Saturday, 17 May 2014 15:39

Shawn Mayer

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About three weeks ago, I was surfing online and came across an "American Idol: Where Are They Now?" article. As I read it, I couldn't help but wonder not just what happened to the contestants but what it feels like to be in the spotlight, and then for the spotlight to fade. It hasn't to be hard.

To ask Shawn Mayer, It's harder than I could imagine.

Shawn Mayer has always had the music in her. A free spirit from a small town in IA, she was raised to work hard and follow your dreams – wherever they took her. Where did the dreams take Shawn? At the age of 15, they took her to Nashville, and a few years later, to NBC's "Nashville Star" where she placed second and received more exposure than she ever could've imagined.

"Nashville Star" resulted in a stateside tour and a two year publishing deal. Shawn shares that the tour was fantastic exposure and while she never wanted to write, "It was an awesome experience."

Still, despite the bright lights of stardom shining down on her, something was missing. Being in Nashville, and being on its show, meant she needed to do country music. But country music wasn't in her soul.

"In the beginning, I just wanted to do music. And if that meant that I had to sound like something, I was happy to play."

But every good artist will readily admit that one must always be authentic; and in time, not following her true passion began to weigh on Shawn.

"I grew up listening to the Eagles, Tom Petty, and Fleetwood Mac. I wanted to do something with more edge. But the only way that I could get gigs in the Midwest was to do country."

Even bar gigs allowed for no more versatility than covering popular country songs. Not to mention, after the tour was over and the writing deal came to an end, Shawn discovered that the people who supported her, only supported her doing country music.

Music and life, because music is Shawn's life, was taking a downward spin and her story was starting to sound like the country songs she had grown tired of singing. Shawn was in a funk and she needed to find herself and her voice again.

Lucky for us, she did.

Shawn began to apply the craft of songwriting, which she had honed during her publishing deal, and write the passions inside her. And while playing an acoustic gig in Nashville, she was "discovered" by some producers from Holland. They invited her to come to Europe and do a few shows. Shawn didn't have to think about her answer. It was what she had been waiting for. What resulted was a two week tour of Europe and the songs that fill her EP "Holland 2013."

"I got together with some talented musicians locally and in 3 days knocked out the songs." The songs harken back to what she had been missing: the rawness of music, simple tracks without the overdubbing, rock and rock, and her singer/songwriter sensibilities.

It's not that Shawn Mayer doesn't like country. She loves country, particularly older country. But she feels like, "I've fallen out of today's country world. My heart is soul-rocker. So that sound is what has moved me." As for Nashville Star, she adds it had a, "Monumental effect on my life and gave me a huge opportunity and platform that I might not have gotten otherwise ... but sometimes you feel like you're pouring your heart out and it's being taken for granted."

While she made many connections during her songwriting days, she admits that her perspective on "connections" has changed. "Knowing the right people is important. But I've been re-inspired. I've realized that everyone is connection in their own depending on what you can share."

That "re-inspiration" is allowing Shawn Mayer to create the sounds that suit her best. Like the Melissa Etheridge rocker edge of "Right Mistake" or the emotional and introspective "Another Day."

"I have the freedom to almost create anything. I'm inspired to dig deep and not strive to belong."

Her creation will culminate with a full-length album due September of this year, and what she hopes will be another tour of Europe. Of the new album, she says, "it's going to be something different and unique."

More than unique and different, it will be full of songs that are true to Shawn Mayer. So while having the limelight fade wasn't easy. For Shawn and for us, it's created a more authentic, a more vibrant, and a more passionate artist.

And in the end, isn't that what every great artist should be?

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