06/30/2014 02:38 pm ET Updated Aug 30, 2014

A-Sides with Jon Chattman: Ryan Shaw Shows Some "Real Love"; Animal Years Lift Some Spirits

You know it's summer in New York City when rooftop concerts start taking place. That said, I am a bit curious if such gigs take place in the freezing cold months. If they do, it's pretty messed up to have people get frost bite just to hear their favorite tunes. As I Google that or perhaps not (I waste time on the Interwebs but even I have to cross a line somewhere), let's move from my irrelevant curiosity to the purpose of this post. Earlier this month, Round Hill Music held a private event (hat tip to Heineken) atop a Manhattan roof (how's that for generalization and weird phrasing?) with two vastly different rising performers.

Ryan Shaw has worn many hats in recent years. Of course, I'm referring to the fact he's mastered several mediums. That said, he may also literally wear a lot of hats. But, that's not important right now. If you see him, ask him. If not, well, it's a weird question to ask somebody anyway. Back to Shaw: the artist. The Atlanta native made his New York debut in Tyler Perry's play I Know I've Been Changed., and performed with the group Fabulous Soul Shakers. His debut album, This Is Ryan Shaw earned him a 2008 Grammy nomination for "I Am Your Man." But the accolades didn't stop there - nor did the bucket list moments. First, he opened for Van Halen's 2007-2008 North American tour and supported John Legend. In 2011, he received another Grammy nomination for "In Between," and a third for "Yesterday" off Real Love. If you follow what I just told you, it should come as no surprise that the R&B talent is currently playing Stevie Wonder on Broadway in Motown: The Musical. Watch a rooftop performance from Shaw, and follow the Q&A below.

Did you ever give any thought to being known as Tyler Perry's Ryan Shaw? Having his name, as you know, seems to bring instant asses to seats.
No. The thought never crossed my mind. I talk about my experience with Tyler often in interviews and how amazing it was, especially compared to the show I left to do his. I feel at this point, all these years later, it would feel like a gimmick-- unless of course he wanted to be one of the executive producers on my next album or sponsor my next tour. Yes, those are awesome ideas. [Laughs]

You opened for Van Halen back in 2007. What was that experience like?
The Van Halen Tour was awesome. Playing in sold-out arenas every night was priceless. I call it the gig that eradicated my stage fright. It was cool, because when the lights go down in an arena of 20,000 or 30,000 people, and they come back up and on the stage is not Van Halen, it usually garners very loud booing. The Van Halen crowd can be very rowdy, but they appreciate good musicianship, obviously. So I made a bold move-- my primary instrument is my voice-- so I started the show "a cappella" with Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." Through the booing, I would start "I was born by the river, in a little tent..." There would be a moment of complete silence until "but I know, a change gone come..." and then a defining roar. That would happen each night, and it was very unnerving to sing through booing, but that's what cured my stage fright.

Wow. That must've been amazing. How do you think the band's respective livers are doing now?
I couldn't really say-- our interactions with the band were not many, but the few there were have been monumental for me.

Motown: The Musical was a gamechanger for you - describe the experience in only a handful of words.>
I had to cancel my European tour in order to do Motown, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to play Stevie Wonder on Broadway. Working with the man himself, Berry Gordy, and getting a blessing from Stevie Wonder to portray him has been a true honor.

I can only imagine, man! What can you cross off your bucket list that I can legitimately put on mine and have possibly happen?
To See Patti LaBelle live. This woman has such an incredible energy on stage that sometimes recordings cannot capture.

Brooklyn's Animal Years (real name Mike McFadden) makes some pretty amazing roots rock for quite some time now. Have a listen to his three previous releases or his latest Sun Will Rise record, and you'll feel good about the sweet melodies of his that really shine. See what I did there? I referenced "shine" after noting his record was called Sun Will Rise. My journalism professors would be proud. It's a play on words, and it worked quite well there. Well, it worked somewhat. Anyway, watch a roof top performances below, but first here's a Q&A I did with the talented musician.

Sun Will Rise has some summer feel good vibes. American Authors and Oh Honey to name a few are putting out some really uplifting stuff lately. Is it safe to say you don't have to write about depressing shit to have a hit?
Yeah, I mean look at two of the biggest songs of the year: "Best Day Of My Life" by American Authors, and "Happy" by Pharrell-- probably some of the happiest songs this year. I think a lot of people turn to music to lift their spirits and get motivated, so it's easy to explain why they're such big hits.

You go by Animal Years now and it works in music. Would this have flown had you changed your name to that in high school? Like "Animal Years - please report to the principal's office?"
I don't think so. I mean, in high school, I would have had to change my name legally and a lot of paperwork would have been involved. Luckily, bands change their names all the time, and they don't have to get the government involved.

Good point. How is this latest album different than others in the past? I sense a difference but I want to hear it from you.
My first album was very pop/country. There's still a lot of that on Sun Will Rise, but with a little grit and dirt added on. You can tell as I've gone through the years that life's challenges have influenced my sound and lyrics. I think you can also tell that I went from mimicking my favorite artists to developing a sound that's more my own.

I do sense that indeed. Last question, how is this question different than the other questions I just asked?
Well, this one has a "4" in front of it, and others, for example, have numbers like "3," "2," and "1."

A-Sides "Delve Into Twelve" Countdown
Each week A-Sides unleashes its Top 12 tracks of the week AKA the "Delve Into Twelve"based on the following contributing factors: songs I'm playing out that particular week NO MATTER WHEN THEY WERE RELEASED (think overlooked songs, unreleased tracks, and old favorites), songs various publicists are trying to get me to listen to that I did and dug a bunch, posts and trends I've noticed on my friends' Facebook walls, and - most importantly - the songs my two-year-old son gravitates toward by stomping his feet in approval. Yeah, you read that right. This weeks follows below (LW= last week's rank).

12. "Snap Out of It" (debut) - Arctic Monkeys
11. "Seasons (Waiting On You) - (countdown reentry) - Future Islands
10. "Shadow" (debut) - Bleachers
9. "Peaches" (LW-9) - In the Valley Below
8. "Am I Wrong" (debut) - Nico & Vinz (coming soon to A-Sides!)
7. "Habits" (LW-7) - Tove Lo
6. "Now Hear In" (LW-6) - Cloud Nothings
5. "Let it Burn" (debut) - The Orwells
4. "Chandelier" (LW-2) - Sia
3. "Stolen Dance" (LW-5) - Milky Chance
2. "Would You Fight For My Love?" (LW-3) - Jack White
1."Glory" (LW-1) - Wye Oak


About A-Sides Music

Jon Chattman's "A-Sides Music" series was established in August 2011 and usually features artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometimes humorous) way. No bells, no whistles -- just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, I'm hoping this is refreshing. Artists have included: fun, Courtney Love, Air Supply, Birdy, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Pharrell Williams, American Authors, Imagine Dragons, Gary Clark Jr., and more! A-Sides theme written and performed by Blondfire.