An Interview with Luna Shadows
“It’s hard for me to separate myself from music. I feel like creativity is so important to me that when I have writer’s block or a lapse in creativity, I feel like a stranger in my own body,” explains Luna Shadows, a writer and producer, talking about music being her passion and primary creative outlet.
“I feel like creativity is part of my personality, but I think a lot of time I really struggle to feel confident in my own ideas or in my creation. But I think the thing about that is I’m used to that feeling. I’m used to feeling uncomfortable.”
As a performer who admittedly experiences stage fright, a musician who says she’s not a natural when it comes to learning and picking up music on verge of releasing her first full length album to the world, and an over-intellectualizer who will explain how frequently she questions past and present musical output, Shadows has found a way that works best to deal with these bouts and challenges to her writing…
“‘I just push through. I just show up again, no matter what. If the feeling is familiar and you recognize it, I think that that’s where progress is really made with the arts.”
The world at the center of a tightrope highwire, where the taut unmoving pedestals on either edge give way to the fine tension upon which aerialist performers are able to find a fluid balance, describes the environment where writer and producer Luna Shadows occupies with her songs.
The New York native who now resides in Los Angeles, trained in classical piano and instrumentation which she brings to life through digital synthesizers and studio production, and who dwells on the inopportune social disconnections in a digital-centric environment in an anxious and optimistic way of creating connection… all written with sometimes multiple lyrical layers of clever nuance and entendre, which seems to bridge conflicting influences into her complex brand of modern pop.
“I tend to want to make productions which have points of interest in addition to music, so for me it’s all about balance,” Shadows describes.
Following the digital release of several singles that tread heavily in the fringes of ‘pop’ sound, Shadows has just announced the release of her first full-length album, Digital Pacific, which she claims ties together these themes throughout its songs.
“It’s a concept album that goes through my digital life, what it’s like growing up in the digital world. A lot of it focuses on digital miscommunication, the anxiety of a text message that hasn’t gone through or anything that can possibly go wrong on the internet.”
A self-described ‘digital native,’ Luna Shadows’ evolution to her current sound and mix-pixelated artistic presentation comes by way of an organic path.
“I grew up in New York so there was a lot of musical theatre, as well as singer-songwriters and classic rock. That was my childhood before I developed my own tastes,” Shadows remembers. While pursuing lessons in several instruments, including flute and violin, it was her explorations into classical piano that have carried over the most into her present musical projects.
“I started too late to be competitive enough to pursue anything with it, but I really studied and applied myself. I went to several sleepaway programs when I was a teenager where I would just play piano for 8 hours a day. Then I went to La Guardia High School…”
La Guardia High School is a performing arts high school in New York City. There she was surrounded by musicians, along with other teenagers who creative explorations substituted for a traditional high school environment that favored athletics and academics.
Going to school with the desire to be a vocalist, it was through a chance competitive shortcoming as a singer which put her onto a path that she would continue on: songwriting.
“I auditioned for the school musical [as a vocalist] which at my school was extremely competitive. I didn’t get it. Actually Azealia Banks got that part. She deserved it, she was absolutely incredible. But because I didn’t get into the school musical, I took the songwriting class, and everything kind of started there.”
Luna Shadows drew influence from a mix of classic and contemporary singer-songwriters. Those familiar with Shadows’ tendency to write lyrics far more cerebral and playfully complex than typical pop singers may recognize these qualities in those she mentions.
“I’ve always been a lover of pop music, so you can probably hear in my music that it’s fairly accessible and I want it to be something that people can latch onto and sing along to and remember after they heard it. I’ve always loved singer-songwriters like Fiona Apple, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks. I love the folk tradition and style of writing, how poetic it is.
“There’s a degree of storytelling in the music. Even someone like Bon Iver, his lyrics are more abstract and paint a picture, or of a feeling rather than a literal story. My idea for my music was to bring that kind of storytelling and poetic interest into a bed of music which was fairly pop.”
Playing in different bands and musical projects, Luna Shadows eventually came to write and record her own music in a do-it-yourself capacity. This included learning the production side of music, allowing her to have more control over bringing her envisioned sound to life.
Recently the band The Naked And Famous, a pop band that originally tapped Shadows to perform as a touring musician, released their album Recover which features songs co-written and co-produced by Shadows. However, having spent time teaching songwriting and music technology to young girls, she speaks of obstacles that she has noticed the discourage women and females from learning the production side of the music industry.
“The reality is women haven’t been allowed to be int he profession as long [as men]. Men have had a running start and that’s a big part of it,” Shadows explains, acknowledging her observations from working a producer of her own and other projects.
“People don’t recognize a hostile work environment, or an environment that isn’t as welcoming. That alone will discourage a lot of people from even putting their foot in the door. I really think representation matters.” Shadows goes on to reference the affect that an ad campaign by Fender Guitars had.
“Fender did a campaign a few years ago where they featured more women, and guitar sales for young girls went up, and it’s almost 50/50 now between men and women. It’s one thing to say that somebody can, it’s another to create an environment where somebody feels really welcome. The more it’s represented in our media and our radio and elsewhere, the better it’s going to be. And I think there are going to be a lot more women in music in the next 25 years, especially in terms of production and songwriting.”
Luna Shadows’ cerebral pop fuses tension with warm, sometimes underscored melodies. For instance, in describing the elements that she touched on in her song, The Nineties, she talks of childhood fears and anxieties, equates them to a current sense of the unknown unknown, and sings of these in a pop song that could be directed at a specific person or herself equally.
“The Nineties was inspired by a bit of nostalgia. I think about sitting in front of the TV with my older brother in the 90’s. We would play video games, and I remember just genuinely thinking that quicksand and lava, that those are regular threats!” she laughs. “And I think about how I never thought I would feel fondly of a fear. I find myself now looking back as an adult and thinking that it’s all just a measure of perspective. Sometimes I sort of fantasize about my future self looking back at me now the way that me now looks back on myself as a kid. Everything’s just quicksand, most of it is not going to be something that I encounter, a lot of it is in my head.”
Summing up her feelings toward the song, Shadows says “I’m going to stress myself out so much with this long list of anxieties and fears. Taking that and reframing it in the positive and thinking of it as something I can be a little more light-hearted about. Seeing it as something nostalgic before it’s even happened, that’s the idea behind the song.”
Layers and complexity…
Creating a sound that combines the fluid and the synthesized, the East Coast upbringing with the West Coast lifestyle and culture, classical training with a hypermental cerebral songwriting, Luna Shadows has created a pop sound that is subversive to standard pop music. It becomes clear that outside of specific themes and relationships – both internal and external – Shadows’ muse consistently seems to be tension itself. And the times of creativity along with the mental blocks have combined to form her sound, one that will be present on her upcoming album, Digital Pacific.
“It took me a long time to get to this sound,” she recounts in regards to the unique crossroads of forces that have led to this record. “I definitely feel like I’ve engineered this sound which is really true to me.”
From the girl who was so shy, her own mother was surprised to learn that she wanted to pursue singing in performing arts school, to the technical perfectionist who still relies more on the feel of the music over technical competency in some instances, Luna Shadows sums that which she seeks to communicate through her art.
“I wasn’t born into a musical family, I didn’t have singing lessons. I worked really hard to learn how to sing listening to Britney Spears in the cafeteria. But aside from being a singer and vocal producer, at the end of the day I’m a lover of music, and what I listen for is not always the technically best performance. I look for a performance which captures a feeling, or paints a picture. I think the voice is the equivalent of a face, it’s like looking into the eyes. It’s the thing that is going to be speaking directly to the person.”
Luna Shadows’ recordings are available on all music streaming platforms…
Catch her on the web – https://www.lunashadows.co/
Instagram – @lunaxshadows
or head to KWNKradio.org to listen to Nocturnal Transmissions and other freeform programming for the Reno area.
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