As the digital revolution continues to force the music industry to evolve, more and more independent artists – musicians who don’t have and, more significantly, don’t need, the support and control of the erstwhile music making machine – are finding their own way to success. One of those artists is singer, pianist and songwriter Shaun Barrowes.
Barrowes may be best known for his recent climb up the American Idol ladder, but his brief foray into the pop culture trenches is actually among the least of his accomplishments. While he did make it into the Final 48 during Hollywood Week of the show’s 7th season, Barrowes says that losing probably did more than winning could have done to help move him toward crafting his new CD, Big Bang Theory.
“American Idol basically allotted me five months of ‘vacation time,’ during which I got back in shape, fine tuned my vocal and piano skills, and read up on the changing music industry, preparing my mind for what was to come. I recharged my batteries, as I was a little burnt out from a 6 month tour I had booked and promoted myself,” he explains.
That tour, which took Barrowes to 23 cities and helped to further increase his dedicated fan base, was just one of the milestones Barrowes has achieved in the past few months as a result of his exceptional combination of talent and drive. In May, he won first place in the Slice the Pie competition, which has provided him with a financial windfall that will allow him to move his career to an even higher level. He’s also recently recorded a new single for the Brazilian market, and composed music for an animated children’s TV show and for a big, upcoming video game.
Barrowes’ release of Big Bang Theory is a significant milestone for this gifted artist, who has been working towards this goal practically since he was a toddler. “I’ve been performing since I was three years old and writing songs since I was 15. I’ve been making music since I was 16, when I cut my first album…I spent a few years in Los Angeles writing for other artists and playing keyboards in a rock band (Spankbaby) for Sony Records,” recaps Barrowes.
Big Bang Theory is a solid cross-over CD that bridges the musical span between jazz and pop sensibilities. Featuring 12 original compositions, Big Bang Theory emphasizes Barrowes’ talent at crafting songs with engaging melodies and affecting lyrics which reflect the confluence of influences that Barrowes claims as significant to the formation of his own, original style: Billy Joel, early Michael Jackson, Sting and Gershwin. “Sting gave me a new appreciation for song development, new arrangement styles and lyrical depth, and Michael Jackson's passionate singing and dancing were very inspiring and still help to fuel my own passion,” says Barrowes. “Gershwin was a brilliant songwriter and composer and his style has rubbed off on me as well.”
Barrowes’ approach to playing piano was greatly influenced by Billy Joel, who, he says, “inspired me to keep pounding on the keys. Because I'm such a hard hitter (I’m known as ‘Hammer Hands’) the phrase ‘tickle the ivories’ really doesn't apply to me.”
Big Bang Theory’s tunes range from energetic, swinging numbers (“Hop, Skip and a Jump”) to poignant ballads (“In My Back Pocket” and “I Still Loved You”) to such romantic offerings as “When I Take Your Hand.” During a recent appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show, Celine Dion, who is certainly no stranger to well crafted songs, said that hearing “When I Take Your Hand” made her want to renew her wedding vows. And while music critics have begun to draw comparisons between Barrowes and Jamie Cullum, another hard-hitting pianist and vocalist who stylistically rides the pendulum that sways between rock, pop, and jazz, Barrowes’ style is just as close to Coldplay and John Mayer as it is to Cullum or Michael Buble΄.
Comparisons and influences notwithstanding, the one thing that is certain that Shaun Barrowes is an artist whose career is fueled by equal parts style, substance and smarts, and who knows exactly where he is headed. “I want people to realize that I'm a versatile songwriter, and that I'm very passionate about my music. I'm not just a jazz singer, or a piano/rock artist. I'd compare my music to the light that's refracted through a prism. It comes out in a variety of patterns and colors, but all derives from the same prism and same light source.”