True Music: First Love at First Listen

Everyone recalls the first time they fell in love. First love is when you adore someone so much, but you don’t know how to tell that person how you feel. There are days of bliss, accompanied by heart-wrenching moments, pain, and weeping. Truth be told, there are few things as painful getting over a first love, and when it’s over, you’re scared to death you’ll never find anyone to replace them. Those scars last forever, as this is the person who taught you what it means to fall in love.

I’ve fallen in love several times. I’m still learning, growing, searching, and aspiring to find true love. And while I can never have a first love again, I did feel that way once again when I met my muse — music.

I adore music and consider it my greatest influence. You will always find my photography studio filled with music. And as it goes with love, I often get infatuated.

I will never forget the day I was given a CD by my beloved first love — the girl that opened my heart before she broke it. The 10-track mix contained a song entitled “Heaven” by Bitter:Sweet. It was song number six on the album, and the first thing that struck me was the lovely sweetness of the singer’s voice. Her name was Shana and the lyrics she sang touched my heart like a first love at first listen. I was smitten, falling fast.

That is how I discovered the brilliant and beautiful artist Shana Halligan, a singer/songwriter from Los Angeles whose five-song EP Paper Butterfly is flying up the charts as it enters the hearts of all who give it a listen.

My love for music has opened doors for me — granting me access to meet and photograph my favorite musicians. That’s how I got the opportunity to meet Shana. We’ve since become friends and I’ve come to realize she’s as beautiful as her music.

The following is a short interview that I conducted with Shana. I hope you see what I see in her, and fall for her as a person and as an artist.

  1. Q: Share with us the beginning of your music journey: Do you have any musical memories from childhood? Was music a part of your family?
    A: I guess the beginning of my musical journey started at about age 3. My dad would play the piano, and I would shamelessly boss him around with my little song ideas. That blossomed into singing on commercials when I was a little girl with some pretty incredible singers. Plus, there were always “jam sessions” going on in my house since I can remember. Amazing jazz musicians, rock stars, lots of noise… I just wanted to go to bed and catch some zzz‘s before school in the morning! Looking back now, I really appreciate being exposed to all of that. It definitely ended up inspiring me in a major way.
  2. Q: What was the first song you recall ever singing?
    A: Hmmm…. It could have been a song I made up called “Buttermilk,” or it was a Mon chi chi commercial…. It’s a toss up.
  3. Q: For years you were a part of the band Bitter:Sweet. How and why did Shana Halligan become a solo musician?
    A: Bitter:Sweet really helped solidify my sound. It captured all of the music I was exposed to growing up, and in the electronica world, put me on the map. After seven years, I guess it was time for a change. My musical partner and I were butting heads, my marriage came to an end the same year I left the band, and I had a great deal of emotion to put forth into new music. So … I ran off to Europe and searched for some answers, new producers; wrote every day I was there; and came back to LA with three albums worth of material. It was time to shed some layers and get reacquainted with my most raw soul.
  4. Q: Do you have any loves other than music?
    A: Of course! My friends, my family, the man who gives me butterflies … and food! I love to cook. It is my other pure passion. I love throwing dinner parties, gathering all of my favorite people around me, drinking great wine, spinning old vinyl, lighting candles, and twirling around my living room.
  5. Q: Who brings inspiration to your music? Any influences you’d like to mention?
    A: Well … I guess my dad for starters. He’s the ultimate artist. He is constantly reinventing himself through sound and light. He was one of the original members of Blood, Sweat & Tears responsible for all of those epic horn arrangements and composition.
    As far as singers go … Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Blondie, Serge Gainsbourg, Chet Baker, Cyndi Lauper….
  6. Q: Do your personal life and your romances influence your songs about heartbreak, obsession, and true love?
    A: Oh yeah.
    You could say I’ve been through a lot the past couple of years. But for some reason, I continue to have a very open heart — too open for my own good at times. I love love. I believe in love. I believe if you can’t sail through life’s experiences with authenticity, openness, innocence, playfulness, and wisdom, you are not really living. Thank goodness for music…. It’s a freeing and beautiful place for me to get out every part of myself.
  7. Q: How do you feel about selling music online and how do you feel about the reality of illegal music downloads?
    A: I do miss record covers…. I do miss connecting a very powerful and nostalgic image to your favorite album (which I think is coming back into fashion now). But with that being said, I think it’s incredible that everyone has so much access to an infinite amount of music online. You don’t have to wait for anything anymore. Anything you want is right here, right now, which is pretty cool.
    As far as illegal downloads go, I feel the more people that get to share your music, feel your music, and add it to their collection, the better. Why resist what is out of our control? Embrace it.
  8. Q: What are your thoughts about the rock & roll lifestyle — the whole sex, drugs, and rock & roll stereotype. Is it true? A thing of the past? Or will those things forever be married to that world?
    A: Well from my experience, it is still a big part of the industry. There is so much that is not real when you are living the “rock star“ life. I think you have to be extremely grounded if you are going to have any luck resisting all of the temptation that you are suddenly showered with. It’s a very distorted sense of reality and a lot of people start to believe the hype.
    I feel so grateful to have the kind of friends that would smack me upside the head if I ever started to go down that path.
  9. Q: Anything you’d like to say to aspiring musicians everywhere?
    A: Just keep making music! Music that you love and would listen to. I can’t tell you how many times I came so close to quitting, getting a real job, listening to what other people told me I should be doing, what kind of music would sell, etc….
    I just keep plugging along on my path and that is what people connect with … what I connect with.
  10. Q: Do you recall your first love? Did you ever write a song about him?
    A: I will never forget my first love: Jeff Markus. We were together from age 15 to 19 — each other’s firsts. It was the relationship that no one in many ways ever held a candle to. So pure, so sweet, no drama … if life could be so simple now! I did write a song for him called “Saint” a few years later. Don’t think that he knows that to this day.
  11. Q: What can we look forward from you in 2012?
    A: My full-length record coming out in the spring called Richmond Parade. It’s super-swanky electro, feel-good music — grab it! XOXO
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