Shepherd Express – Shonn Hinton and Shotgun Feature
Shonn Hinton & Shotgun keep it local
By Joshua Miller
Dec. 29, 2015
Milwaukee native Shonn Hinton often doesn’t have to look far for work as a guitarist-for-hire. He’s had the opportunity to tour and share stages around the world with many well-known artists, including Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, John Legend and Jill Scott. While these experiences have been invaluable for Hinton, he hasn’t forgotten his home city. His newly minted band Shonn Hinton & Shotgun is something he’s just as proud of, if not more. The band releases its new album Long Live Shotgun on Jan. 5.
“I could have chosen any members from any part of the world to be in my band but it makes sense to keep it 414, man,” Hinton says. “It makes sense to keep it local and give these guys an opportunity to see what it’s like to tour.”
Shotgun’s lineup features lap and pedal steel guitar player Sean Williamson, guitarist Darrien Williams, bassist Alex Julien, and drummers/percussionists Olen Franklin and Terry Jeanes Jr. Hinton felt it was important to pick friends he’s played with over the years, some as far back as high school.
They started playing together at local Gospel Night events as well as any sort of venue they could play at, including churches, restaurants, birthday parties, graduation parties and sorority luncheons. But it wasn’t until they performed songs from Hinton’s 2014 instrumental solo album, The Happy Hour LP, that Shonn Hinton & Shotgun became official.
“We said we’re finally going to become a unit,” Hinton says. “We fulfilled it with the studio sessions. And I put my vocals on it.”
The band split their time recording the album at The Exchange studio on 37th and National Avenue, Jeff Hamilton’s studio and Ricky Price’s home studio. Hinton mixed and partly produced the album and had Chad Roper master it. They were able to go in and record with ease because of the groundwork Hinton started while on tour with Mary J. Blige.
“I cut my guitar work and lyrical process in California in my hotel room. When I was done rehearsing with Mary J. Blige, I would finish these songs. I would put them in a shared Dropbox with the members of the band,” he says. “So when we finally got a chance to go to the studio it didn’t take long for what we needed to do because we already knew the material, they were ready. We were almost one take Jakes if you will.”
Singing was new territory for Hinton but he eventually got to a point where he was comfortable. He went from singing out loud to get a laugh out of people to being comfortable singing to a large audience. “I took that good swallow and filled my chest with air and just went for it,” he says.
Hinton says that when he stopped trying to conform to what he was hearing on the radio and be himself and “let the chips fall where they may,” ideas started pouring out. “Once I got out of my own way I was able to really hear melodies for the music I was playing,” he says. “And once I heard the melodies the lyrical process was a cinch for me.”
The band’s sound fuses their members’ diverse musical influences that include blues, rock, country, soul, funk and gospel music. Hinton says artists like B.B. King and Freddie King influenced him. “You’re going to have to have blinders on when you hear us,” he says. “It’s going to be like that because our life walk, our influences, who we listen to, we want that to show up in every song that we do.”
Hinton says their music has universal appeal for all ages. “Our music is for everyone. It’s world music,” Hinton says. “We can reach a country audience. We can reach a rock audience. We can reach a soul audience. And we can reach a gospel audience.”
Above all, he hopes people will want to dance to the music. “It’s wiggle music,” he says. “You’re going to want to dance when you hear our music. That’s all that matters. We’re going to make sure you dance and when you leave a Shonn Hinton and Shotgun show you’re going to be singing our lyrics.”
Lyrically, Long Live Shotgun is all about love for someone and wanting to make it in life. A big contributor to his feelings about love came from his marriage to his wife this past summer. She was able to open up his heart and mind to love after he had become distanced from it following his previous marriage.
“When she came into the picture and showed me different things, that freed my heart and mind of the mental handcuffs to write openly and freely about the joys of love,” he says.
Shonn Hinton & Shotgun will play Linneman’s Riverwest Inn on Saturday, Jan. 9, with Timothy Charles and the Blind Fiction.