Q&A: Shawn Stockman
Somewhere between a solid touring schedule, multiple dates every year at the Mirage for Boyz II Men’s long-running residency and raising his family, Shawn Stockman found time to write and produce his own solo material for the first time in his long musical career. His single “Feelin’ Lil Som’n” is making moves in the R&B world and it’s just the beginning of what he says will be a new creative direction. Stockman will always be best known as a member of the best-selling R&B group of all time and Boyz II Men has been all over the place lately. They’ll perform with Bruno Mars for two New Year’s Eve concerts at T-Mobile Arena, but before that, they’re back in their Vegas home at the Terry Fator Theater on Dec. 28-29.
You recently released your first single as a solo artist. Why now?
Quite simply, I had the actual space. The guys and I have spent a little over 10 years rebranding Boyz II Men and getting it back to a level where it’s now running all by itself. The institution that is Boyz II Men is now a machine. It does certain things in a certain way with a certain group of people and it flows like this annually, which is what we always wanted. So with less concern about the group, it allowed me to turn my focus on other ambitions I had. Life is all about timing.
How different was the experience of writing and recording as a solo artist?
Part of the reason why I did it is that I’ve always enjoyed it. When we had a studio back in Philly called Stonecreek and a label of the same name under Sony, we released this artist named Uncle Sam. I did most of that record, produced and wrote seven of 11 songs. I love writing records and creating things on my own. To do things and sing them and hear how it sounds, by myself without the guys, it’s just fun for me, and it’s almost a challenge. Boyz II Men is such a big thing and people will always know me from that, so it’s like, let me see what I can do myself, see how I can push myself without having two other incredibly talented human beings in the room. It might sound masochistic but I like it.
Was it important to differentiate the sound of your songs from Boyz II Men?
I didn’t want to spook anybody out, coming out the first doing a folk record with a banjo and have everybody say, “What the hell is this dude doing?” I did what felt most natural to me. If you listen to the record, you’ll hear some nuances from Boyz II Men, but I’ve helped create the sound of the group so that’s just going to be there. But this won’t be my last solo project and as things progress and awareness grows, I’ll be able to do what other artists do and that’s branch out, experiment a little bit, work with other artists and so on. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
You’re in the sixth year of your residency in Las Vegas at The Mirage and it definitely seems like you are still enjoying it. Do you have a favorite part of the show?
I like the rock stuff, when we grab guitars and start playing. I know there are people who have known us for years and that may seem foreign and I like being able to shock people. And it allows me to better myself at playing guitar. Every night I play in front of people is another 15 minutes toward that 10,000 hours I need to be great at it.
How long have you been playing?
About five years. Any artist will say sometimes singing the same songs for years can feel a little routine. Playing an instrument, strapping on this piece of wood with strings and metal, it’s always something new and unexciting and unpredictable for me. It keeps your blood running.
It sounds like keeping things fresh is important. Is that the secret behind the longevity of Boyz II Men?
We just enjoy it still. There’s no other place that gives me more peace and fulfillment than being onstage and singing songs. Even performing the same music, it’s still a work in progress, you’ll still come across things you didn’t hear before and there are always ideas you might come up with on the fly. And we love each other, we get along in a sense that we understand and respect each other’s space and opinions on things. We’re so not the typical story you hear about bands that have been together for years. Do we fight sometimes? Absolutely. Disagreements? Absolutely. But we’ve gone through enough to understand and know nothing is worth breaking up something we’ve all put our hearts and soul into.