Shawn McDonald is a popular contemporary Christian music artist who Beautiful Mess Ministries had the honor of touring with in December. Before the tour began, Shawn took some time to talk with Beautiful Mess about his newest project and the Christian music industry.
Although Shawn’s first album, “Simply Nothing,” debuted back in 2004, his music and style has evolved over the years. “Times change, so the styles of music change as well,” Shawn said. “If an artists doesn’t evolve over the years, most likely they disappear pretty quickly.
“The trick and the goal is always to remain and keep some part of integrity that gives you some sort of a stamp of ‘this’ … you have something that people gravitate towards and that can change from a production standpoint or who you’re creating with, or the label you’re involved with and how much freedom they give you as an artist – a lot of different things factor in. … So you need to find the balance of that and remain true to your music.”
Shawn’s newest album, “The Search,” is his first release after his 12 year record deal came to a close and he and the label parted ways. His new project “feels reminiscent of (my) beginning stages of music,” Shawn said. “The new project, in my hopes, is a non-polluted record in the sense of it’s not a record about making money – it’s a record of passion and love and the things that are important to me in life.”
Just as it is necessary for artists to evolve musically, Shawn said the labels in Christian music industry are also “going to have to adjust the way they approach artists.
“The reality is: no one buys records anymore, so there really isn’t money to be made in record sales as much these days.”
Labels are adapting, and Shawn isn’t sure if they will ever fully go away. “But I feel, as an artist, we’re entering a stage where the label is unnecessary. We don’t need them anymore,” Shawn said. “The only part you need them is the funding in order to create the product. And that has become way cheaper because of the accessibleness of creating music. You can do a lot of it yourself, even from your own house.”
“I think we’re in a place that is bringing the power back to the people, back to the creators. The creators are the ones that should have it to begin with, it’s just somewhere along the line, people who weren’t creators who had different kind of mindsets figured they could take the creators creations and make money out of them, and created this industry,” Shawn said. “It’s kind of coming back around, which I think could be a good thing. Ultimately, I think it will create more, better art because people that might have been great before might not have had the ability, resources, funding, or even the knowhow to get to (labels) can now create things.
“I think we’re in a good place. The artists will always be here, we’re not going to go anywhere, it’s just all the industry around it and how that flexes, because you’ll always need help and won’t be able to do everything on your own, but maybe can pick and choose.”
As a Christian music artist, Shawn said everyone has a different approach to, and relationship with, music.
“For me … at the end of the day, songs for me, in a sense, are like therapy,” Shawn said. “They are ways to get out the inner world of what you’re thinking and processing, feeling. There are good ways to poetically sing about love, adventure, and all these things about life – and when put in song form it brings some sort of beauty. Even in dark times, it can bring some light to whatever you’re going through. For me, music is an opportunity almost as if to paint a picture and work through some feelings. I never want to take the stance of ‘having it all figured out’ because it’s not the case, it’s more of a ‘figuring’ for me. So music is kind of that for me, it’s the struggling of ‘what is this thing life?’, ‘what is God?,’ ‘what is family?’, ‘what are all of these things and how do we apply them to our lives?’ and ‘how are they real?’
“That’s part of what spiritual life is, figuring out what all this is inside and how to I get rid of the junk and change the parts that need to change,” Shawn said. “I want to honor God with my life, and I’m figuring out what that looks like, and that hopefully encourages and helps others.”