Jon Shaban Talks About His Solo Album
An interview with Jon Shaban
“Speak Your Mind is a project I’m super proud of. The recording process was very different to any approach I’ve had before and it was such a pleasure collaborating with so many accomplished musicians and watching each song grow and become what it is on the album.” – Jon Shaban
Singer-songwriter Jon Shaban has just released his second solo album Speak Your Mind. Recorded at Space Rock Studios in Cape Town, Speak Your Mind is a culmination of songs and stories written on the road over the last 3 years and cover topics such as heartbreak, politics, failure and personal discovery. This album was always set to be bigger and better than the first album and includes appearances from local and international artists.
Jon’s band, The Shabs, is also currently on their biggest European tour to date, performing in 7 different countries and appearing at various festivals including Mighty Sounds, Whatever Happens Festival and Earthquake Festival to name a few.
I caught up with the man behind the music to talk about the album and his current tour with The Shabs in Europe.
Congratulations on the release of your second album, Speak Your Mind! It is described as a “culmination of songs and stories written on the road over the last 3 years”. Tell me a little bit about the journey in putting this together.
At the beginning of 2015, I quit my full time job and committed to doing music full-time. I didn’t really have a plan but I put my head down and worked hard and since then I have released two solo albums, a full-length album and an EP with my band, The Shabs. I’ve toured relentlessly internationally and locally and just generally have gained a lot of experience and lived the dream. The logical thing to do was put some of that into songs and release my second solo album.
That’s amazing! The new album also includes appearances from some top local and international artists. Can you mention a few and tell me how it was to work with them on this project?
The album features:
Sarah McArthur – piano and vocals
Jonathan Tait – Electric guitar and vocals
Ryan McArthur – Upright Bass
Sophie Doherty – Melodica
Ann Donald – Viola
Dan Thackwray – Drums
Lee Thomson – Trumpet
Matt Willis – Trombone
Gawie du Toit – Saxaphone
And then guest vocals by Stelth Ulvang, Jay Bones, Ann Jangle, Matt and Nick Catto and Alex Muller
These are all artists I have a lot of love and respect for and it was an absolute honour having them feature on the songs.
Speak Your Mind covers topics such as heartbreak, politics, failure and personal discovery. These are quite intense and personal themes. How is it different than your first album and what do you hope listeners will take from this one.
The biggest and most obvious difference between my first album and this one is the production. My first album, Fortune Favours the Brave, was just me and my guitar. With Speak Your Mind, I let the other artists help develop the songs into what they are now. I really hope the listeners can relate, which is something I’ve always tried to achieve as a songwriter. I’ve got nothing to hide and even though it can be tough, I enjoy putting myself out there. And if even just one person can relate and take something out of one of my songs, it’s all worth it for me.
You’ve been a full-time musician since 2015, something many artists strive to do. Can you tell me about the journey so far? What are some of the challenges and highlights?
The biggest challenges are mostly just financial and how unpredictable it can all be. But the highlights and fulfillment definitely outweigh the challenges. There’s no sugar coating it, being a full-time musician is fucking tough. I have made the mistake before a few times in my adult life thinking I could be a full-time musician and I’ve failed miserably. I think the difference this time is that I have treated it like it’s a job with the necessary respect it deserves as a job. I can’t just sleep late and expect things to fall into my lap. Those are mistakes I’ve made. I have to be hungry and ambitious and chase the opportunities that I think are worth pursuing. After figuring that out, I’ve managed to position myself in a rad space for now and that leads to experiencing the highlights such as travelling Europe with The Shabs, regularly being able to gig around the country and watching the music scene in SA develop and change in such interesting ways.
Your band, The Shabs, is also currently touring Europe! How has it been so far? Any standout shows and any you are still really looking forward to?
We had a pretty kak start to the tour with our tour van breaking down and we missed our first gig and lost a lot of money, BUT, since we figured it all out, this tour has been amazing and all the shows so far have been solid. The biggest gig to look forward to is our slot at Mighty Sounds Festival in the Czech Republic. That is the last show of the tour, so it’s really keeping us going and we have so much to look forward to.
You’ve performed internationally before. How is the Europe audiences different from South African crowds.
Live music is just generally more appreciated in Europe than in SA. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just that Europe provides such a healthy gigging circuit with so many countries and cities so close to each other. There’s also just way more disposable income here and people aren’t just fighting their way through their month to month like in SA and they can afford luxuries like going to shows and supporting bands.
You are playing a show almost every day on this trip. What are you guys doing between performances?
Once you are back, where can we catch you live in Cape Town?
I have an epic show on the 11th August at Cafe Roux and it will feature a lot of the musicians who performed on Speak Your Mind.
Any chance of a South African tour later this year?
Definitely. Stay tuned.
What else do you have planned for the near future?
The Shabs are going into studio to record our 2nd full length album. We want to try get that out by summer in SA and then tour it to Europe early 2019.