Nashville – Best New Bands had the pleasure of chatting with one of the brightest and most promising new acts to come out of Atlanta, The Shadowboxers, prior to their show here at the Mercy Lounge. This close-knit group—comprised of founding trio Scott Schwartz, Matt Lipkins, and Adam Hoffman—brings loads of charm and a spunky brand of soulful rock to the stage.
After wrapping up their Northeast tour, The Shadowboxers filled us in on their decision to relocate from Atlanta to the oft-fabled Music City, how their songwriting has changed over the years, and where they draw inspiration for their popular cover series on YouTube. For a band that’s right on the cusp of great things to come in Nashville, The Shadowboxers are still able to acknowledge their Atlanta roots with a certain fondness and maturity. This growth, combined with their effervescent sound, can only foreshadow an auspicious start to the New Year in a new city. At their Mercy Lounge concert, the band was looking forward to unveiling a few new songs that haven’t been recorded yet, as well as showcasing a live performance that is the shining result of this past year’s hard work and dedication.
Amaryllis Lyle: What prompted your decision to relocate?
Matt: Our management is in Nashville, our agents are in Nashville, and I think we realized we were all ready for a change. We felt like Atlanta had given us everything it had to offer. Not to say that we don’t love continuing here—we love Atlanta, we love everything about this city and everything that it’s done. And we’re especially grateful for everything that’s happened to us while we’ve been here. But we just wanted a change of pace and, I think, we wanted to be able to focus more on our work and felt like being around the industry would help more with that.
Adam: I think with any move it allows for sort of a refocusing. We’ve been in Atlanta for eight years and we all have our things there that are unrelated to the band. It was getting to a point where we were coming to Nashville almost every week for the past couple of months—doing co-writing, we were meeting, and just doing a million different things. The five of us—three of us and our bass player, Carlos Enamorado, and drummer, Cole McSween—we all just felt like this is our time to really hunker down and get serious, you know? Just really go for it, especially with the second record. I can focus and there are a lot of distractions in Atlanta. With our first record, we went to Shreveport, Louisiana, and it was a great way for us to just focus. So it’s going to be the same thing for us in Nashville. We’re moving there to focus 100% on The Shadowboxers. That’s one of the main reasons—everything we do there will be for this band.
Do you think there are any significant differences between the music scenes in Nashville and Atlanta?
Adam: I would say yes, a lot. I think Atlanta’s weird because it’s a huge city but the music scene is actually kind of small, especially in our world. We’ve developed a really incredible community of musicians in Atlanta that we’re really going to miss, but I think there aren’t a lot of bands in Atlanta that are playing soul and funk right now—not that there’s a ton in Nashville, either. I just think that Atlanta is so diverse with hip-hop, and there’s actually a lot of metal and punk rock. I think it’ll be fun to find our new community in Nashville.
Scott: In Atlanta, there is definitely a music scene but it’s pockets of different things that aren’t necessarily easy to get to from one to the other. We’ve been in the Atlanta music scene now for, I guess six or seven years, and we’re very entrenched into these pockets. We’re in the soul rock, funk jazz realm, and there are aspects of the hip-hop and rap world that are huge there and that we actually have no idea about. One of the things we’ve noticed about Nashville is that there are very easy routes between the different genres of the scene and it’s a very continuous flow between them. They bleed into each other and it’s very easy to access all of these corners, and we’ve noticed that just from our visits up there. Everyone’s tied, at least with one or two standard deviations away from everyone else. That’s what we’re excited about: having access to the whole scene, which is not something we were able to do in Atlanta.
So you’ve just returned home after a successful Northeast tour. What was your favorite part about being on the road?
Scott: We have a lifestyle right now where we just like this sort of thing. We like being on the road, we like traveling, we like being together in the band. It’s great because we all get along really well and it’s fun for us. We like going to all these cities and just seeing how things have been growing. Each time we get back to these cites after six or seven months, there are more people there. The second thing is that it’s really fun for us when we have friends and family that we haven’t talked to in a long time and they sort of pop out of the woodwork and show up to our shows. It’s something that people have really been rallying around, especially lately, and it’s nice because we bring our thing to them and we get to see them in their element, and they bring their friends and it’s like, selfishly, we get credit for visiting them. But these people have been supportive and I think that’s really one of my favorite things—to see how many people come out.
Matt: And playing for those friends and family, it’s really nice to have those moments of reflection when you sit in front of somebody and play music for them and you realize that you haven’t seen that person in five years. It’s a really good way to step back and realize we’ve really grown in the last six months.
One of my favorite songs of yours is “Vienna.” The sound is just so diverse and unpredictable. Is there a story behind this song?
Adam: It’s actually a cooler story than most of our songs. I think Scott had written some of the music to that song, and at the time we were doing quite a bit of co-writing with Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls, which was incredible. We brought our stuff to her one day and she actually heard that her nephew was in Vienna. So it was the three of us, Emily, and her 14-year-old nephew writing this song. And I had spent a summer [in Vienna] and so the five of us pieced that song together. It’s kind of a weird song—it’s got a weird time signature and there’s a lot of funky stuff going on. It was really so fun to write.
When did you guys begin writing together?
Matt: The first song that we wrote together ended up being the first song that really brought the band together. It was a tune that Scott and I worked on for a final for a music theory class. And when we actually started writing together, it was late 2008, our sophomore year of college. We were all writing different stuff in high school, so when we came together for the first couple of years, it was a learning process. It was very separate because you could tell when Adam had written a song, or when Scott had written a song, or when I had written a song and it wasn’t until many years later that we realized we needed to start combining elements of our writing style so we can come up with something that’s a little bit more cohesive.
So how has your songwriting process evolved since then?
Scott: Somebody will start something maybe halfway and then bring it to the other guys, and usually, the music will come before the lyrics. Adam is usually our lyricist and so we’ll get it to a good stopping point and then bring it to the other guys and take off our writing hats so we can put everything into music in an interesting way. We did a cover series about a year ago, and although we weren’t writing any songs, we were taking existing songs and rearranging them in our own way. That was really helpful to see what we could bring to the table. We got to make something interesting with a song that is already great. So what we’ve been doing with our writing is writing a song, getting it to a good place, and then pretending it’s a cover that we’ll try to re-imagine. So basically, once we write the song and then bring in the instruments, it’s like we’re covering our own song.
Speaking of your cover series on YouTube, what’s been your favorite song to cover so far?
Adam: If you go back and look at our choices for covering songs—it’s just all over the place. But I think that there are so many people on YouTube posting covers of songs and picking the Top 40 hit of the moment. But our whole purpose was to just pick songs that we love—it wasn’t promotional in any way. It was a way for us to put something out and show people what we love. So, from that aspect, I think that the last one we did, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” was one of our favorite songs. That video was sort of a culmination of all of us in Atlanta and it was a really special moment that none of us will ever forget.
So what does 2015 look like for you guys?
Matt: Oh, man. Well, we’re certainly looking forward to this move at the beginning of the year and I think we’re really hoping to continue to write and flesh out this catalog. We’ve already got over 40 songs ready and we want to see how they work together. Then, we’re hoping to record and work on this second album. But we also don’t really know because our calendar is looking really interesting. There’s a big question mark.
Scott: So we’ll move, and then we’re really going to be ready after that to start recording this next album. We think that the stakes are going to be higher now that there’s more interest and everything, and more potential funding. We’re thinking that the impact that the album will have will dictate the rest of 2015 for us. We’re mostly open, but that’s why we’re getting this move done in January so that we can let anything that comes from the record come, so we can be totally focused and centralized in one location. We’ll be on our toes, ready to go.
Keep up with The Shadowboxers’ progress on their Facebook.
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