It all started with a single tweet after The Shadowboxers released a video covering Justin Timberlake’s “Pusher Love Girl” in a tiny rehearsal space in Georgia.
From there, the band has grabbed the attention of the music industry and celebrities, and they haven’t slowed down since. Other fans include Reba McEntire, Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town. It won’t be long before The Shadowboxers are a household name and we have to scoop for our fans.
We had the opportunity to sit down with the band recently to discuss the Georgia music scene and their return to Terminal West this Saturday, January 9th. Here’s what founding members Scott Schwartz, Matt Lipkins and Adam Hoffman had to say:
SO, WE HAVE TO KNOW. WHAT’S YOUR CONNECTION WITH JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE?
The whole story goes back to late 2013. We were at a very low point in the timeline of the band – actually having legitimate kitchen table conversations about how long we could keep this up – when we started posting cover videos on YouTube.
And even saying that now, I feel like I need to add some modifiers to that now-cliched move: we were covering Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Crosby, Still & Nash. We’re still very proud of that cover series. Anyway, we did a cover of JT’s “Pusher Love Girl,” which is this awesome throwback-yet-modern gospel/soul tune off of his last album. A few days after we posted it, he somehow saw it, tweeted his approval and then he reached out to us.
So for the past two years we’ve been talking with him, writing a ton, and hope to have new music out in 2016 with his creative input. And we cannot wait to share it with the world.
LET’S GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING. HOW DID Y’ALL MEET?
We met at Emory University in 2007/2008. It didn’t take long before we were sitting in Matt and Adam’s dorm room sophomore year, playing each other’s songs we’d written individually in high school/early college, and those songs were the beginnings of the first Shadowboxer songs.
After college, we were looking for a new rhythm section and heard about Cole from some of our friends in the Atlanta jazz scene. We went to hear him play one night, and Carlos was playing bass. The two of them sounded great – and great together – so we asked them to come on board. Both jazz students at Georgia State University, they had been playing together for a few years and had already developed a strong musical connection, and their jazz and funk sensibilities have really helped shape the new sound of our band.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE BACK IN YOUR HOMETOWN FOR A SHOW?
We’ve been in Nashville for a full year now, and this is the first major show we’ve played in Atlanta since leaving, so naturally we’re really excited. There’s definitely an added feeling of nervous excitement for us since we want to deliver in front of our fans and friends, some of whom have been coming out to see us for 6-7 years.
Playing in Atlanta will always have with it that extra level of nervousness since you can feel your whole history aligned behind you. Looking out to a packed house at Terminal West, you can’t help thinking about those early days of coffee shops and Emory frat parties, Eddie’s Attic shows and Smith’s Old Bar load outs.
Another way to describe it is: imagine someone that you had a crush on years ago who you haven’t seen in a while reaches out to you. She’s coming in town and wants to meet up for a drink. Last time she saw you, you weren’t as confident, had a dumb haircut, and were wearing white Asics with jeans. Now you’re feeling like your game is strong and you’re ready to deliver. In both scenarios, it’s going to be a special night for us.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT PLAYING TERMINAL WEST?
This really feels like a home court venue for us. Back in 2013 we had our first album release show there, and it was the last place we played in Atlanta before making the move to Nashville. And Terminal West was the first “big” venue that we’d ever played in Atlanta completely on our own. From that stage, looking out on the crowd, the gravity of 7 years of hard work, playing every bar and open mic inside the perimeter really hit us. I guess, in a way, I feel like we really earned that stage. And the sound is incredible in there!
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS UNIQUE ABOUT THE ATLANTA MUSIC SCENE?
There’s a really striking contrast between the identity of the hip-hop/R&B scene and basically everything else in town.
In the same way that cities like LA, New York, Chicago, and Houston have very distinct “sounds” that have developed over time and stem from their respective iconic artists, ATL hip-hop has developed in a very similar way; everything coming from the trap scene – Migos, ILOVEMAKONNEN, Future, 2 Chainz, etc. – is all an extension of the sound the Dungeon Family created in the ‘90s, and it all sounds DISTINCTLY like Atlanta.
The “scene” for other genres of music, be it electronic, indie, metal, or pop, consists of a body of extremely talented people that unfortunately not a lot of folks outside of ATL or readers of Creative Loafing are immediately familiar. We appreciate artists like Adron, Mastodon, and Little Tybee – whose sounds are all very different. If there was more of a defined “Atlanta sound” (like what you see within the hip-hop community), it could provide these artists with a potentially wider / more national platform. However, we, as lovers of music, champion individuality and originality and continue to champion all genres of music coming from the ATL!
WHICH GEORGIA MUSICIAN(S) INSPIRE YOU?
I feel like over the course of the eight years we spent in Atlanta, our inspirations went from a macro level to a much more localized and personal level. I think this makes sense, though, because initially the only connection to the scene that we had was those big success stories (aka, “Wow, John Mayer won the Monday Night Shoot Out at Eddie’s Attic??!!! Let’s do that!”).
That inspired us to learn more about our city and state so that later in college, we got really excited by all things Bradford Cox and especially Washed Out (we’re big fans of his album “Paracosm”).
Then, around 2011, we finally met some of the musicians around town (who we’re lucky enough to now call friends) who are still really hustling and making incredibly interesting music like Adron, Little Tybee, Marlon Patton with Weisshund, Chantae Cann, Algebra, and Nick Rosen.
Finally, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls are enormous inspirations to us. They’re world-class songwriters, and we wouldn’t be the band we are today if not for the invaluable lessons learned while on tour with them.
FINAL QUESTION. WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2016?
Adam: For the last two years, we’ve really put all of our efforts into writing and building our live show. So I think we’re really primed to put out new music and really go for it. I’m confident that 2016 will see us releasing new material and hopefully touring hard.
Scott: Recording a record. We’ve been spending a lot of time accumulating a huge pile of songs that we are really proud of, and we’re finally able to get in the studio. It’ll undoubtedly be an extremely rewarding experience, and we can’t wait to finally put out some music that represents who we are now.
It’s obvious The Shadowboxers’ talent, passion and charisma will lead the way to an amazing adventure in 2016. Hear them live at Terminal West this Saturday, January 9th.