Our Exclusive Chat With Richard String
Richard String is the side project of Nashville songwriter, musician, and producer Gavin Shea. His new single, “PE” is out now and we got the pleasure of chatting with him over email about new music and this normal we are living in.
What can you tell us about your new single “PE”?
“Welp, I can say it feels like a lovely departure from the path I’ve been on this year, and I love that about it. I love that it is chill and slow for a change! The lyrics are more straight forward than I’ve tended to lean in the past, but the “Things’ll change this time around” line just popped out in a scratch of the melody, so we just let it do its thing. It’s also more directly related to my personal life than usual, but it felt right to huddle around that idea of wanting to change yourself, for whatever reason, while not wanting to dilly-dally in the low spots along the way. Conveniently, I was in a swell little tiff with my wife that day. It happens, and more-conveniently, we had the day off to make something, so I guess the reflection was natural. I think the song represents that moment nicely.”
Can we expect an EP or more singles on the horizon?
“I think more singles for now, but I’m just doing what I can, when I can, at this point. After all the fun I had making Proper Snacks last year, I set a goal to release a new song for every month in 2020. It was going great, pre-’tine, as I already had a few songs on the grill from some collaboration days with pals. Seemed like a fun way to kick start that aspect of it, while maintaining an easy workflow of being Richard on the side of my professional life. I definitely felt more ahead-of-the-game in the BeforeTimes, but this is a welcomed challenge. Considering all of the un-welcomed challenges our species has had to endure lately, I reckon I can keep it up. The next one is called “Girls Just Want To Have Fun: Part 2”, and it releases on the 26th of June. Up to this point, I have been releasing them in the order I build them, but I switched “P.E.” into May because I think the message is better at the moment. “Girls” is basically an upbeat reflection on Tinder, which I’ve never used before, so that’s fun. I have no idea what’s after that.”
Do you have a set songwriting structure?
“It depends on the task at hand, I guess. For Richard things, they’re meant to serve as a departure from the work I normally do with music, whether it be producing others, writing children’s music, trying to land an IKEA commercial, whatever’s on the docket. Those types of things have a more “traditional” approach, usually. For instance, “Dream Brother”, which was the second song in March, started because a friend asked me if I had anything that sounded like Jack Johnson for a synch thing. I did not, so Chris and I listened to some JJ, then wrote and recorded that in 3 hours to send along. It’s drastically different from my other offerings this year and wasn’t intended to be a Richard song, but I ended up liking it a lot, so I gave it to my brother for his birthday. I believe that led me into the children’s music thing, actually. But yeah, Richard songs are built in a much more impulsive way, with samples, and computers and whatnot. Plus, they’re largely collaborative when they start out. We’ll have a friend, or two, over for a spa day with the aim to make something cool, and it seems like they get the same satisfaction I get from the recess. There isn’t any pressure, or purpose really, so it keeps things loose. If I’m feeling it, I’ll sing a thing on it, and maybe it becomes a tune for me, but I’ve never really set out to make a “Richard String” song (other than Proper Snacks). These answers are getting longer. It’s been a while since I’ve had to do this sort of thing.”
When did you realize music was your calling?
“When I was like 12, a friend got a drum set, and I was like “damn, that’s legit”. I was substantially less cool than him, but I felt like I could be a pretty neat guy if I gave it a shot. So, I did. Started a band in high school, which turned into the ol’ college try, which eventually turned into a broken-up band 10 years later. Classic tales of the 2000s! But all of that had to happen for me to hear an actual “calling”, I think. I didn’t play, or write, any music for a year after that. Didn’t even cross my mind, and I almost moved to LA to try acting, but then it just started calling me back, I guess. Good grief, the rest of that story would be another extremely-longwinded answer.”
What do you hope listeners take away from your music?
“I hope they enjoy the care-free nature of it all. They were made for fun, and I think that energy is translating well, so far. Lyrically, I think listeners can take away whatever meaning they’d like. I know what they mean to me, but almost every concept is found at random, in a semi-freestyle type of thing, so I don’t really have a “message” I’m trying to get across, other than “Be whatever you wanna be, but put it out for folks to see…then answer me these riddles, three..”. Yeah, it’s late and I am a massive dork.”
What’s the advice you would give to someone just starting out in the music business?
“You are unique, and you have a unique offering to the medium you’re pursuing. Just put yourself out there! Try to manage your expectations properly, and balance your life in a healthy way. This is a long game. Strategize the best way to share your identity with the world, then execute that strategy. Measure twice, cut once, as they say. Way less stressful, and you can reserve the impulsive brain for making stuff. Also, you should avoid being a dick to anyone, I would think. Good luck out there!”
How have you been spending your time during this pandemic?
“Falling with style? Adjusting to life in the AfterNow, like so many of us, unfortunately… I work from home now, which is bizarre, and my business partner is doing the same. We’re finally acclimating, but we’ve spent like 300 days a year together since 2016, and have always maintained a commercial space to keep things professional, and comfortable for client work, etc. so it’s just weird. FaceTime work is weird. The first few weeks of ‘tine were spent lining up a new rig to work with at home, setting that up, wondering if I was sick every day (like everyone else probably), then feeling anxious about it, drinking and sleeping and whatnot, until things cooled off. It’s been a challenging transition; ain’t gonna lie. As of today, I’m producing a few projects remotely (which is going surprisingly well!) and doing some cover songs for synch things. Actually, you requested some live songs from me, so the last few nights have been spent figuring out my own songs and then making them piano songs. That has been really fun, and a solo piano/vocal performance will be a first for me, so thanks for that! I don’t know, there’s work to be done, and I’m grateful for it.”
What music, movies, books, podcasts, etc. do you suggest while we’re still in quarantine?
“I’ve been really hot for treasure movies, lately. I’d start with Romancing the Stone, or maybe Firewalker starring Chuck Norris, but they all lead to the greats, like Fool’s Gold and Sahara, as well as lesser-known films like Indiana Jones and whatever. “Song Exploder” podcast has been cool. Rick Rubin is the man, so it’s very fun from the artist’s perspective, although I rarely listen to music, or things about music. Jungle’s “Back to Mine” mix is lovely and great for playing darts in your living room speak-easy. As for books, I’ve got a copy of “100 Years of Solitude” next to my bed, but haven’t picked it up yet. My Dad recommended it, and I hope to read it one day.”