with me for quite a while. Th
seeds of songs grow and they morph into different things and some of
them like GHOSTS AND VAMPIRES have been with me for over ten years
and it's interesting to see it all evolve and come full circle. When
we were in the studio, my partner-in-crime JAMES CLARK who plays drums
on the album put the rhythms to my songs and the songs became
something else. They blossomed and morphed into something different
and in turn different meanings come out. When we record, we do it all
live; piano, vocal and JAMES on drums and sometimes a little other
percussive sounds all together just to get that organic
sound. Whatever happens happens and we try to capture that. It
was a moving experience and it took me to place that sort of shocked
me. I have lived with these songs forever and when you trust the
other musicians to take care of them and when they interpret them
it's really magical.
Is there any
anxiousness on your
Sure. I think it always is in the begining because you
never quite know how people are gonna react. The funny thing now is
that people are actually starting to hear the music and even some of
my friends who have heard the music but it sounds different or is ion
another light now because the sound quality is a lot better now than
the little albums I would give them. It's definitely surprising to
hear different peoples reactions and what their favorite songs are.
The best story on this is is about this song on the CD called
REHEARSAL. I think it;s one of the most vulnerable songs on the album
cause the character is very vulnerable Turns out that it's my
mother's favorite song which I thought was really funny because
coming from a mother and daughter you hate to see your child
vulnerable, but my mother just loves it. When you expose and
expressing what is truth, things come out that are unexpected.
did it all begin for you? Music, I mean.
My mother is the real
pianist in the family. When I was really little I would see her and
imitate her and we always had a piano in the house. As I got older,
she sat down with me and taught me chords and things like Broadway
songs but then when you're starting to find your own identity in you
pre-teen years, it's the perfect time to begin discovering different
types of music. It's such an altering time . Music really started to
speak to me back then and that was when I really started composing.
Around the ages of 12 and 13 are started taking this whole music idea
really seriously. It was a slow and gradual thing and then I
discovered DEPECHE MODE. I actually saw them in concert too.
did to. They are great!
Yeah. They never get old to me. It's
just like coming home. When I discovered them, I wanted to be in
DEPECHE MODE. I was like "Couldn't I be the the fourth girl in
DEPECHE MODE? I can do this. They all play keyboards. I can do
this!!!" They really opened the door for me and I began to
explore other things like the CURE and of course TORI AMOS and SINEAD
and SARAH MCLACHLAN. It snowballed from there. Music for me has
always been this nice personal haven. Of course you often hear about
people turning to music as a form of self expression but in my case
it was just for me and I didn't play for people. Only when they asked
or for special events or private things. I didn't start playing out
until I moved away from home.
And you grew up in
What was that like
you're little you don't know any different, but I liked it. It was
warm. My mom and dads families were from the west so I knew there
were seasons but it is different especially in a cultural where there
is a huge Cuban Spanish influence . I only know how to count to ten
in Spanish. I don't know how that happened. Now that I'm older, I
think I appreciate Miami a lot more. My parents still live there and
I can visit. When I was younger, it felt like I grew up outside of
the United States because it's so heavily Hispanic, but in a way I
really like that . It's very multi cultural which I really
appreciate. Even more so now.
to you press release you showed talents as a songwriter when you were
15. have any songs from that time found their way onto EVERY
There is a song on the CD called VAMPIRES and
I think that the seeds for that song go back to when I was about 17
and the snippy-snippiest of of a seed of the song CASTLE IN MY CLOUD
goes back to when I was 18.
You made the
Miami to the mountains of Nevada and Utah. What triggered the move? I
know that school was apart of it. Was there something else?
My Mom is from Utah and my dad is from Nevada. They've lived
everywhere and then ended up in Florida. I moved there mostly for
school. Some of the reason I went was because I looked to the whole
thing as an adventure and I was somewhat familiar with the area. Once
school was over, I just stayed.
Did you study
Very casually. I toyed with the idea and then I came
to the conclusion that I wasn't very good at following musical
direction. I knew I was never going to be a classical pianist even
though I think it sounds completely romantic. I just knew that a
conductor would get mad at me because I improvise too much. I was
going to school and working full time and eventually landed in
Anthropology which turned out to be such an amazing experience and in
turn fueled my music even more because I loved history and I also
loved getting down to the nitty-gritty of not just what people had
written but the bones and structure of how and why cultures existed.
Why do we do the things that we do to each other? I think It fueled
my music in a way that I don't think alot of other majors would've. I
knew that even though I loved anthropology I probably wouldn't go on
digs for the rest of my life. I needed something to fuel my
songwriting in a way.
You made a name
for yourself in local
coffeehouses for your performances. What was the audience reaction to
you and your music?
I started playing with the nudging of some
friends, in coffeehouses. I don't know why I was completely terrified
at first. Everyone at the coffeehouse was so lovely and so nice and I
loved the experience of when there would only be a few people there
and you'd be able to make that connection. That was just as moving
and just as magical as if the house was packed. I really like
that sort of intimate setting where you can connected with the
After college you
pursued music full
exciting was that that? Or was it scary?
It was definitely
scary because, after I finished school I definitely had to regroup.
Sometimes you just know when there is a time for things. I packed up
two suitcases and got on a plane for London. We knew we had
regroup and put together these songs in a way that would be true to
them and true to the album and give us the space to get it down.
That was an amazing time, being in Europe and traveling everywhere.
Having that space helped to propel everything forward with the album.
Every thing fell into place. It was mind over matter really.
spent a year in Europe. How long ago was that?
From 2003 to
political climate, What
was it like
being an American in Europe?
We were concerned about it. We
didn't want to get egged down at the pub or anything like that . But
to be honest, it was so good. Some of our best friends are still over
there and I really can not think of an instant were I felt awkward or
ashamed to say that I'm from the States. I never had any
anxieties and no one there ever made me feel out of place because of
where I came from. People were very open and wanted to know about the
the political climate here (in the United States)
from this CD that
stand out for you in particular?
There are definitely a few songs that
stick around more. Songs are temperamental. They are their own
beings. I would say that NONSENSE, which is the longest song on the
record, was a real turning point for me as a songwriter. The feeling
that song gives me is the transition from no longer being
and being shocked into reality. I always take that song very
seriously. It's the only song on the record that got recorded in one
for a tour to
coincide with the release?
Yes. We are going to be touring around.
We are in the process of finalizing some dates.
Have you ever toured before?
Not properly. We 've played in small
venues here and there so I'm really excited about the prospect of
Explain the creative process
What goes into writing a song. is it habit or is it something that
you've got to toil with or it just plain inspiration.
For me, I'm one of the ones that can't
force the songs to come out. It think If I did force something, It's
would sound palatable but it wouldn't be something that you'd want to
hear every night. I put aside time where I'm open always to ideas and
to inspiration. Sometimes it comes at the most inopportune time, and
thats where you have to have the pen and paper handy.
Or a napkin?
Or a napkin. Sometimes it happens when
you're tinkering and fooling around on the piano. Inspiration cal
also come when something bad happens or when something serene
happens. I think it's true on both spectrums.
What artists are you
Like we said in the begining, I'm
really into SINEAD O'CONNOR and her new CD THROW DOWN YOUR ARMS.
What would you like the
walk away with after hearing your music or seeing you live?
EVERY THOUGHT is about ever conscious
thought. It's about opening your ability. In the art work on the
cover, I'm holding these keys. For me it rhymes nicely with the piano
keys as well but it's also about your keys in your hands. What are
your keys in your hands? Each song i my mind is opening more and
more and more into the idea of your own potential. it's adolescence
growing into maturity. It's all about recognizing your own power.
You're in the drivers seat. You're behind the wheel. I think that
would be a nice thing to walk away with.
READ A RECENT ROCKWIRED ON-LINE
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SHAUNA
READ THE LATEST ROCKWIRED
ON-LINE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SHAUNA BURNS HERE