One of the most gifted performers playing Southland stages today, over the past few years, singer/songwriter Tolan Shaw has become a formidable force in music, winning over a large fanbase and writing songs that are both soulful and wonderfully melodic.
By default, Shaw would probably be considered a troubadour, armed as he is with a fistful of great songs and an acoustic guitar. He won first place at both the 2011 and 2013 San Diego County Fair Singer-Songwriter contest, co-sponsored by Taylor Guitars. He also took first place at the 2012 annual SD Songwriters Guild Song Contest. But Shaw isn’t that easily defined. He often plays out with a 4-piece group of talented musicians as the Tolan Shaw Band, and his recent, self titled solo debut album was a 10-piece band affair, nominated for “Best Pop Album” at the 2013 San Diego Music Awards. His newest single “Be My Girl” is a hook-infused summer song that has caught the ear of San Diego radio personas, as well as tens of thousands of people, thanks to Shaw’s debut music video for the song.
Of course an artist like Shaw doesn’t emerge fully formed. Though he is still a new name to many, he first hit Southern California’s music scene in high school as a member of indie rock band the New Archaic, scoring a “Best New Band” trophy at the 2009 San Diego Music Awards and playing at such notable events as Switchfoot’s annual Bro-Am. A charismatic performer and prolific writer, it was only natural that he eventually took the solo route.
His most recent inspiration for music comes from his love of travel, having backpacked around the globe, picking up influences and ideas from the culture around him. Shaw’s debut album is the result of such journeys; he spent seven months traveling around South America, in the process writing the bulk of the material.
As great as his music is, Shaw’s real magic happens in the live arena. An intense performer, lyrics are important to him – anyone attending his shows, will note that in addition to his wonderful and clever acoustic guitar lines, the way his vocals work as part of the instrumentation sets him apart from typical singer-songwriter type artists. Indeed little about Shaw is typical, down to his reason for making music; he’d like to get to a point in his career where he can truly make a difference in people’s lives, perhaps through a non-profit organization.
The future includes touring and more recording, in addition to continued work as a sideman, notably as guitarist/singer with songwriter Paul Cannon. Shaw also plans to concentrate efforts on songwriting, with recent co-writes with big-time songwriters, and tunes recently penned for LA Music Library, Killer Tracks.
It’s hard to stand out in music these days, but Tolan Shaw is the total package; great songs, great performances and the work ethic to see it all through. Anyone looking for a bright spot in today’s music world, or simply a talent that’s ready to take things to the next level, will love what Tolan Shaw has to offer.
– Bart Mendoza (Freelance San Diego Writer)
R&B, Pop, Rock