When talking about certain artists, words fail. Why? Well, it's nearly impossible to put into words the beauty of a soul wholly bared. As with love, the moments of sheer terror at being understood are followed by elation. Joy at remembering you are not alone.
Shook's career has been a tremendous one. His first, a self-titled album, was a marathon of grown up chip tunes; ones who went to a jazz conservatory and learned about composition. Emotionally uplifting, it retained an airtight authenticity through all 12 tracks. With a few EPs preceding Shook built steady momentum as a genre bending artist to keep a close eye on.
With his second full length album, Spectrum, Shook took his formula and turned it on it's head. Retaining the same general soundscape, he spun a brand new galaxy out of this language he had been perfecting over time. Tonally, this was when his fans truly got to witness glimmers of the pure artistry at the root of Shook's core. He traversed light years with ease, touching on highest highs and lowest lows in a single phrase in a song. The only way an artist can retain such quality across so many emotional themes is through pure and simple honesty. Shook embodies this time and time again.
Oh lord, then came Continuum. Once again, words are hard. Like heartache, you have to experience it to understand how deep it cuts. But in those moments you feel catharsis, and, like heartache, the position you put yourself in to end up there is undeniably worth it every time. Such is the power of his 3rd album. Primarily composed with piano, it's symphonies generate such intense feelings. So much so that that it's hard not to remember exactly where you were the first time you heard it.
Shortly after the release of this incredible third album, fans saw the beginning of a series of heart-wrenching posts on Shook's Facebook page. At first, we knew little, only that he was in the hospital struggling with some serious issues. Soon, we learned that he was indeed fighting for his very life. Heartbroken and beset with worry, his fans unleashed an outpouring of love and support. So many had the same sentiment to share: Shook had touched their hearts and they couldn't imagine a world without him.
18 months later, after a few distressing periods of radio silence, we began to receive updates about his recovering health. Tentatively hopeful fans rested in the faith that his bright light would continue shining on. Shine on he did, and soon the sun broke through the clouds: Shook was finding fresh love for life in the creation of new music.
This brings us to now. The culmination of many months of effort, June 26th marks Shook's triumphant return with the release of Bicycle Ride, his next full length album. What has such tremendous pain done to change his perspective on his own music? Well, according to him, this album contains an overwhelming feeling of joy that he feels is unparalleled in any of his previous work. Lucky for us, this week marks the release of "I Will Be There," the second single off his new album. I am tremendously honored to share this video with you, it exemplifies perfectly just how close Shook allows his fans to get.
During my recovery I spent a lot of time with my dear Juliet. She was always there for me during my illness. It felt natural for us that we made a song together. We spent many days together in our living room / music studio, and we wrote lyrics and recorded together until the late hours. This resulted in the creation of ‘I Will Be There’.
Magnetic Magazine: What is Shook to you right now?
Shook: I've made music under the name for a long time now. When I first started out, the concept had a super hero theme around it, but over the years it has grown out to be a very personal project that really can be anything for me.
MM: How has your relationship with the project changed over time?
Shook: I always try to keep moving and never stand still in the music I make. I want to surprise myself when making it. With each album release I try to explore new ways of expressing myself musically. I think over time the music as a whole has grown closer to me. It's easy to make sounds, but it's more satisfying for me to create music that is very close to me and within reach.
MM: Do you learn about yourself from the music you make?
Shook: I think so yes. Often the music comes first, and then I reflect and think about what it's about and come up with a title. Sometimes this is pretty difficult.
MM: Are there songs that are too "difficult" to release?
Shook: Some are, some aren't. Because I make songs in such a short period, they connect with each other and tell a bigger story, which is more important.
MM: What is the bigger story of the forthcoming album?
Shook: I wen't through a very rough time around 2016. I was diagnosed with severe acute pancreatitis. In that period of 7 months of hospital care I lost more than 20kg, had to relearn how to walk, and landed in intensive care multiple times. When I was able to walk and go outside again, I was so happy. Happy simply to see the sky, the birds, and the fresh air. Also the appreciation of my close friends and loved ones were a big inspiration to start writing new music again. I think this period of my life is the big reason behind Bicycle Ride. Even though it was a rough time, it made me appreciate the simple things in life.
MM: Do you have any advice for those who are currently struggling like you were in 2016?
Shook: Keep fighting! But it's always different for each person so it's difficult to say. I think it's important to find comfort in the good people around you.
MM: People and animals. What's your cat's name?
Shook: Jagger! Yeah, for some reason cats have this sixth sense about these things. But sometimes he forgot I was sick. He would jump on me and he would be way too heavy for me.
MM: Does he have a superhero name?
Shook: Well, he always has this look on his face where he thinks everybody is his minion.
MM: Oh, so he is a super-villain?
Shook: Yes, for sure.
MM: What is Shook fighting for at the moment?
Shook: At the moment I am really happy. I am lucky to be able to write music at home and I play my piano every morning.
MM: Have you always been so honest with your emotions?
Shook: As a musician I think I have to be honest. If I am not honest, I can hear it in my music. I used to think I had to make music a certain way. But looking back, that was a compromise.
MM: Have you ever written any music that touched on the emotion of anger?
Shook: I think so yes, in the past. But it's a little subtler; more hidden I think. The anger is more subconscious and not so much 'in your face'. I think you can hear this in "Cloud Symphony" and in one of the songs on the new album called: "Between Spaces."
MM: Your art direction is very clear and focused. Who did album art for Continuum and Bicycle Ride?
Shook: Everything has to fit when the music is done for the album. When I was creating Bicycle Ride I was watching a lot of Studio Ghibli movies by Miyazaki and Takahata so I did a sketch and brought the concept to G. Holtenas, who also did the artwork for "Continuum". For this album, the artwork is also inspired by painters such as Van Gogh, Monet and Magritte. It was important for me to bring the whole feeling of 'care free' to the visual side of things as well.
MM: What do you to clear your head when you're not feeling so "care free"?
Shook: Make a cup of coffee and work. Maybe go to my local ramen bar and order a nice dish of Ramen with green tea. Or, play the piano, this also works very nicely.
MM: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
Shook: This is something I have been thinking about lately. I would tell myself not to care so much about things that don't matter. I was really stubborn. I still am, but even more so when I was younger.
MM: What puts the biggest smile on your face?
Shook: I remember reading all the positive messages my fans wrote to me when I was so ill. It's really special for me to read the positive effects the music can have on people.
MM: What do you think the world can learn from Shook?
Shook: I think, being thankful is important. I try to keep doing my best and not take anything for granted. I am very lucky to be able to do what I do. I have to thank my family, my friends, my loved ones and also my loyal fans who keep supporting me throughout the years. For me this is very special, and I am very thankful to be able to make a living out of music.
MM: Are you thankful to the universe for your most recent illness?
Shook: It is a double answer: Yes and No. No because obviously, it was a very difficult time. But yes, because when I tried to find a way to cope with the difficult situation, I found a new perspective on music and life. So I think I am lucky that it has also broadened my view of a different side of life.
MM: What side is that, exactly?
Shook: There are things you don't think about when you are healthy and young. I met so many amazing people during my stay in the hospital and it really opened up my eyes. The nurses, the doctors, the people who were also very ill, some in much worse condition than me. It was sometimes very sad, but there were also times where it was very happy. It reminded me about the things that really matter. During that time I was very lucky that I could count on my family, close friends, and Juliet who was there almost every day.
MM: Is this Juliet in the new video?
MM: After your recent stint in the hospital, what is on your bucket list now?
Shook: My bucket list is nothing spectacular to be honest. You know, when I was finally healthy enough to go back home and sleep in my own bed, this was already enough for me. I couldn't ask for more. I will continue to write new music as much as I can, because it makes me happy.
Pre-order a signed copy of Bicycle Ride on his Bandcamp before they sell out!