Shawn Desman hopes to get fans "engaged" with new album Alive
It is unlikely that any recording artist is happy that their music can be downloaded for free these days, often before their album has even been released. But if the phenomenon of illegal downloading has had any benefit on the constantly shrinking music industry – and one would be hard-pressed to find one – it might be that it has sparked some real creativity in the marketing of said music.
Take Shawn Desman’s new album Alive. The release of the Toronto-born singer/dancer/songwriter’s fourth album is being accompanied by a 30-minute movie developed in conjunction with MuchMusic and directed by longtime video collaborator RT!
“Now it’s about finding new ways of getting people engaged in what you’re doing,” Desman says during a recent interview at Toronto’s Pantages Hotel. “Hence why we did this film with the release of the album; [it’s] something different. Because people just release an album and you can download it before it even comes out, and it’s done. So it’s like what can we do that gets people talking, gets people interested in the project? So it’s definitely become a challenge in doing that.”
Alive stars Kaitlyn Leeb (Total Recall) as Liv, a small-town girl who moves to Toronto to pursue her dream of becoming a dancer. Melinda Shankar (Degrassi: The Next Generation) and K.C. Collins (Lost Girl) co-star. Desman plays himself.
While the film is dance-centric (Luther Brown of So You Think You Can Dance Canada choreographed), Desman says that he was conscious about casting non-dancers in the lead roles.
“What was funny when we were doing this was it would have been easy just to cast dancers that couldn’t really act but were amazing dancers, because it’s a dance flick.
“But, in thinking about it, I was like, ‘RT!, I don’t really want to do that. I want this thing to be believable. Let’s get people that are really great actors, and the dancing will come. Like, that’s why we rehearse; we rehearse because we try to get better at something.’ So it’s really, really cool and totally believable. The acting is phenomenal.”
As for the album the film is supporting, Alive was written in Toronto, Nashville and Sweden, and recorded back in his hometown. Desman, who prefers to work with the same collaborators from project to project, again turned to Swedish production team Random, who helmed Alive’s first single “Dum Da Dum.” (Random produced all three singles from Fresh.). Desman also co-wrote with Nashville-based country artist Tebey Ottoh (Big & Rich, Pixie Lott), who co-wrote his 2005 hit “Let’s Go.”
“I live by the phrase ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’” Desman says of his loyalty to his frequent collaborators. “So I keep a small crew of people that I work with because I feel that it’s better like that, and we get the best work that way.”
Musically, Desman describes Alive as “more organic” and “less synthy” than his past work, although the music is just as upbeat and positive as his previous pop hits. That said, the songs themselves were not necessarily inspired by the most positive experiences.
“It’s funny,” he says. “I was saying I was so happy, [but] there was other stuff happening that people don’t know about that I don’t share, just because I feel that it is what it is, and I leave it there. But there was some stuff that I had to go through that made me open my eyes and realize a little bit that there are certain people that you do have in your life that you have to be thankful for; the ones that do care about you really. Hence, the title of the album called Alive. I just felt like I was reborn and rejuvenated, and I was starting fresh.”
I point out to Desman that, at 31, he has had a good run for a pop artist, having released his self-titled debut album back in 2002 and won both Junos and MuchMusic Video Awards in the interim. How long does he think he will keep it up?
“I always tell people, you know, there’s going to come a day where I’m not going to be able to do it anymore,” he says. “And I’m going to say ‘Screw it, I’m just going to be a songwriter, and I’m going to be an A&R at a record studio somewhere,’ because I want to fall back on doing that stuff.
“But, yeah, there’s a lot of pressure to stay in shape and stay looking good, but it all comes with the business. I signed up for it, right? You got to do what you got to do, and I hope to do this as long as I can. I’m going to milk it for what it’s worth.
“Up to now I still, knock on wood, have been able to put out music that people love. And it’s funny because that age range [of fans] goes anywhere from 12 to 40-year olds. It just goes to show you that music is the universal language. Everybody loves good music, and I just want to keep making good music for as long as I can.”
Alive the album is available now. The Alive movie premieres Feb. 5, 7pm ET/4pm PT, on MuchMusic.