Shawn McDonald is an upcoming artist that has long past debut time. His acoustic sound rings in the ears across the world today. His soft touch on the guitar with the background bass or electric guitar is something you don’t hear everyday. Shawn is currently on tour with The Olivia Band, No Middle Ground, and Paul Wright. I was able to sit down for a few minutes with Shawn while he was performing at a church in Southern California. Most people will think “big name artist”, but when it comes down to it, Shawn is no different than you or I and he’s really a down-to-earth kind of guy.
Jonathan: Your new album came out when?
Shawn: ummm a couple months ago? Yeah about 3 months ago.
Jonathan: Yeah, couple months ago.
Jonathan: I’m really interested in this: How has God used your past, the drugs, the alcohol, all of that, in your life right now?
Shawn: with others, myself, both?
Jonathan: Both, yeah.
Shawn: With testimonies, life experiences. What you go through, what is real to you. In my experience, I’ve made a lot lame choices. I’ve done a lot of stuff, that I probably shouldn’t have been doing, but I did it anyways. Drugs, alcohol, sex, parties…that whole life style. I think that, I mean….I don’t encourage anybody to go there because it destroyed my life, but at the same time it’s opened up a door that I can speak into. I think that culture right now is experiencing that. I think it’s very prevalent in our culture, especially youth. I don’t mean to call the youth dumb, but the youth is just really inexperienced. You know, they are exploring and trying new things and they think they know, but they really don’t. They go down these roads of drugs and alcohol and it’s fun. It’s deceiving because it’s fun and all that stuff. Anyway, so they go down it and they think it’s a hoax. Few years down the road, all of sudden, their life crumbles. It’s like a mirror that got kicked, it starts falling apart and then just cracks. To answer your question, I feel like I have a voice because I’ve experienced it and I had to pick up the pieces. I’m not speaking from the point of saying “hey, don’t do drugs…but I don’t know why”, because I really know why. Personally it was experience…I did what I did…I went searching and exploring, kind of like Saul…he explored many things. What I learned through all these things were that they are fun for the moment; but for the long run, one of the things I’ve realized is that God is really the ultimate, He’s the only thing that will last. When all that other stuff fades, it’s the one thing that sticks around.
Jonathan: Question about one of your tracks, Rider of the White Horse. What was the inspiration behind that track?
Shawn: Rider of the White Horse was an interlude; just a random…wrote it…wasn’t trying to write it, it just happened. Right at the end of the record…we were wrapping up the record and I just happened to write it. I Really like this, we should try to do something with this.
There is a lot of theme to the record…like the song I Want To Be Ready…which is a son about the coming of the Christ…being ready. The song called Home, it’s all about going home to Heaven. So there’s a theme going through the record. When I Wrote that, I felt like it fit to the record and added this new element to the record. At the same time it’s taken out of Revelation. it’s almost like a galloping horse…ya know…I thought it was ironic that in the Bible, that it’s speaking of the coming of the Christ and he’s going to be riding a white horse and…I just thought it was just fit, kind of the old country feel…like Johnny Cash.
Jonathan: On a similar note, who are some of your influences to your music?
Shawn: They’re really all over the map…from, I mean I love soundtracks and orchestra music …and I read a lot. I love experimental stuff, like Cigeros, these weird…like underground stuff…like unless you’re fan, you won’t know of them. But at the same time, I like classic song writers from Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Marley, all these guys….just really root-sy type of stuff. Frou Frou…I wanted to incorporate that old timeless vibe with this new wave of programming, but the same time … but incorporate it all together. On top of it all, lots of strings…I love lots of strings. I wouldn’t say that I try to beat their sound…I just kind of make the music go.
Jonathan: So you grew up in Seattle area…
Shawn: I grew up in Oregon, moved to Seattle.
Jonathan: How has living in Seattle changed your life at all in any major way?
Shawn: I’d say it changed my life a lot. I became a believer when I was 20 years old at the end of my first year of college. Was living in Eugene, so I got plugged in with a church in Eugene. All my friends I built there, the college world, different college ministries, played a lot of coffee house shows…and what not. When I moved to Seattle, I Was at that place where I thought I needed to step up in my faith and go out of my comfort …and go somewhere new. Build from the ground up…when I met the Lord, who was around me was great. I made friends…but I didn’t…they were kinda built in with the church group. There are a couple reasons for moving….one, I just wanted to personally challenge, two, wanted to start over…three, I wanted to pursue music more seriously. I thought being in a bigger city would help with that. Seattle is known for that. It changed me a lot going there. It was a very dark time in my life…didn’t have any friends. Suddenly, starting over is a lot harder than I thought. I was literally broken, it just broke me. Just really lonely…It’s taken a long time to build a really core group of friends. Right when I moved there my music took off…and now I’m never there…and then I had friends, but I would come home to nothing. It was really difficult. I just now am getting a point where I have great friends again…don’t know if I would want to do that again…any time soon.
Jonathan: How has the married life…encouraged your Christian walk?
Shawn: Encouraged…that’s a hard question to answer. It’s hard, you have to work at it, the newness of marriage wears off and you realize you have to put up with this person’s goods and the bads. On top of that you’ve added the element of commitment to her and to God. So it’s not like when you date with someone where when you date someone, you can break up with them whenever you want. Where in marriage, yeah, the world says divorce is an option, but if you really take your faith seriously and believe in scripture and what it says, you can’t walk away, you really can’t. The times, they say the first year is most likely the hardest year. It’s been rough. You ask ‘how has it encourage my Christian walk’, it’s hard to answer because it’s been rough, difficult…I’ve been on the road and she’s been at home. That end of it has been very hard. At the same time, I feel like it has drawn me closer to Christ. I mean in the sense that I’ve realized that I’m just a fool that needs a lot of grace and a lot of help.
Jonathan: Does she ever go on tour with you?
Shawn: She comes out every once in a while, she’s gonna come out in the next tour with us and it should be good. We’ve tried once and it was hard. It’s hard to incorporate love with…I hate to music business, but in a sense it is. It’s what I do for a living…it’s hard to incorporate that because I’m on stage, but I’m working…but at the same time I’m married with a wife…ya know, it’s a weird balance. We’re gonna try it again.
Jonathan: Any encouragements for our readers?
Shawn: Encouragements…it comes down to making choices that matter and thinking eternal…what the outcome is. A lot of the times we’re driven, and a lot of times it’s easy not to make the right choices.