A Vulnerable Genius 

Shannon Wright and the Pain in Human Connection

Shannon Wright
Dyed in the Wool
(Quarterstick)

Being an honest person--in music and in daily life--takes an incredible amount of bravery. Total honesty requires total vulnerability, and vulnerability always has the potential to shove its dull knife straight through your heart. But, despite the pain, there's an inevitable payoff and eventual redemption. Honesty is beautiful, and beauty is never entirely joyful. That is why there is always pain in true human connection.

The drama of the interpersonal plays best in the passionate music of Shannon Wright. With lyrics that illustrate a vine-like pain creeping through her, the Atlanta-based musician always puts her cards on the table without flinching or apologizing. She sings darkly yet beautifully, as though her heart is about to fall out of her throat. Her melodies are unique, tar-like rock, with emotional emphasis placed by pianos and violins. Because of this honesty and unique style, Shannon Wright's third release, Dyed in the Wool (with guest spots from members of Rachel's, Low, Japancakes, and Shipping News) is the best, rawest record of this year.

While Shannon Wright's lyrics may seem personal, they're shrouded just enough to hamper interpretation. "I never try to describe what the music's about," explains Shannon, "because I think it's really important for the listener to make this music their own, and it steals that away from the listener. I feel if I can be honest with however I'm writing the songs, other people can get a glimpse of that honesty and project their own meaning."

"I really just try to write from a human perspective," continues Wright. "I just tend to touch on certain things that are personal or emotive, and I think they're things that everyone has touched."

With such dramatic, unembarrassed music, it seems much of her songwriting would act as a conscious catharsis. But Wright says, "I just don't know how else to write. I don't know how to edit myself or say something that's not personal. As I've gotten used to writing lyrics, I think I'm more geared towards poetic stylings, but there's definitely always been a very open realm to what I do, like sharing myself."

When she sings, Wright lets her voice thicken with her sorrow, and her classical-sounding guitar is possessed and melodically urgent. Her live performances are a special treat: She shakes around and spasms, hair in her face, voice shivering and shrieking. Her urgency is compelling--watching her is akin to watching an exorcism. "I feel really lucky in the sense that something clicks within me when I play live," explains Wright. "I just want to connect with people in the audience. I am sort of a reclusive person at home, and I think it's the one thing where I can open myself up completely and connect with people." (Wright said she will play Portland in October, though no dates are currently set.)

As with all honest music, Wright displays a great modicum of integrity as well. "Ultimately, when you write music, you have to write from your heart, and if you try to second guess what your audience wants, that's not really being challenging with your art. You have to take chances and go with what you feel is truly coming from you. That's my goal; to continue to challenge myself. And if it means I make a record that I think is amazing, but nobody buys, then it has to happen that way."

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