Exclusive Premiere: Shawn James Leans Into the Unknown on “Ghost”

Big-voiced singer Shawn James is set to release his new album, A Place in the Unknown, on Friday (February 25). But lucky for you (and for us), American Songwriter is premiering James’ latest single “Ghost” from his LP a couple of days ahead of time.

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“I started writing A Place in the Unknown during shutdown and throughout 2020 [and]2021,” James, who will kick off a North American tour on March 2 (dates below), says of his new LP. “I feel as though all the uncertainty and general feeling of not knowing what was going to happen next definitely had an effect on the lyrical content of the record as a whole.”

He continues, “In the past, I had primarily focused on writing songs with just a voice and guitar stripped down. This time, knowing I was going after a more groovy rock record, I started with the drums and beats. After choosing that, I’d then start writing and I can definitely feel the difference it had in the songwriting and flow/groove of the record as a whole. To me, there’s a sense of forward momentum in all these songs that keep it upbeat and lively.

“Lyrically, I feel as though I leaned into a sense of not knowing and learning to be more comfortable with my ‘place in the unknown’” he adds.

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American Songwriter: What has life been like, creatively or otherwise, in the past year or two since we last talked?

Shawn James: With all of the extra time and having to pivot my touring schedule, it made me think about what things I’ve wanted to pursue that I normally don’t have the time to. I started drumming, which is something I’ve always wanted to get into. That also inspired the way that I wrote this new album. For the first time, I based many of the songs on rhythm first, instead of on the guitar primarily. I’ve been reading a lot. I’ve always loved reading but it can be difficult finding the time when I’m on the road. A lot of what I’ve been reading are music biographies. It’s very inspiring to me to read about how other musicians got to where they are and their perspectives on the industry. Finally, I’ve just moved to Portland and have been loving it here so far. The Pacific Northwest has been very inspiring to live in.

AS: What was the genesis of the new album?

SJ: During quarantine, there were so many things going on both politically, socially, and personally. From the state of the world being in flux with lockdowns, this new virus, but also socially with people being sick of the status quo there was so much for me to think on and realize through music. Like everyone else I also experienced the feeling of sitting still and not having the distractions of constantly being on the road and being busy. That brought up a lot for me. This album and the songs on it were a way for me to put my perspective on that year out in the way that I do through music.

AS: What inspired the new single that we’re are premiering here today?

SJ: You ever notice how sometimes there’s a very old song that everyone knows but no one knows who wrote it? ‘Ghost’ is essentially written from the perspective of the unknown artist who never gets the recognition as the creator of what they made. It starts off as a blessing in the first verse and then escalates to calling out the facts as seen through the eyes of the ghost.

AS: What excites you the most about what you do today?

SJ: I have much to be grateful for these days. One of my favorite things is that I have the freedom to create what I want to and feel the need to do. I have a very passionate, loyal fan base who encourages and supports me weaving in and out of different genres while exploring what I want to make. 
I’m also very excited to get back out on the road with my band. It’s been over 2 years since we’ve played a lot of places and I miss that aspect of my life.

Check out James’ newest single below.


March 2     Vancouver, BC, Canada @ Fox Cabaret 8:00pm

March 3      Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey 8:00pm

March 4       Portland, OR @ Dante’s 8:00pm

March 5       Bend, OR @ Midtown Ballroom/ Domino Room 8:00pm

March 8       Sacramento, CA @ Goldfield Trading Post 8:00pm

March 9       San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall 8:00pm

March 10     Los Angeles, CA @ The Moroccan Lounge 8:00pm

March 11     Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom 8:00pm

March 12     Tucson, AZ @ 191 Toole 8:00pm

March 18     Houston, TX @ The Secret Group 8:00pm

March 19     San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger 7:00pm

March 20     Dallas, TX @ Amplified Live 8:00pm

March 22     Denver, CO @ Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom 8:00pm

March 23     Grand Junction, CO @ Mesa Theater 8:00pm

March 24     Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall 8:00pm

A Place in the Unknown Track Listing:

1. Ghost (You Don’t Know My Name)

2. No Blood From A Stone

3. Lead The Way

4. Not Alone

5. The Stones Cried Out

6. Sodom & Gomorrah

7. No One Knows

8. The Devil’s Daughters

9. War

10. Only Cowards Drop Bombs

11. Attached

12. What Dreams May Come

Photo by After Dusk Event Photography

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