Shannon Shaw has one of those voices. You know what I'm talking about. Those voices that stick in your head and get at your heart and make you go, "F--k yeah." Still, the lead singer of Oakland, California, punk band, Shannon and the Clams didn't discover that voice until the age that most of us are freaking out about our futures and cars and kids and whatever.
We asked Shannon to expound on discovering that she could sing like THAT -- and to share some of HER favorite voices -- but, first, the rundown on her retro, powerhouse band for the uninitiated. Shannon and the Clams is Shannon (duh), Cody Blanchard on guitar and Nate Mayhem on drums -- and they sound like a recording of Janis Joplin having a sad beach party with the Suburban Lawns played through the cassette player on your dad's old, beloved red truck that died 10 years ago. That's good -- I promise.
They're sexy. They're weird. And they put on a hell of live show.
The band has dropped three records since their inception -- the most recent being the excellent Dreams in the Rat House in 2013. A new album is on the way -- which you can find out more about below. But first, a taste...
MTV: When did you discover that you have an AMAZING voice?
Shannon Shaw: I didn’t even start singing until I was 25. I didn’t grow up singing, really. You know, I would sing to myself and I would make up songs to cope with stuff as a kid. Just nerdy, in my room, no one could hear me kind of thing. So I didn’t actually sing out loud until I was much older. Then I just taught myself how to play bass at the same time. I got it when I was 15 years old from a high school boyfriend and I never really played it.
I’m a late bloomer, in all ways, I’m a total late bloomer.
MTV: Do you think being a late bloomer made your music better?
Shaw: Yeah, I think am glad that I’m a late bloomer. I feel like I’ve had to work harder and earn things. I feel like I’ve earned everything and worked hard for it. It's easier to figure out how to express myself in a higher quality sort of way. The music I would have made in high school or something would have been very bad. I’m glad there isn’t recorded history of any of that.
MTV: So if you didn't start singing until later -- how did that happen, exactly?
Shaw: I guess I was just kind of in this place in my life where things weren’t going well. It was almost like I couldn’t not do it. I don’t know how I even started doing it. I was just really depressed. I had just moved to a new city and I was having a really awful breakup. I’d just started college. I had no friends -- and I was far away from my real friends and family for the first time in my life. I just had a lot of really bad stuff going on and I just played it. You’ve probably heard this said before, but music is just a total outlet.
MTV: So when can we expect a new Shannon and the Clams record?
Shaw: The jolly old date of September 11. We really didn’t want that date, but that’s all we could get. It's called Gone By Dawn.
You might know Roy Orbison as the rich-voiced singer behind classics like "Only The Lonely" and "Oh, Pretty Woman" -- an emotional dude who grew up singing rockabilly and country western jams. Shannon knows him as one of her top inspirations.
"He has an extensive range," she said. "It goes from so low that I can barely hit the note to just incredibly high -- but still there’s so much form and control. He hits the highest highs and the lowest lows. It just really emotes. He had a really tragic life. You really feel that in his songs."
Etta James, who died a few years back, is undoubtedly one of the best singers of all time -- her talents spanning the genres of blues, rock, R&B and gospel (to name a few). And if that wasn't impressive enough, Beyoncé portrayed James in the film "Cadillac Records," bridging the decades between divas.
"I love Etta James’ voice," Shannon said. "It’s really raspy and loud. It’s so hard to sing like her." (Even if you're Bey.)
"Yeah, very, very incredible singer," Shannon said. "She has a really good song called 'I’m Hurt.' It’s sort of life-changing."
The only crooner on Shannon's list that's still alive and kicking, Christie is basically a choir-boy-turned-teen-idol -- with an incredible range.
"I love Lou Christie," Shannon said. "He has like a cartoonish, super high silly voice. Borderline Muppet-y. But really theatrical."