Gimme a Break: Shannon Rose & the Thorns
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Members: Shannon Rose, Steve Matylewicz, Adam DiPenta, Tim Watson, Michael Schultz
RIYL: Feist, Sarah Harmer, Laura Veirs
New Release: Seasons
Latest Single: "Wild Wind"
Last January, Shannon Rose & the Thorns released Seasons, a double CD consisting of four five-song EPs recorded in the respective season over the course of a year. Lead singer Shannon Rose released her first album with the band in 2008, with the support of her husband and band guitarist, Steve Matylewicz. The band also includes Adam DiPenta (bass), Tim Watson (drums) and Michael Schultz (keys and horns). Shannon Rose & the Thorns’ folk pop music has drawn comparisons to Feist, but Rose says the band’s influences range from Nina Simone to Wilco to The Pixies. Rose says a reviewer once described the band’s music as "an iron fist in a velvet glove" — a description she herself stands by. She was nice enough to answer some questions for this week’s Gimme a Break. You’ll find the video for the band’s latest track, "Wild Wind," recorded and directed by Matylewicz, after the jump.
What’s the history of Shannon Rose & the Thorns?
I was very lucky to have some talented musician friends who encouraged me when I first started writing and performing while in university. I was dating a musician at the time too and he helped me get a band together and make a proper recording of my bedroom demos. We’re married now, and he still plays guitar in the band, and produces our albums!
How long have you been performing your music?
I released my first album in 2008, did a handful of shows and then took some time off because of stage fright. I kept writing, and always felt the desire to overcome my fear and get back on stage. When I started performing again a couple of years ago, I found a new appreciation for it.
Your band name is very horticulturally-inspired. What’s your favorite flower?
I love roses, and not because of my last name. They’re beautiful and they smell so good. I also love strong-stalked flowers like tulips and irises. I prefer to see flowers outside than cut and inside though!
Where are you from? Does your location have any influence on your music?
I grew up in a small Ottawa valley town called Pembroke, lived in Toronto for a few years, and now live in Ottawa. Our weather extremes in Ontario have certainly influenced my music! The concept behind Seasons was to see what impact this has on my songwriting and on the recording process. In the end it really felt like the summer songs were warmer than those written and recorded in the winter months. I’m not sure how my writing would be different if I’d never left my small town, or if I’d stayed in Toronto however. Food for thought!
If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Let’s go with Christmas dinner minus the turkey because I’m a vegetarian. Mashed potatoes and gravy, veggies, cheese, warm rolls with butter, and tea and pumpkin pie with vanilla iced cream. This choice is contingent on someone else doing the dishes though!
What’s your favorite part about Christmas?
Christmas is the BEST, and my favourite part is everything! The holiday movies, the music, A Charlie Brown Christmas, treats, holiday parties, church on Christmas eve, the tree, the gifts, the lights, the snow, the annual Christmas baking day with my mom – all of it!
What was the last piece of art (music, physical art, film, book, etc.) that really blew your mind? What effect did it have on you?
Discovering Mahalia Jackson’s voice a few months ago blew my mind. I’ve listened to her almost every day since. Such passion, and sincerity, and strength, and richness – it’s very inspiring.
How do you think your sound has changed with every new release?
I think we’re developing a tighter connection as a band, and we’re getting better at expressing our creative ideas with every release. Personally, I’m getting more comfortable about laying my heart out on my sleeve in my songwriting.
What do you like the most about Seasons? Why do you think fans should like it?
I like the memories that have come with Seasons. I have distinct and fond memories of writing and recording throughout the year and now I have great memories of playing the songs live, and connecting with people. The whole process was amazing. I hope people will like the album because we worked hard to make it and because it’s a reflection of me.