Wilsn is one of the finest soul artists and best vocalists in Australia.
In the very early days of the conception of Music Love, Shannon Busch AKA Wilsn was top of mind. She is one of Australia's best vocalists and soul artists and is to be celebrated. Wilsn is about to head to SXSW to showcase her soul to the world. Her songs and her voice are breathtakingly fine, and her commitment and dedication to mastering her craft are inspirational. Her EP is called Don't Give It Up. One listen and it quickly becomes apparent that Shannon was born to sing and write soul. Growing up in a musical family, listening to the greats, singing in the church choir, and then going on to study jazz after school, have all been steps along Shannon's musical pathway and a great foundation for the music she is making today. Shannon will stay in the States, in Nashville and LA after her SXSW shows - she's just signed a management deal with Seth Friedman (Natasha Bedingfield, Will.I.Am, The Black Eyed Peas, John Legend), a co-publishing deal with labels in Australia and the US, and is killing it. Before Shannon leaves, she took some time to chat with Music Love about soul music in Australia and her long list of favourite Australian women in music.
What does music mean to you?
Music and singing have always been a way for me to express myself as I’m usually quite a shy person, but I feel way more confident when I’m singing. For me singing in harmony with another voice is addictive, it’s exhilarating and when you lock in on a harmony you really feel connected. It’s like this vibration going through your whole body. I find singing can be super calming as well. It’s also pretty special to be able to write a song and share an emotion with someone else who might be feeling the same but isn't able to express it themselves. The awesome thing about music is it can speak to so many people on so many different levels.
Music has always been in my life. I don't know what or who I'd be if I couldn't sing? Music was constantly playing in our household and I've been singing ever since I can remember. My mum sung in choirs and played the flute, my brother sings and plays blues guitar and piano, my sister played piano, I sing and play piano too, it's just how we were brought up! I was put in the church choir as a young girl because the choir leader noticed I could sing. Eventually I realised church wasn't for me, but I do credit it for teaching me how to sing harmonies! My mum was in another choir that used to rehearse at our house all the time and I remember always wanting to stay up to sing along instead of going to bed. So many of my childhood memories revolve around music. I did lots of singing and piano exams all through my childhood and teenage years, and my high school had a great music program so I used to sing in the school jazz bands. I studied Jazz Improvisation at The Victorian College of the Arts after that, and now I'm writing my own music and doing what I love most. If I can do this for the rest of my life I will be one happy lady.
Renee Geyer says RnB music picked her, and that she didn’t choose the genre. Do you feel the same way?
It definitely has a lot to do with the music my parents listened to when I was growing up - Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, Carole King, Bill Withers, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Wendy Matthews, Linda Ronstadt, The Bee Gees and so many other incredible singers. I love soul, blues, jazz, gospel and RnB. I’ve always been drawn to the sound, the emotion and raw power in the singers voices. As a teenager I would sing along to Aretha Franklin in my bedroom relentlessly, copying exactly what she did, and if I got something wrong I would sing it over and over until I got that certain phrase or vocal run right. I love her voice so much!
What are your thoughts on soul music in Australia?
I wish there was more of it! Some amazing soul music has come out of Australia though over the years, like Hiatus Kaiyote, Daniel Merriweather, Renee Geyer, Jade McRae, Emma Donovan and The Putbacks, The Bamboos and Electric Empire. There are some really awesome local Melbourne soul singers at the moment like Thando, Ella Thompson, Allysha Joy and Meg Mac. There’s a bit of a soul scene in Melbourne - Northside Records, Cherry Bar, PBS, and Soul-a-go-go have been doing the soul thing here for years. There’s also some cool neo-soul happening in Melbourne right now, and it’s super awesome to hear a form of soul music getting some traction. But still, this is hardly anything compared to the amount of rock, pop, indie and electronic music we hear in Australia. Especially on commercial radio. Melbourne is a really cultural city in so many ways and I think in the Melbourne music scene, there is a general love and understanding of soul music, but as a country not so much.
Personally I haven't had a very good experience with soul music in Australia. I was once told by a pretty prominent man in the Australian music industry that if I wanted to get anywhere in the industry I should change what I was doing and go down the neo-soul path. As much as I love neo-soul I had to stay true to myself, so I ignored what he said. Some booking agents I’ve had in the past didn’t really know what to do with a soul act in Australia and basically all of the labels and agents that have contacted me have been from the US or Europe, but nothing much from Australia. It’s hard to get the mainstream music industry to notice you here unless you play some sort of pop, or electronic music. But that’s just my opinion, other people have probably had better experiences. Hopefully soul music makes some sort of a comeback soon haha!
You were accepted to play at SXSW this year. Explain what this music event means for you and your career.
SXSW is a good opportunity for any independent artist - it’s not like your usual music festival, it’s an industry festival where labels and booking agents etc. check out new talent from all over the world. I’m trying not to put too much pressure on it though, for me it’s just a good starting point for my trip to America this year!
Your bio says that a song of yours was added to rotation on many radio stations “with no paid publicity”. How did you go about doing so without paid publicity?
It happened naturally with my first single Unmeet You and then a few of my other singles after that. People were telling me to spend money on PR but I couldn't afford it. So I just uploaded it to the usual platforms - Soundcloud, triple j Unearthed and Spotify. From there it took off overseas and all of the songs on my EP randomly got added to various Spotify playlists around the world and now my EP has had over 1 million plays, which I find mind-blowing.
What do you think about this model of independent artists having to pay publicists to get exposure (onto music blogs and playlists, etc)?
It can sometimes be pretty unfair because as an independent artist you don't have much money behind you and it means artists with more money (but not necessarily more talent) can get further in the music industry.
Who are your favourite Australian women in music, whether working behind the scenes or other musos, etc?
YES! I love this question. There are so many and maybe I’ve gone a little overboard here, but I couldn't cut my list down…
Al Parkinson - She's a local legend here in Melbourne. She is super talented and has her own solo project, but she has also run the Melbourne leg of Sofar Sounds, she presents on Balcony TV, she has her own radio show and she works with young people studying music at Collarts! She is also one of the friendliest, most down-to-earth women I have met and she’s always a big supporter of other peoples music!
SIA - She has worked her butt off to get where she is now. I really admire her songwriting. She’s written songs for some of the biggest artists in the world and is so respected. It’s awesome to see an Australian woman killing it on an international level.
Katie Noonan - I’ve loved her since I first heard George years and years ago. Her voice is on another level, it’s so incredible! I love her recordings with her opera singer mother, mind-blowing stuff.
Ali Barter - She's a Melbourne singer/songwriter who's song Girly Bits pretty much sums up what it is to be a women in the music industry. She tells it how it is. Go check it out!
Ella Thompson - I studied jazz alongside this lady at the VCA. She’s one of the lead singers in Melbourne band Dorsal Fins. Her voice is one of the best in Aus! She literally blows me away every time I watch her live.
Michelle Grace Hunder - Her recent photography project with Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore Her Sound, Her Story celebrates Australian women in the music industry. She's an incredible music photographer and I had the chance to work with her recently. She is killing it in another male dominated industry!
Siobhan McGinnity (read our interview with Siobhan here) - This Melbourne gal has a solo project called Magnets. Her first film-clip was a montage of female karate fighters kicking butt! She also works as an audiologist and founded/runs Musicians 4 Hearing, a charity that raises hearing awareness amongst musicians, sound engineers and funds hearing care in the developing world.
Nai Palm - Lead singer, guitarist and songwriter in Melbourne band, Hiatus Kaiyote. Her voice is absolute heaven, I can listen to it for hours and hours and never get tired of it.
Thelma Plum - She is always using her social media status to advocate for Aboriginal rights and women's rights. She has copped a lot of hate because of this, but she always stands her ground and handles it like a boss! As well as that she has a magical voice!
What is your favourite place in Australia?
What is your favourite café in Australia?
Stagger Lees in Fitzroy, Melbourne.
Who is your favourite non-musical Australian artist?
At the moment I’m loving jewellery designer Lucy Folk.
March 17 @ The Aussie BBQ, Austin TX
March 18 @ Lucille, Austin TX
[THIS POST IS PART OF OUR AUSTRALIAN WOMEN AT SXSW SERIES]