Canadian-born multi-hyphenate Sean Nicholas Savage rediscovers the complex magic of loving and existing on his latest album, ‘Shine.’
Stream: ‘Shine’ – Sean Nicholas Savage
I write pretty intimately, because that’s where I feel I actually know what I’m talking about.
With 15 records over the span of 15 years, 2010s indie icon Sean Nicholas Savage remains a wellspring of emotional ingenuity. From embracing his craft as a playwright to collaborating with Solange, he has always been intent on freely roaming and reimagining sprawling creative landscapes. Even through one of the darkest periods of his life (and contemporary existence in general), he managed to break through the depths of sorrow to make something truly sparkling, much like the cover of his latest release.
As glistening as its namesake, the Mac Demarco-produced Shine is a collection of some of Savage’s most soulful, poignant, and soaring croonings to date. It is larger-than-life pop balladry that strikes a balance between softly enveloping mourning and pure reverence for the pain and beauty innate in life.
While it undoubtedly evokes lovelorn RnB jams of the past, Savage’s idiosyncratic touch takes each song into a realm of his own. Several months after traipsing around dusky Downtown Boise, we caught up with him about his reflections on the record, his creative process, and more.
A CONVERSATION WITH SEAN NICHOLAS SAVAGE
Atwood Magazine: You’ve described Shine as “an album about the story inside us coming through.” How would you describe the story within yourself—or at least the story inside you when you were making the record?
Sean Nicholas Savage: What I meant by that, is kind of like walking rather than talking. It’s like a belief or faith that there’s more to each of us than is expressed or documented, and about seeing that in others–also just seeing that in yourself, or anything. Regarding myself, I think you can’t speak about this thing, so it’s really impossible for me to say. It’s my soul, perhaps. I think the music on the album comes closer to sharing it than I could here in words.
This record accentuates the melodramatic emotional highs and lows of your lyrical content with lush, 90s pop-inspired production and melodies. What drew you to return to the hits of your childhood?
Sean Nicholas Savage: I write pretty intimately, because that’s where I feel I actually know what I’m talking about. That’s where the biggest things are that I can be sure of, the most sincere, you know? So that has a tendency to draw from the past, as it’s easier to see the peaks and valleys in one’s life when looking back at them. I wasn’t trying to throw back or do a ’90s thing with the production, but that may be in the songwriting. I mostly work from a pretty zoomed-out place, so the past is going to come into that a bit, but I was definitely thinking forward with these songs as well as on the previous record.
After a difficult time in your life, what did you rediscover about love as you healed and created Shine?
Sean Nicholas Savage: I learned about hope, and about the power of the little things in life, good and bad. About letting yourself float through those sometimes nauseating, even sickening changes that come smashing through to take you somewhere new, [to become] maybe more you than you ever knew.
You recently debuted your new musical The Fear. Are there any overlaps or juxtapositions of themes between that and Shine?
Sean Nicholas Savage: The two are separate, and there was a bigger gap between them than I usually have between projects. They’re very different, as were the intentions for the two, as well. I would describe one as aquatic and spiritual, and the other as paranoid noir.
How would you envision Shine as a theatrical work?
Sean Nicholas Savage: Hmm, I’m not sure that would work! I’m not crazy about albums being made into musicals. It is supposed to be a sea or oceanside record, and I’m about to begin on a musical that takes place at the bottom of the ocean. I guess it’s all Earth, in the end.
Creatively and personally, what are you looking towards next?
Sean Nicholas Savage: I’m very excited to write more musicals and plays, and to perform them and share them. Telling stories and reflecting on characters and worlds and dynamics, this I find personally and creatively more exciting than almost anything else in life.
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