Shannon Hurley has recorded some of the most immediate, sophisticated and understated pop music I've heard on the radio since Damien Rice's 'Canonball'. The eponymously named title track of her 'Sunrise' EP, is rich, emotional and evocative and like a dutiful moth, I am deeply into its flames. Shannon, suspends belief when she claims that Sunrise originally felt merely, slight, a throwaway... It's final rich sound she generously credits to Guy Erez and Carmen Rizzo, who did the programming and as she says, "Made it absolutely beautiful, shining."
And she's absolutely way too magnanimous, that song is all about the melody, the voice and the lyric, despite all the neat studio tricks, that song, which has featured extensively on some of Los Angeles' best known alternative radio stations, would be fine unplugged, Sunrise could carry itself on a Kazoo.
An Indiana native and a graduate of music school in Colorado. Shannon's music career in Los Angeles began in 2001, no more auspiciously than where many begin and end. Playing a few songs at the various open mic nites around town.
She eventually released her first, self-titled EP in 2003. But it's the new Sunrise EP she is keen to talk about when we meet over chocolate cake at North Hollywood's Aroma Cafe...
"I wrote the four songs on Sunrise. "Where I Stand" was written a couple years back, and to me it signifies the unwavering confidence of love. "Sunrise" was supposed to be a throwaway track. We thought it was going to be a little interlude, like a bridge between the other songs. But Guy is terrific at getting great vocals, so all this emotion came out of that recording. "Garden Path" is on the first EP as well as the second- but on Matt's recording, you'll notice a difference - - we were in the middle of recording, and he said, "I think it needs more lines at the end". So I took a pen and scribbled new lyrics in the studio. So now there's a whole new section at the end. "Don't December" was co-written with Michael Gabbay. I came to him with the melody, and he came up with lyrics. This song was written at a time right before my boyfriend moved to Chicago, so "Don't December" is a lover's plea. It was a very emotional time for me..." Her thoughts trail off, and then she smiles, "I must have written 50 break-up songs in 6 months! The good news is that my boyfriend came back."
The EP closes with an idiosyncratic version of the Charlatans (UK), "Try Again Today".
Shannon is way too busy for my liking. Makes my head spin. She has toured relentlessly as a backing singer and keyboard player for unmentionably large talents.
She has formed a loose affiliation with several other female singer songwriters, called 'Don't Call Us Tori'. I see way too many female singers who seemingly wish you would call them Tori, so this comes as a great relief to me. Shannon laughs, "Don't Call Us Tori' started when I met Steve Leavitt and we decided to put on a show at Westwood Brewery. We put four female singer-songwriters on the bill to give the audience a cohesive show. We were coming up with names for the night and some of the ideas we had were just abysmal. "Chicks with Pianos", "Pianos on Fire", and "Lots of Vaginas" were our other options!" Some names need no explanation at all. "Now we do 'Don't Call Us Tori' shows the last Saturday of every month at Karma Coffeehouse in Hollywood. It's usually standing room only, the place is packed to the gills. The artists love playing, and the audience is terrific. Jakob Nielsen from www.nextbighit.com has been very instrumental in its popularity..he webcasts the showcase live from Karma. Chris Opperman hosts the show, Steve runs the sound, and I book the shows..."
The group are planning a compilation CD, and hope to take the show on the road in true showbiz tradition soon. And Shannon says, are always looking for new artists and are always open to submissions. From female artists that don't want to be Tori, I hasten to add.
Shannon is also working with Corey Leland, "the brainchild..." she says, on a music specifically for kids (like me!) project called Insects Rock. "Corey writes these perfect little 60s songs that are full of Beatle-y sunshine pop," she begins, "in every song, there's a little lesson, like "Why Would I Wanna Wear Diapers?" and "Mommy Can't Get You Everything". We played a six year-old's birthday party in Silverlake not too long ago. It was great fun."
Which neatly restores us to Los Angeles. She loves Indiana and travels there for friends and family when she can, but she is firmly ensconced in L.A. "I happen to love nature," Shannon says, "Griffith Park is one of my favorite places - I go hiking there almost every day. To see music, my favorite place is the Hotel Cafe. And one of my favorite restaurants is Palermo's, a little Brooklyn-style Italian place in Los Feliz. They have an accordion player who serenades you on Sunday nights."
And for Cup Cakes, a recent more serious interest of ours, she dares to say no to Yummy in Burbank, or Sprinkles in Beverley Hills... "The Aroma Cafe has to-die-for chocolate cake! And the slices are so big that you have to share it with someone. Very romantic."
Finally then, with all of the recording and touring and work, what's next, we wonder, what will her next step be - she's taken so many in the right direction so far? With the uncanny nous of a music business veteran she says that getting her songs into film or TV will probably lead to the greatest exposure of all. It's an innate, empirical understanding of just how things are, on the swiftly shifting sands of the music as entertainment business.
She ponders for a second and says, "I've barely scratched the surface yet." And from where I'm sitting it's very easy to believe her.
You can find out a lot more about Shannon Hurley on her website and on her MySpace page, where you can hear the sublime, 'Sunrise'.
(photo by Matt Dinan)
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