Not long ago, Jenny Shawhan had an epiphany. It was deliberate and it was life changing. That moment of enlightenment flavors every song on her new album, Don’t Be Afraid. (Release date: July 23, 2021)
“I shifted my outlook,” the Colorado-based singer says. “I started opening up to more ease and support instead of believing everything had to be so hard.”
“My life started to change when I adopted that mentality,” she continues. “I’m where I am because of that.”
Her newly-adopted mantra couldn’t have come at a better time. 2020 began with Shawhan facing life as a single woman for the first time since college. And like every other American, COVID put an end to socializing on any level.
“I have thrived during this time,” she laughs. “I’m not saying I haven’t had low moments, but I took the time to rest, to write and surrender to what was happening.”
Now 40, Shawhan is looking at herself in a way that was impossible when she was a young music student in Nashville. “There’s a reason I’m hitting now,” she explains. “I didn’t have this same message or perspective when I was in my 20s. Now I’m creating a whole new life, and trusting my own intuition has given me clarity.”
The album’s title track is exactly her story. “During quarantine, I was taking a walk in the snow,” she explains. “I was feeling a bit lonely from the isolation. I remember laying down and making a snow angel in the yard when I got back to the house. As tears filled my eyes I started to pray. I looked up and the sun was shining on me through the branches of the trees I was next to. That’s when the first lyric came to me.”
“Since the dawn of time / Like a kiss on your cheek / The sun shines for you / Finds you through the trees / You’re here to be loved / You’re here to be lit / And I’m here to remind you / In case you forget”
“Don’t Be Afraid” is the anchor and center of an album not shy about self-empowerment. On songs like “I Do It For Me” Shawhan gives herself permission to care for herself. “I started making a list of things I do just for me that make me happy,” she explains. She shows her vulnerability on songs “Like A Charm” (written to her mother out of frustration) and “Come On Home” (missing her sister during lockdown) then turns up the heat on tracks “Daddy’s Got A Briefcase (written from a true story about a club owner) and “Don’t You Tell Me What To Do” (an inspired confrontation at a bar gig) showcasing her versatility and bringing out her personality.
Comparisons have been made from Bonnie Raitt and Melissa Etheridge to Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton, but Shawhan is no copycat. Her music is, rather, a blend of influences that she presents honestly and without pretension.
Produced by award-winning producer/engineer/steel guitarist John Macy (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Los Lobos). He enlisted veteran guitarists Justin Weaver (The Chicks, Wynonna, Josh Turner) and Chris Leuzinger (Garth Brooks, George Strait, Randy Travis) and keyboardist Pete Wasner (Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, John Prine) along with Shawhan’s rhythm section of bassist Alex Goldberg and drummer Ryan Elwood.
Growing up in Mooresville, Indiana and now living in Denver, Shawhan was influenced early by her grandmother’s hymns and her dad’s love of country radio. She started playing piano at age 7, then quickly discovered her voice singing in the school choir. After high school, she went to Nashville’s Belmont University where she began exploring her craft, gained professional experience and started writing her own songs.