We got the chance to chat with San Diego musician, Tolan Shaw, this year’s winner of 2017 San Diego Music Awards best singer/songwriter on his past travels, the San Diego music scene, and what’s next! He jammed out for us over at CorePower North Park during Amore’s C2 class! Check out the interview below and catch a class at CorePower to get your sweat and meditation on while enjoying some of San Diego’s finest musical acts.
How long have you been playing music?
I’ve been playing for 12 years, professionally for 8 years, and my solo project has been going for about 5 years now.
I heard GoPro sponsored you to perform in Thailand, what was that like?
So GoPro and Taylor Guitars didn’t technically sponsor me- but we worked together and they gave me all the gear needed to create a travel/music video series I called “Wandersong:” following the inspiration of a traveling singer-songwriter. The result was 9 episodes through 9 different countries in Southeast Asia (Thailand included), each with a newly written song inspired by those travels. GoPro and Taylor helped with the creative direction, the gear, and the promotion of the project. It was really cool to develop relationships with those companies, and it’s led to a lot of other opportunities.
What do you think of music in other countries?
It’s rad! Though many times it is so different and hard to understand from a western palate. Strange instruments, unique and often dissonant sounding tones, some music that sounds like clanging pots and pans (Indonesia)… Of course you can also find western style music everywhere now too, but it’s really interesting to check out local and traditional styles of music, because it usually speaks to the culture and history of the country, and you can learn a lot through the music. And every country and region of the world is such different music. It’s incredibly important during this age of globalization for other countries to preserve those traditional forms of expression!
You toured for 7 months in South America with your wife, what was that like?
I travel any chance I can, if you can’t tell already haha. After college we took off for almost 8 months to Central and South America. It was insane. Wrote dozens of new songs, met a ton of new friends, and saw some of the most beautiful sites. Highlights: Patagonia, Iguazu Falls, homestay in Guatemala, New Years in Buenos Aires, salt flats in Bolivia, driving through Colombian countryside.. To name a few..
Did playing music around the world affect your musician sound?
Travel has been a huge inspiration in my songwriting, but not really my sound. I didn’t necessarily adopt any of the styles of music that I heard abroad- but certainly infused my songs with images, feelings, and stories of my travels.
What do you think of the San Diego music scene?
I love the San Diego scene. It’s a small and tight knit community, but also really diverse. I think it’s thriving if you know where to look. The thing I love most though is the supportive nature of the scene here. Sometimes in other music scenes there is a competition that can creates personalities and egos that are hard to work with and be around. I feel that San Diego has been and has stayed a really loving and supportive environment to express art.
How would you describe your music to others?
I call myself a pop/soul/rock singer-songwriter. And there are multiple formations of my “solo” act. I play many shows truly solo, acoustic, with a loop pedal, travel stories, etc. But for many bigger shows I bring a band – sometimes 4 piece, sometimes 5 piece, and sometimes 7 piece with a horn section. So the arrangement changes, though the vibe and the songs mostly remain the same. It’s cool to be able to switch it up depending on the show. I certainly don’t get bored, and hopefully it provides variation and interest for my fans as well.
If you could go on tour with any musician who would it be and why?
Probably Jason Mraz. I think it’s important to find artists who have similar messages and lifestyles to tour with, and not base it solely on musical style. Jason is a huge influence on how to live my life in music: giving back, remaining grounded, and keeping positive. The goal for me is to create positive change in as many people as I can through music, and he is the perfect example of how to do that, and I want to soak it up as much as I can.
What’s next for Tolan Shaw?
I’ve just started recording for my next release, which I’m projecting to have out by summer. In the meantime, I’ll be songwriting daily, both for my own project and for other artists, and film/tv, touring, playing local shows, and working on the next international tour. I’m also developing my “Wandersong” video series idea, with the goal to eventually pitch a TV show to networks..
Where can people find your music?
Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music. www.tolanshaw.com. And Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are great ways to keep in touch @tolanshaw.