David Shaw is feeling good. Throughout the past two years, The Revivalists frontman has had time to set himself straight. Following The Revivalists’ tour around fourth album, 2018’s Take Good Care, Shaw found himself looking inward and revisiting songs he had brewing for years. Setting up a studio in the backyard of his New Orleans home, Shaw retreated back into his stories, unraveling the introspective ends of his other “musical” side he kept hidden on his self titled debut (Yokoko Records/C3 Records), out May 7.
“When the pandemic hit, I had this creative explosion,” says Shaw. “It was wild. I’m conscious of all the terrible things that have happened this year, but personally, I kind of needed a break, to get off the road and center myself again. I’ve been on the road the better part of 10 years, playing 75 shows or more a year, and things can get out of whack. I didn’t really check in with myself.”
He’s feeling high on the fact that he can finally release this side of himself. “It just forced me to go a little bit inward, and check in with David,” says Shaw. “At my core, I’m just a giver, and I can very easily lose myself in that process, so I had a crazy creative, explosive beginning and then it eventually evened out.”
Pieced together at his studio and recorded at The Parlor Recording Studio in New Orleans, David Shaw captures the sincere lyricism Shaw has always contributed to The Revivalists, now built on his own self reflections.
Shaw’s captivating storytelling spans all his assorted emotions of addiction, failures, successes, hopefulness, and the euphoria of love, from the soulful croons of first singles, the empowering “Heavy Soul,” through his bluesier dip into “Promised Land,” exploring the divide between the haves and the have-nots. Written prior to the pandemic and protests in 2020, Shaw says it took one new meaning following the events of the past year, while “Shivers,” a song Shaw admits is a favorite track is all about love.
“It’s just a true blue love song, any way you cut it,” says Shaw. “When you hear ‘Shivers,’ you get that feeling when you kiss someone for the first time. It’s like a goosebumps feeling, but goosebumps doesn’t sound very good in a song, and that would have been a weird title.”
Trusting one’s own path speaks to Shaw’s own musical journey now on an eruptive “Shaken,” bursting through Shaw’s roars of I’m still standing here, shaken through the more resolute I know I’m okay / with the seeds I’m sowing / I know I’m alright because they keep on growing / I see a part of me that I want to be showing / I shine, you shine, we shine a light for the world and I won’t be going out.
“‘Shaken’ is an extremely real song,” says Shaw. “There’s a very autobiographical thing going on there that happened when I was young, so it’s exploring these deeper concepts.”
New single “Got Me Feeling Good,” was a song lingering around for some time. “That was a song that kept mulling around in my head,” says Shaw. “I had the chorus and was trying to write it for a while. As an artist, I feel like the song has everything that I do. It’s got a little bit of that like rapping, that punchy chorus, where I’m going up in register trying to sing like my idol Chris Cornell. The lyrical content is just a little bit from my past and a little bit of fiction, and maybe a little bit for my future.”
He adds, “The way it’s always worked for me is to take a little bit from my past, and fuse, it was what I think to be in my future and then throw some fiction in there, to kind of drum up the drama.”
In choosing the songs, Shaw wanted everything to ultimately feel good. “There’s still depth to the lyrical content with a musical palette,” says Shaw. “Sometimes you can get in these really deep songs, which is totally awesome. I’m down for a sad song, but that wasn’t the gist behind this album. I think I’m taking a card out of that book on having a solo career and how I want to do things. This album needed to be something people can go to when they want to put something on and feel good.”
Working on a solo album was something Shaw always wanted to do throughout The Revivalists decade-long tenure since releasing 2010 debut Vital Signs. A backlog of songs in tow, Shaw needed to find balance between his band and his own stories.
“I only started writing, when there was trouble on the family front or there was in trouble in my heart and mind,” says Shaw. “I was going through a lot of addiction issues, And I started writing to get those things out. It was just a free flow free form kind of thing. There was really no thinking involved. I wasn’t thinking about how I sound.”
Now, Shaw says he has more self awareness which has shaped his songs. “I’m a little more aware of the world around me,” says Shaw, now sober for 11 years. “I’ve done a lot therapy on that, and I’ve grown as a person, so all of that comes in and affects the art, hopefully in a positive way.”
About to release his work to the world, Shaw is also continuing to expand his philanthropic efforts with The Revivalists’ Rev Causes. The band’s charitable fund supports organizations like National Alliance on Mental Illnes, Upturn Arts, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Songs for Kids Foundation. Shaw, an Ohio native, also continues to produce and hosts the annual concert, Big River Get Down in Hamilton, OH, benefitting the city of Hamilton, and hopes to start his own foundation to assist those struggling with addiction.
Shaw is ignited in this new chapter. His root is always with The Revivalists, but he is now working through his two musical sides. “Now all the decision making is on me, so that was a very interesting landscape to navigate, because I’m such a collaborator,” says Shaw or writing solo. “I’m at my best when I’m collaborating and asking my guys, ‘what do you think?’ I know that I have my strengths. I know that I have my weaknesses.”
He adds, “Ultimately, I just needed to do something for myself. I needed to create balance. I don’t want to like sound like I don’t love our band, but I just needed to clean out my life since things were a little lopsided, and this was another way that I could do that. That’s really what this album is all about, like ‘okay, let’s see if you can do this.’ And I can do this.”