The Rendondo Beach native connects with old pal Ty Segall to record her most personal collection of songs yet
August is Shannon Lay’s third album of gentle ballads. It may be the most personal collection of songs she’s ever recorded. “As I wrote these songs, I was reflecting on my appreciation for being able to devote more of myself to music,” the singer/guitarist says from her home in Los Angeles. “In a sense, I wanted to consider what people are going through in the current political climate. There’s no time to waste. You have to do everything you want to do now, or never. Despite that, it’s a happy, hopeful record. It expresses my appreciation for being able to just do music and for the gifts of our human nature. August, two years ago, was the month I quit my day job. Between playing in Feels, my rock band, and my solo gigs, I’m able to make a living. I’m also singing and playing bass, bouzouki and guitar with Ty Segall.”
Segall, an old friend, produced August at the studio he runs in his home. “The experience was incredible. It was the first time I recorded direct to analogue tape. The tape machine had a bit of swish to it. We had to run all the cables into the basement, so the swish wouldn’t get picked up on the recording. We had Mikal Cronin on sax, Laena Geronimo, my partner in Feels on violin, Nick Murray on drums and me and Ty on guitar. Most of the songs were done in one take, with me playing guitar and singing. Then the other players came in to add their parts. There were a few mistakes, but that became part of the character of the recording.”
The songs on August are soft and intimate, most showcasing Lay’s intricate fingerpicking and unassuming vocals. She sites Nick Drake as an influence, and the songs have the calm, unassuming air that makes British folk so mellow.
“The UK has deep folk roots and I feel like I may have had a life there once,” Lay says. “It’s amazing to play gigs there. People are so respectful of quiet music.”
August includes the gentle fingerpicking and whispered vocal of “Sunday Sundown,” a song that ruminates on the longing that haunts the heart after the end of a relationship. “November,” an aching inquiry into the tension between mortality and immortality, that brings Nick Drake to mind, and “The Dream” a showcase for Lay’s guitar. She fills the air with sparkling arpeggios to compliment her reverb soaked singing.
Lay says making music and songwriting came to her naturally. “I needed a way to release some of that teenage, angsty energy. When I was 13, I went into a music store in Redondo Beach, where I grew up, and got a guitar and music lessons. I started making up songs right away. I got a laptop when I was 16. It had Garageband on it, so I began doing overdubs and singing harmonies. I used music as a place to discover myself and figure things out. After I moved to LA, I worked in a retail store. Laena Geronimo came in and handed me a CD of her music. She’d heard about me from a mutual friend. It’s eight years later and we’re still playing in Feels. I’m doing my solo stuff too. I know I’m lucky. I sing everyday and convey the energy I’m feeling by making music. That’s really cool!”
VIDEO: Shannon Lay “Death Up Close”