Nashville’s Shannon Lauren Callihan is driving into the eye of a neo soul hurricane of misty eyed emotions on her newest single, “Used to Be My Love.” The lyrical singer-songwriter dives into the pitch-dark abyss of a failed toxic relationship while giving you a high dose of optimism and empowerment.
The moving story carves out recollections of a lethal relationship and gives you a sharp picture of relatability and compassion for anyone who has dealt with a sorrowful experience described in “Used to Be My Love.” Callihan brings a out of the box take on a common post break up song, twisting nostalgia with touch of bittersweet soulful vocals into a melodic butter smooth R&B live sonic atmosphere.
We had the great pleasure to chat with Callihan as she prepared to release the new track where we discussed her artistic influences, her passion for guitar playing, songwriting and the making of “Used to Be My Love”.
At first listen, Callihan’s slick sound is a well balance union of classic soul/R&B and modern R&B with a rare picturesque vocal range that reach your heart strings with one note. The vintage soul jumps out of your speakers while you process what your ears are experiencing, an exhilarating time machine to a charming new approach to R&B. Callihan explains how the Soul, R&B music pioneers of yesterday’s past influenced her own artistic sound. “I would say my artistic sound is a mixture of soul and R&B, two genres I grew up listening to that have had a major impact on me and the music that I love to make. I enjoy the sounds of older artists such as Marvin Gaye, Anita Baker, George Benson (I could go on and on), etc. and really wanted to keep a lot of the musical elements from that time period, but make it new and fresh to today’s listener. Lyrically speaking, I try to write about experiences that most can identify with and relate to… whether that’s love, heartbreak, etc.”
Callihan’s childhood was filled with music since the very beginning. She began learning various instruments exploring which would become her passion, in the end, she would pursue to learn the guitar fully and wholeheartedly. “I grew up in a very musical family and it was somewhat expected that I would do ‘something’ in music. My mom put me in piano lessons at a young age, and that really opened a lot of other musical doors to explore. I picked up saxophone, drums, oboe, you name it, and then quickly stumbled on to learning guitar. Understanding the theory behind piano helped me easily make the transition over to guitar. I remember very vividly the first time I wanted to pursue guitar seriously. I was watching Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival and it was John Mayer’s first time playing the festival. He played his song ‘City Love’ and I was absolutely blown away by his performance. I learned his solo in the beginning of that song, note by note, by ear because there weren’t tabs for it at the time. That’s the first time I was truly inspired to take on guitar, and I’ve had that same drive and passion for the instrument ever since.”
The eventual pursuit of an artistic career would trigger a move to the songwriting epicenter also known as Nashville, Tennessee. Callihan recalls how learning the piano ignited her passion to make music and motivated her to move to Nashville. “I discovered early on that music was a passion of mine, but it’s definitely been a collection of moments that has led me to where I’m at today. When I first started taking piano lessons at the age of 4 – that was kinda the start of everything. But I think the idea of actually pursuing an artistic career came into full swing when I moved to Nashville 6 years ago. Being in such a heavy hitting music town really inspired me to hone in on my skills and work hard, and the people I met along the way have also played a huge role in where I’m at as an artist.”
Having spent years honing in her songwriting style, Callihan says her experience helped her in being open to experiment when composing and writing your music,”Definitely! The more you write, the more you feel comfortable with it. Being in Nashville has also opened my eyes to ‘co-writing’. When I first moved here, I really had no idea what writing with others entailed, but quickly found out after going to writer rounds and networking around town, that co-writing IS the thing to do in Nashville.” Callihan’s songwriting process is a collaborative partnership with her band, “When it comes to my music and writing style, I usually come up with a bunch of ideas and bring them to the boys (my band) and we finish the songs as a group. My band is so incredibly talented and we all have a lot to bring to the table creatively. It has been a lot of fun working on my upcoming EP together and is extremely rewarding to show that as a group, we wrote, recorded, produced these songs in our bedrooms together.”
For most artists the pandemic has influenced or changed their respective ways of creating music, for Callihan, it didn’t affect her writing style so much as the way the lockdown forced her and her collaborators to work remotely on songs, “I wouldn’t say the pandemic has really changed my writing style much. Instead of meeting face to face with the group to work on songs, we would rely on voice notes quite a bit. Thank God for technology! We were able to bounce ideas out to each other and work on the music remotely until it was safe for us to meet in person.”
Any fan of 90’s R&B will recognize the influence lyrically, sonically on “Used to Be My Love” while tackling a personal story from her past, Callihan elaborates how revisiting her past inspired the idea of the new track,”When I sit down to write a song, I try to write something that is relatable to a large audience, and who can’t relate to heartbreak? I took a deep dive in my past and felt inspired to write this song. I felt like I still had a lot more to say that I wasn’t able to during the situation and writing ‘Used to Be My Love’ was kind of like an outlet for me. It gave me a sense of clarity. I was also listening to a lot of 90s R&B. If you listen to the musical elements and progressions, as well as the lyrical expressions, that’s very evident!”
The “Used to Be My Love” sessions were a liberating experience with a lot of freedom in the middle of the woods, Callihan reflects on the special experience, “The recording session for ‘Used to be My Love’ along with the rest of the project was SO much fun. Curt (our producer) has a cabin in the woods and we went away for a week to record everything. It was a very cool experience that we really hadn’t had the chance to dive into yet with previous music. It was really nice to be able to take our time and get these songs just right, we weren’t on the clock or paying for studio time. Having that kind of freedom helped us get dialed into these songs and worry about the music only, rather than feeling constricted to a deadline. “The whole experience was memorable for Callihan, spending quality time with her collaborators/friends making music, “All in all, my favorite moment was getting to hang out with my best friends and make music all week. There is nothing better than that feeling. I love this group and I feel so lucky that I get to make music with these incredible humans.”
Callihan shares how she envisioned how would the song translate in a live setting when she wrote it,”For this song, I actually did! I wanted to write something that an audience could easily groove to and feel, as well as relate to lyrically. This song is SO much fun to play live and I’m excited for people to hear it.” Callihan hopes when people listen to the new song that they feel something,”I hope listeners can take away a sense of feeling. One of the main reasons I enjoy making music is to make people feel ‘something’. Growing up, I would always listen to music to match all the moods, experiences, feelings, etc., that I was going through. I can hear a song and associate it with a memory. It’s a really cool thing to be able to do that for someone else. A stranger listening to your music and making memories with your songs … there is nothing cooler than that. I hope listeners can take that with them when they listen to our music. “
As the future seems the brightest for Callihan, she has the vast music talents to enamored long time R&B fans and newbies exploring her music with her seasoned lyrical and beyond her years artistic abilities. As we concluded our intriguing chat with the singer-songwriter, she reveals deets on a forthcoming tour and new music, “We are going on tour, baby!!!!! Well, a small run in November 2021. The guys and I haven’t really had a chance to play live much because we were really only getting started as a group and then COVID happened. I’m really looking forward to playing this music live. We are also working on a bunch of new music and would love to start an ALBUM soon. Those are the next steps for us and I’m very much looking forward to it! Staying creative, making music, and playing shows!”
Photo Credit: Annie Noelker