Shawn James

Key to the Highway: Shawn James


Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series — Shawn James

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road for music. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Shawn James.

Americana Highways: How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

Shawn James: Coffee with just a splash of cream. No sugar. I’m sweet enough 😉

AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road for music?)

SJ: I’d have to say a small boat in Amsterdam we rented for a couple nights… We arrived and thought it would be much bigger than it was.  Then the “host” asked us where we’d like to be docked at and we didn’t understand but were told we could dock it anywhere in the city. So of course we chose right in the heart of it all next to the red light district.

The “boat” was so tiny that it only had room for 4 cots inside and that’s it. No bathroom or anything else.

The best part of it all was that we got to go from the outskirts of the city, through the canals riding on the top of this thing as tourists stared at us wide-eyed from the bridges and streets. I can only imagine what it must have looked like hahaha.

We had a wild night out and when we returned to sleep, 4 vagabonds had broken into our boat and were asleep in our beds!

We kicked them out without much hassle and went to sleep only to be awoken a few hours later by seagulls that were eating the chinese takeout I had drunkenly forgotten on the top of the boat. Good times.

AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?

SJ: That’s a tough one because my crew and I have musical tastes that are all over the place…personally I’m gonna say Blaze Foley’s “Live at the Austin Outhouse”. Something about this live recording is just so authentic and real. I love the performances and also the banter between the him, the band and the audience. It’s a special one for me.

AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

SJ: A few good books and a pair of earbuds to get away from it all and be in solitude. Sometimes that’s the only way to get time to yourself!

AH: What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

SJ: I love good food and bad (for you) food…and everything in between really. It can be tough to eat healthy on the road but we try when we’re sober.

My favorite meals on the road are local spots that serve dishes that the region is known for. That way you get to know the place a bit better as a “food tourist.”

AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

SJ: I’d say New York City, Rio and New Orleans. They all just have an energy about them that is so different from anything I’ve experienced. Like they’re alive in a way that is kinda shady but also real and gritty. I dig that.

They all have tons of history and unique architecture as well. Plus the food.

AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

SJ: Don’t be so hard on yourself. Sometimes as a perfectionist it’s easy to think you’re never good enough and that you can always do better but that gets tiring and never leads to satisfaction.

I think the key is to try and not overthink things, live in the moment, let that be what it is, and not let that perfectionist ideal take away from the experience overall.

Connect with Shawn James on social media: Like his Facebook page, follow his Instagram and Twitter pages, and subscribe to his YouTube channel. Also, check out Shawn James’ website for more insight on this gifted singer-songwriter-musician.

Tour dates: 9/19: Seattle, WA @ NEUMOS

9/20: Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw

9/21: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre

9/22: San Francisco, CA @ Café du Nord

9/23: Los Angeles, CA @ The Troubadour

9/24: Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom

9/26: Austin, TX @ Come and Take It Live

9/27: Dallas, TX @ Studio at the Factory

9/28: Fayetteville, AR @ George’s Majestic

9/29: Nashville, TN @ The Basement East

9/30: Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade

10/1: Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum

10/4: Asheville, NC @ The Grey Eagle

10/5: Washington, DC @ Black Cat

10/6: Philadelphia, PA @ World Café Live

10/7: Boston, MA @ Sonia

10/8: New York, NY @ City Winery

10/10: Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz

10/11: Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern

10/12: Detroit, MI @ El Club

10/13: Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar

10/14: Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s

10/15: Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi

10/17: Minneapolis, MN @ Amsterdam

10/18: Omaha, NE @ Slowdown

10/20: Denver, CO @ Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom

10/21: Salt Lake City, UT @ Soundwell

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for: Vince Herman Jimmy Smith  Ben Nichols Bruce Cockburn Charlie Musselwhite Nicki Bluhm Jim White Danny Barnes  Patterson Hood Jerry Joseph BJ Barham Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt  Sarah Shook & the Disarmers Sadler Vaden )

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