Michael Shaw wants to spend some time with you. In fact, he’s set the date and picked out a lovely spot. An Intimate Evening With Michael Shaw’s debut album, This Is It., set for a May 2015 release, is a lush sonic pasture set amongst rolling hills of electric piano lit by soaring guitar and bright, layered vocals. As a reflection of Shaw’s faith in tried-and-true pop formulas imbued with a personal touch, it’s been a long time coming. After penning and performing songs with his younger brother in bands like Petrol and the Aktion, Shaw is now stepping out on his own.
“Being in bands is great for camaraderie, but it meant compromising some of my beliefs about pop music,” he says. “This album allowed me to create an undiluted expression of my musical ideas.” Though a showman with the guitar for much of his musical career, Shaw cuts a much more pensive figure behind the piano, showing great care for a stable of personal songs that reflect his life divided between his youth in Northern Ireland, a stint in London and his adult years in Northern California.
To honor that, the album was written during a weeklong pilgrimage to the Antrim Coast, just over an hour from Belfast, where he was born. “I rented a cottage, just a short walk across some farmers’ fields to the Giants Causeway,” Shaw says. “Then I basically holed up for a week and split time between driving the countryside, feeding the wood stove, and writing songs.”
The full story around the album’s conception has an air of the mystical to it. That week on the Antrim Coast just happened to coincide with Van Morrison returning to his native Northern Ireland to play a show on the cliff’s edge at nearby Dunluce Castle.
After that, the album came of age, like the artist, in Marin County, California – in a studio overlooking the soft crescent of Stinson Beach. The recording session brought Shaw together with two longtime collaborators, bassist Colin Schlitt and drummer Kenneth Hard, and a dynamic new guitar player, Eli Nelson.
This Is It. was built off the vintage pop of the Beatles, The Beach Boys and ELO, and the completion of the album was made both bittersweet and poignant by another sad coincidence. “I consider this band a gift from the universe,” Shaw says. “The whole thing started right after my mother was diagnosed with cancer and it culminated with the album being recorded a week after she passed away.”
For all these reasons and more, This Is It. is an undoubtedly intimate and deeply personal debut album to which you are all invited.
Jeff Palfini, 2015