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Blues Artist Rev. Shawn Amos Gets Ready To ‘Break It Down’ In San Diego

February 22, 2018 1:35 p.m.

Blues Artist Rev. Shawn Amos Gets Ready To ‘Break It Down’ In San Diego


Shawn Amos, blues artist

Related Story: Blues Artist Rev. Shawn Amos Gets Ready To ‘Break It Down’ In San Diego


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>>> Preaching a sermon is not the only way to deliver a soulful message. Sometimes music is a better way to tell truth and comfort some hearts. That's why musician Shawn Amos is about in his latest album and it's called the Reverend Shawn Amos breaks it down. It is blues inspired by freedom songs of the civil rights movement. Welcome to the program. Now for those wife -- wondering, you're actually an ordained minister. How did that come about?
>> I am an ordained minister of the Internet age. I was appointed when I did since those in Italy in 2012. The Italians in the audience after the shows would come up to me and say you're the Reverend the way you perform your like a Reverend. And I thought that any Italian person calling me a Reverend I should hold onto the moniker. When I came back to the states I kept it. And then it dawned on me that I was not going to call myself a Reverend, someone like you might say are you a Reverend. Through the magic of the Internet and Universal life church, I became a Reverend. I call myself a preacher and -- in the traveling church of blues.

>>> Your new album the Reverend Shawn Amos breaks it down was inspired by the civil rights movement. What led you to turn to the past for your new album.
>> I've always been a fan of singer songwriters and protest music and music that is born of something other than commerce or meeting a sort of pop fascination. We were doing some touring last spring in the South Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, in the South. It was after the election. I spent time in the South a fair amount over the years. I had not been to that part of the country in a while. It felt different. It felt different. Like a lot of things in America feel different. I was struck by that. That was sticking in me. I was looking for like a soundtrack for that feeling.

>>> The Rev. Shawn Amos breaks it down album is not only about five songs, you have a new song called Trot -- 2017. Let's hear a little bit.

>>> [ MUSIC ] .

>>> How does the message of 2017 the song work with the traditional songs on the album?
>> It began in the cotton fields in the South. Blues was the music that was really meant to send signals from person-to-person without slaveowners knowing what was going on and that evolved into gospel music and jazz music which was speaking co-to some degree. That evolved into the protest songs and freedom songs of evolving into the 70s soul protest music Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield. 27 to me to me -- 2017 to me pulls from Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye's what's going on period, to me, the album is a bit of a continuum. There is an a cappella track that I recorded on the album in the Memphis church where civil rights activities were staged and organized.

>>> [ MUSIC ] .

>>> That is on one end of this Bactrim and then 2017 which is fairly well developed musically and has a string section that is fairly lush. To me the album is a bit of a triptych through the various forms of black American music that are meant to keep people's hopes up. My parents were the beneficiaries of the civil rights movement. I father was an agent at the William Morris agency. He was the first black talent agent in show business. Still one of the few that exist. My mother was a night club singer who had to enter through clubs to the back in the kitchen and had to perform and leave to the kitchen. I have heard lots of stories from both of them. About what it meant to be black in the 60s.

>>> You grew up in a musical family. Your father was the booking agent for Motown artists. Before inventing the famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, I have to add, and your mother was a singer. How has your parents experience in the music industry influenced you as an artist?
>> It taught me that it is work. It is a job. I grew up and hung out in recording studios and nightclubs and soundstages. I saw musicians working. There was nothing very glamorous about it. That was my introduction to it. I have a strong appreciation from the get go that this is a job. And if one is to succeed at it, one needs to appreciate the value of work and needs to apply work to it. And have that be enough. And be enamored in that and not necessarily be enamored with what happens, sometimes you're the red cover -- red carpet.

>>> You will be performing at the prohibition lounge. What is it about the blues that travel so well ? it really lends itself to smaller more intimate venues. Why is that?
>> I love playing a prohibition. We have been coming down to San Diego and played at prohibition for months. It's got low ceilings, it is sweaty, people jam it feels like a jute joint from the 1940s. I have been playing music for a lot of years before the blues. I've been doing this for a while. I have never experienced anything from across the world that elicits such a universally joyful response. It is an honor to be in the center of that.

>>> I've been speaking with Shawn Amos's latest album the Rev. Shawn Amos breaks it down. He will be performing at the prohibition lounge in downtown San Diego this Saturday night. Ink you, Reverend.
>> Thank you. I hope to see you this weekend.