Soul, Funk and Kenny G with The Shadowboxers!
The Shadowboxers are a refreshing form of pop music that combine elements of soul, funk and R&B. After years of playing around Atlanta they decided to take a big leap and move up to Nashville, about two years ago, to pursue the next stage in their careers. The three founding members Scott Swartz, (vocals, keys, guitar), Matt Lipkins (vocal, keys) and Adam Hoffman (vocal, guitar) met while attending Emory University. The original line up has changed some throughout the years but the rhythm section of Carlos Enamorado (bass, soprano sax) and Cole McSween (drums) has been steady going on four years now.
The Shadowboxers have been hitting the touring circuit hard since moving up to Nashville and are currently working on their debut album with Justin Timberlake on the control board as their producer. They recently took time out of their busy touring and recording schedules to answer some questions we at Plasma Magazine had:
How's the new record coming? When will it be out?
Scott: I wish we knew...the record is coming along really well. We've got six songs recorded and more soon to come.
Where did y'all record the album?
Scott: We spent two weeks at EastWest Studios in Los Angeles recording in the rooms where The Beach Boys recorded Pet Sounds and Frank Sinatra recorded My Way. And most of the studio looks exactly the same as it did back then. Needless to say there was some good energy embedded in the walls there.
What hand does Justin Timberlake play in the making of the record?
Scott: He's producing the album, meaning he's completely tuned into every note of every song. His style gels perfectly with ours- he allows us the creative freedom to record our way, then in a flurry of energy he'll make the song better, without fail. Whether it's subtle percussion or overall song structure, he always serves the song while letting us be ourselves.
What's your favorite song on the record so far?
Scott: Probably a song called Runaway. It represents the beauty of the studio process-it’s a song we've been playing live for a couple years now that we reimagined and revitalized in the studio. Now it feels completely fresh and is one of our favorites again.
How has the transition from Atlanta to Nashville been? Pros and cons of both
Matt: I think it was more challenging for us than we expected. While there are many things that we miss about our home (Atlanta's cultural diversity and integration being the big one...don't worry, we'll get there Nashville), there's one thing we certainly don't (have), and that is the almost complete lack of music industry presence in the general music community. The hip-hop community there is it's own beautiful thing and that's awesome, but as musicians who started playing in town around 2009, we felt like most of the industry involved with rock and pop had jumped ship. There's a lot of talent in ATL and for artists that don't have a national following, it always felt like a real struggle to get noticed by anyone outside the Perimeter. Coming to Nashville, it was refreshing to be in a town bustling not only with hungry and supportive artists but also publishers, writers, lawyers, PRO's, and labels. The support and sense of belonging we've gained in terms of ourselves as musicians and a band alone made moving here so worth it.
Does Nashville feel like home now? What kind of obstacles have you had to deal with not being in the country music scene?
Matt: It's starting to! I'd imagine it kinda feels like what ATL must have ten years ago. If we can keep the traffic at bay, all the growth in infrastructure, the already amazing food community, and of course, the expanding music scene...I mean, it's exciting to live in a city that's growing. And I don't think Nashville will lose its identity because of it. Even with all the Jack White's, Kings of Leon's, and Cherub's in town, country music certainly ain't goin anywhere, and we get the same feeling about the city as we do about its OG music genre; it's exciting to be in the scene and watch country grow, especially as, now more than ever it seems, many artists are looking back on golden era influences for their style and sense of identity (see Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, The Brothers Osbourne, Maren Morris, Lucie Silvas, Margo Price, Brent Cobb, to name a few). I don't know if i'd call it an obstacle, but all that industry I mentioned earlier is certainly largely catered towards churning out radio friendly country music, but I think many people here are interested in innovating and thinking outside the box in order to get noticed. So really the obstacle is an incentive to do cool shit!
Have they warmed up to any of those "out of town chords" yet?
Matt: We think so, haha. Harking back on the last question, those "out of town" chords certainly allow us to stand out in Nashville. I think our whole thing is refreshing to folks here, and because we still respect the writing culture (we co-write around town with friends and co-writers) and musicianship is important to us (as it's always been in country music), what we do, R&B influenced pop music, still translates to other musicians and to fans.
How has the dynamic changed now that Carlos and Cole are more involved in the process of writing new songs?
Matt: Compromise, compromise, compromise! While time together has certainly allowed us to trust one another, and Cole and Carlos are good at writing with a "will this work in context with The Shadowboxers" mindset, I think the biggest dynamic change is that now instead of three guys trying to find stuff they can get behind, five people need to be happy with the music at the end of the day. The dynamic is a living, changing thing, which keeps writing exciting and new, but also always challenging and requires a lot of trust in each other's tastes and sensibilities.
The Shadowboxers are a refreshing form of pop music that blends hints of R&B, soul and funk. What are the some of the major influences on the forthcoming record?
Adam: Aside from the obvious answer of Kenny G's "G Force" album - Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Meters, Prince for a lot our songwriting and aesthetic, but we're also really into Tame Impala, Ben Khan, the Paul brothers, and Vulfpeck from more of a production standpoint.
The Shadowboxers are on the edge of being a household name. Is it pretty surreal to finally be getting public recognition for something y’all have been working on for so long?
Adam: Well thanks for thinking of us in that light. It obviously feels great to get some recognition for something we've been devoted to for about 9 years now. But aside from a few career-defining moments, it's been a slow and steady build for us. So while our shows have gotten bigger and we've started to be able to release some music that feels like it's fully "us," our growth has been a snail's pace. So it's always nice to get some outside perspective on how we're actually perceived and received.
What does the upcoming year hold for The Shadowboxers?
Adam: An album. The real thing. And then a meteoric rise to stardom followed by an equally meteoric fall after it comes out that all of our music was blatantly plagiarized from Kenny G's aforementioned masterpiece. That's the goal at least.
The Shadowboxers will be in town this Thursday December 15th at the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points. Come check them out on their meteoric rise to stardom before the crash.
Written by Stephen Wilkins