Shannon Curtis

Shannon Curtis “So many Stars”

I listened to Shannon Curtis “So many stars” while waiting in my car in early March 2014. I had just driven my mom to the doctor’s office and it was slowly getting dark outside. Suddenly the street lights turned on. It wasn’t really a special moment, but I still remember it for some reason. Shannon’s music can really hit you hard sometimes. I asked her why that is, and she answered me in a single word: “Empathy.”

It has somehow become the theme of my life, my music, and my career the last several months.

It started when, on the 60-show house concert tour we did last summer, I found a good number of nights there was someone waiting for me near the merch table at the end of the night, wanting to share with me something deep and vulnerable about their life: “Can I tell you about how I’m fighting cancer right now;” “Can I tell you about how my husband left me two weeks ago;” “Can I tell you how I’m a survivor of abuse.” Like, really deep stuff from people I’d only met that night, but for whom I’d just played an hour-long, intimate house concert in their friend’s home. It didn’t feel needy or weird; it felt reciprocal – like they wanted me to see them, because I’d just let them see me in an emotionally exposed sort of way. Each conversation was a breathtaking experience.

Fast forward to the songs I’ve now begun writing for my next album. When I sat down to write, all I could think about were the stories these people had shared with me and how powerful it had been to “see and be seen” at those house concerts last summer. The songs that are emerging as I write are all about the power of seeing ourselves in one another’s stories, in accessing the deeper parts of ourselves as we identify with someone else’s experience. That’s empathy. It’s transformative. I’m coming to believe it’s one of the most powerful forces for good; and maybe if we practiced it more, collectively, we could save the world.

I realize how hippy-dippy that sounds, but I can’t deny the powerful, healing experiences I’ve had because of empathy. And I’m starting to believe that it’s also an imperative in creating art: I tell the best stories, write the best songs, when they come from a place of empathy; and people can be moved toward opportunities for empathy when they experience art. Who knows what all of this means for my life, my music, and my career. But for now, it’s my central guiding light and I’m eager to see where it takes me.

When you listen to Shannon’s tracks you can certainly feel what she’s talking about. Empathy as inspiration to writing music must be one of the most powerful motivations an artist can discover. I find it hard to grasp sometimes, that real artists like her don’t get wider recognition. We pitched your music many times last year and we’ll keep doing so, because you are simply amazing. Keep it up Shannon, and never lose faith.