Just days after our interview with home-grown star Shannon Noll, he popped up on TV in the African jungle.
Shannon’s going to be in the public eye quite a bit over the next few weeks as he cements his place as part of the cast on the latest season of Channel 10’s ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’.
But it’ll be left up to his new record label Warner Music to do the heavy promotional lifting for his new album ‘Unbroken’, out today.
It’s been six long years since Shannon’s last long player but, as we remind him, almost 15 years since he dodged having ‘Angels Brought Me Here’ being his debut single.
“It definitely doesn’t feel like that long, no,” he says. “Time absolutely flies, I tell you.”
A lot has happened in the decade and a half since Shannon first appeared on our screens in the first edition of ‘Australian Idol’. The TV show has been retired, physical CD singles have given way to downloads and streaming. And, as Shannon explains, he’s learned a lot about his artistry.
“Being a cover singer for so long earlier in the piece, I’ve learnt now how to use my voice better; sing how I’d sing, not sing how another lead singer would sing. So I’ve found my voice most definitely.
“And on top of all that, I’ve just learned a lot about the business. Going from being a farm hand to being within a record company was a bit of a jump. So the things that I’ve learned about the business side of the industry has been massive.”
In the early days of his career, Shannon was part of the well-oiled Sony machine, churning out one single after another to strike while the iron was hot. We ask him how difficult it’s been for him to find his true voice within the confines of a record company contract.
“I think the writing side of it is what does that,” he says. “When you’re writing a song and you start coming up with the melody the chord progression and things like that… there’s no template to follow with that when you’re starting from scratch with a song.
“That’s what’s helped me tremendously with that situation… to tailor a melody that was suited to me and how I wanted to create it. That was the big thing that helped me to make the most of what I could do and how to use (my talents) properly.”
Those talents are now being put to good use for the team at Warner Music, Shannon’s new record label and his third.
“Obviously with Sony for a fair few years at the start and then only briefly with the guys at Universal. But Warner’s been fantastic,” he enthuses. “Since we started, we’ve had a few things to juggle along the way, but this is my first album with them, so it’ll all pan out after this.
“I couldn’t be more happy with the team. Everyone involved has been super encouraging and has believed in the project, which is terrific to say the least. To have your record label behind you and believing in your talent is irreplaceable.”
It’s been more than six years since Shannon last delivered an album, 2011’s ‘A Million Suns’. We ask what’s kept him.
“There have been a lot of unforeseen things come up,” he admits. “Obviously with the record label changes and also management changes and things like that. I’ve moved down to Melbourne and then moved back… A lot’s gone on.
“The best part about it is that I sort of wrote all the way through. And that’s why I’m stoked with this album. It’s not just songs that we’ve churned out in the last 12 months. They’re songs from four, five, some even six years ago.
“So that in itself is something I’m really proud of, because I can see and feel the journey that I’ve taken over that whole period of time. There’s an old saying that you get your whole life to write you first album and then only 12 months to write your second one.”
Shannon tells us that some of the songs on the new album have made their way into setlists at his live shows over the past few years.
“We played ‘Invincible’ for a bit of a run there at one stage. And ‘Breath Of Life’ is another one we played a bit. But it’s changed dramatically three times in the course of production. We mixed it up completely and I’m so glad we did, because the way it’s produced now, I couldn’t be happier with it. I’m really really proud of it and it’s in its best form.”
We also ask him how much pressure he puts on himself to find the balance between creating an album that will keep he and his fans happy, but also one that could prove commercially successful.
“It’s a delicate balance, I suppose. It’s been terrific with the guys at Warner. It’s great to have people that you can trust and people that have a real good idea of the business itself. Obviously the changes that have gone on in the industry over that period of time… the focus has gone from rock/pop, dance had its own individual chart back then whereas it’s more mainstream now… keeping relevant is probably the hardest part of it. Or evolving with the music industry or what’s current at the time has been the hard part.
“But I don’t think you should chase it either. You’re better off playing the stuff that you love. The worst thing that you could probably do is to chase the market and what’s current and end up playing stuff that’s not particularly your style or who you are as an artist. If that fails, it’s hard to overcome that.”
That said, there’s not much room on Australian commercial radio networks for the kind of music Shannon makes.
“It’s definitely difficult. To this point – even today – it’s still a little difficult. The only rock stuff you hear on the radio these days is older stuff from the ’80s. They still get the radio support, so that’s always been a hard one. And even though I’m from the country, I wouldn’t be classed as a country artist as yet. It’s ever-evolving though and you sort of eventually find where you fit in and I think that’s what we’re trying to do with this album.”
‘Unbroken’ sees Shannon reuniting with Craig Porteils, a producer who worked on his debut album ‘That’s What I’m Talking About’ way back in 2004. But he’s also worked with local songwriters Lindsay Rimes, Tom Busby (of Busby Marou fame) and Evermore’s Jon Hume.
“Early in the piece I flew all over the world working with international writers… big name writers like Dianne Warren and a heap of people like that,” he reveals. “And funnily enough, a lot of those songs never made it onto the albums.
“So to be able to work with home grown writers was a really great feeling for me and just a testament to the quality of the songwriters and the musicians and artists we’ve got in this country. So to keep it all sort of in-house if you will, is a wonderful thing and I hope that people appreciate that too.”
Naturally we pause to take in the information that Shannon had penned tracks with the legendary Dianne Warren.
“Desmond Child was another one,” he continues. “We wrote three songs with Desmond Child and not one of them made an album.”
Suffice to say, amazing.
“Tell me about it! I was a bit gutted about that, because they’re amazing writers,” he says.
Shannon has already confirmed live shows to support the release of ‘Unbroken’ in four of the five main capitals in May, along with a show at Dapto Leagues Club. Naturally, the songs from the new album will feature heavily in the setlist, but he’s not going to be forgetting his long-time fans, saying, “obviously there’ll always be the ‘Lifts’ and ‘What About Mes’ and ‘Shines’ in there as well.”
Though there are only five gigs confirmed thus far, Shannon reveals that more will be added down the track.
“We’ve just put a few shows in place for a start, just to try and kick it off,” he says. “But we’ll definitely go right ’round the country. It’s been seven years since I’ve had an album, so we’ll try to get around to everyone we possibly can this year I’d say.”
And he’s match fit. Followers on his social media accounts will have seen him smashing the gym on a regular basis. But he’s quick to assure us it’s not just because he’s now in his forties that he’s doing so, moreover a way of taking care of his back after injuring it severely during a lift on the 2012 season of ‘Dancing With The Stars’.
“I sort of decided to really ramp it up a little bit back then and try and strengthen that area up. Lower back problems are always affected by travel and different hotel rooms. And hours in cars and on planes aren’t so great for it. So that sort of really prompted it initially, but I really just enjoy it now.”
Shannon’s new album ‘Unbroken’ is out today, digitally and physically.
Catch Shannon on ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’, 7:30pm Sunday to Thursday on Network Ten.
You’ll be able to check out Shannon’s physique – and his catalogue of songs – as part of his tour dates throughout May below;
May 04 : Sydney (Oxford Art Factory)
May 05 : Dapto (Dapto Leagues Club)
May 11 : Adelaide (Governor Hindmarsh)
May 12 : Melbourne (Max Watts)
May 19 : Brisbane (The Triffid)
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