Texas-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Shawn Fussell isn’t afraid of hard work. He proved it in his previous career as a tilesmith, a joint-cracking, back-aching occupation where meticulous craftsmanship is the only acceptable standard.
And he has proved it in his musical career, honing his skills and his art over a series of years and self-released albums until he was ready to release a full-fledged debut, Shawn Fussell (Casarado Records) that is up to his exacting standards.
Working with producer/engineer and musician Eric McKinney (Mark McKinney, the Weary Boys, Colin Gilmore) and the boys in the band (bassist Tim Casterline and drummer Keith Hernandez), Shawn produced a handful of robust new songs which he paired with re-recorded and re-imagined songs from his previous independent releases to produce a cohesive new sound that fits organically into the Texas Music/Red Dirt country-rock sound of Texas and the Southwest while still keeping its roots in the innovative, genre-crossing tradition of Shawn’s musical idols.
Heartfelt, lived-in originals like “Why’d You Lie” and “Serenity Song” juxtapose naturally with open-ended rockers such as “Ride” and “Days and Daze.” And, as something of a counterpoint to Shawn’s first-person approach to songwriting, “Tulia, TX” is a searing account of real-life racial injustice in West Texas. As such, it takes Shawn’s songwriting to a new level.
“I’m attracted to a good song,” he explains. “And, just like a woman, there’s no particular type that ‘does it for me.’ Just like a good song, a good woman can come in any shape, size or form. Wisdom has taught me to look behind just what’s on the surface.”
Born in the north Texas town of Sherman, halfway between Dallas and the Oklahoma line, Shawn began playing guitar as a boy (“My mom told me the pictures and the clock would rattle on the walls,” he recalls. “I liked it all. My dad’s a huge classic country fan and my mom’s a huge classic rock and disco fan. I think the first songs that caught my interest were ‘Purple People Eater’ and Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat album."
But in 2008, his ingrown sense of craft led him to re-invent himself as a musician. “I spent the past year going back and learning what I had never learned on guitar,” he said. “I’d been playing guitar since I was 11 or 12 years old. I knew how to play but I didn’t know what I was playing -- Understanding what it was my hands were doing. It was all about re-defining myself last year.”
Shawn’s roots are in the Lone Star musical tradition, but the last thing he wants to do is piggyback on any one genre. “The last thing Texas or the world needs is another fly-by-night Texas Red Dirt Band that’s in it for the money and the free ride,” he says vehemently.