Just the announcement of a new song from an esteemed and critically acclaimed artist can drum up the biggest spikes of intrigue and excitement from new listeners and longtime fans. Add to these musings of new material, a bonafide superstar co-write partner, and a stylistically daring concept album, and the ensuing anticipation can shoot off the charts.
Well, even though fans of Grammy-nominated Ryan Shaw already know about and are waiting with bated breath for the arrival of Shaw’s forthcoming album, Imaging Marvin, on November 27, 2020 (via FORM Records,with distribution via Broadway Records), the multi-faceted performing artist is ready to further stoke the hype fires with American Songwriter today, giving some teaser insight around the album’s next single, “Love in Pain.”
Following the release of leading single “Strong Men Can,” which saw Shaw co-write with Valerie Simpson – herself known for writing music for Marvin Gaye, the iconic singer and producer who shaped the sound of Motown – “Love in Pain” now has Shaw teaming up with none other than Rob Thomas, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and member of Matchbox Twenty. Together, Shaw and Thomas co-wrote the forthcoming track, which continues to build on Imagining Mavin‘s concept of music deeply inspired by Gaye. Additionally, Grammy-nominated guitarist, Derek Trucks, is featured on the track as well.
Though the audio of the song itself isn’t here just yet, today American Songwriter has an exclusive first look into some fun insight directly from Shaw. The artist discusses how he and Thomas came together to write the single, what Shaw did while writing “Love in Pain” to best align with Marvin Gaye’s iconic musical style, and plenty more.
American Songwriter: What brought you and Rob Thomas together to work on this song?
Ryan Shaw: I recently renewed my administration deal with Round Hill Music, and at the time Rob had just or was in process of doing a deal with Round Hill. They set up the co-write. It was my second zoom session of the 2020 quarantine, so it was cool, but a somewhat awkward new world for all of us. Round Hill also has a very active sync team called Zync, so sometimes, as writers, we write for other artists and sometimes we write for syncs. On this particular day, I was open to either option as we could have just as easily written for Rob. Derek Fuhrmann was also a collaborator on the track. We ultimately decided to just write a great song. As the day evolved it became evident that the song was for me. I had already expressed to them that the Imagining Marvin album was done, so the song could be for the future. However by the end of the day, I had decided that the song would be a perfect complement to Imagining Marvin.
AS: Why did you feel he was the right person to co-write a song intended in the style of Marvin Gaye?
RS: [W]hy Rob is a good co-write for Marvin Gaye is also why he’s a good co-write for Miley Cyrus or Abba. Rob understands music and connection. He is awesome at bouncing ideas off of and doesn’t wear his work on his sleeve. We share the same outlook about creativity in general. We are there to channel the unseen and unheard into the seen and heard. As creatives, when we sit together in a room, be it virtual or actual, we are there to channel from the other side. We don’t own it until it chooses us, and in the same right, we have to be open to be chosen… it is spiritual.
AS: What about “Love In Pain” do you feel might most resonate with modern listeners of 2020 – particularly given the unforeseen twists to how we now foster new relationships and meaningful love with COVID-19 in the picture?
RS: I think “Love in Pain” will tick all of the above boxes and will resonate with modern listeners. As will all the other originals and the covers on the album. The idea behind Imagining Marvin was to imagine what Marvin would be doing now. Would he have ventured into what we now call pop? Because Motown, in its day, was pop. Or, would he be what we call modern day R&B or blues, or would he be a crooner or rocker? Marvin’s voice and musicianship could do it all. So, in essence, it freed me to imagine it all. On this album, I imagined Marvin being free to combine genre and sonics because he always pushed the envelope. His voice and stylings made everything uniquely Marvin. That was my challenge, to address subject matters such as he did with “What’s Going On,” “Inner City Blues” and “Save the Children,” and write new songs like “Love in Pain,” “Choosin’” and “Strong Men Can” (Written with Valerie Simpson). To be able to write songs that speak to both social issues and the heart, not just the everyday love song. To take Marvin’s freedom of intimacy and sexual exploitation as he did in “Let’s Get it On” and “Sexual Healing,” and find a home for my original song, “Sin.” Then to have musical elements from Ashford and Simpson’s iconic hits for Marvin and Tammi Terrell like “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need To Get By,” and write songs like “Get Home.” I have imagined Marvin in more ways than I can put on one record.
AS: How much of Marvin Gaye’s musical history did you dive into leading up to making the songs for Imagining Marvin?
RS: In 2019, I did a live show of Imagining Marvin to make sure that I could reimagine his songs in a way that fit me as well as they fit him when he recorded them. I didn’t want people to see it as a Marvin Gay covers album. I wanted them to not be able to tell if they were experiencing me or Marvin. I wanted the first reaction to be, wow this is great, and then let the rest of the thoughts follow as they may. In preparation for this show I went into a literal Marvin Gaye hole. From his early days of Motown and duets, to his Columbia days, to his what I call ‘heart child,’ the Vulnerable album. There were many songs that I love from Marvin, but I chose either not to do them because they had been covered too much, or because I didn’t find a way to imagine them so they fit me as well as they fit him. That would be lackluster for me.
AS: What are you most excited for listeners to hear and/or experience about your full album once it’s out?
RS: I am most excited for people to go on the journey of seeing how Marvin’s music and message has merged with my musical soul.
Be on the lookout for “Love in Pain” soon and check out the track list for Imagining Marvin below!
Imagining Marvin Track List
Save The Children / Mercy Mercy Me
Get Home* – featuring Robert Randolph
I Want You
Love In Pain* – co-written with Rob Thomas, featuring Derek Trucks
Good Lovin’ Ain’t Easy To Come By – featuring Shoshana Bean
Strong Men Can* – co-written with Valerie Simpson
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
The Shadow Of Your Smile
*Ryan Shaw original