Lisa Shaw Talks EDM Fads, Miami Scene, and New Album With Miguel Migs
Since the mid '90s, this beloved Canadian-born singer has put her soulful golden touch on records by deep house luminaries like King Britt, Q-Burns Abstract Message, Fred Everything, and Andy Caldwell. Of course, Shaw is also a prolific songwriter with several acclaimed albums and EPs to her name.
But her closest collaborator in recent years has been renowned San Francisco DJ-producer and Salted Music label boss Miguel Migs.
With the pair alighting at The Vagabond on Saturday for a special live performance, Crossfade caught up with Ms. Shaw -- currently a Miami resident -- to chat about her early days in the NYC house music scene, fads in electronic dance music, and her new album in the works.
Crossfade: What did you grow up listening to? And how did you first get drawn to dance music? Did the music scene in your native Toronto shape your tastes in any way?
Lisa Shaw: My parents are Jamaican and I come from a family of six, all older than me. So I grew up with everything from reggae to soul, funk, rock, pop, New Wave, and disco. Toronto had a huge impression on my musical taste because we were exposed to all music without prejudice. My taste in music goes from one spectrum to another, which allows me to express myself however I feel.
When did you first start singing? Did it come naturally to you? Or did you hone the skill through classical training?
I went to an arts high school and majored in voice, so I was trained classically, as well as [in] contemporary and musical theater. I always had a love and fascination with singing, and had friends and family around me that assured me I had something I should develop. Sometimes, you can think you have some kind of talent, but you need others to give you reassurance to pursue it, or else it's really just an illusion.
You started your recording career in New York City in the mid '90s. What are your fondest impressions of the house music scene there at the time? And what was it like working and moving in it?
I remember being in the booth with my mentor DJ Smash, and watching Frankie Knuckles play at a club -- I am not sure of the name at the moment. I was so young and though I know Frankie plays my music now, I highly doubt he knows I was that girl in the booth, hanging out.
There was another time with Barbara Tucker and Nell's, back in the day -- it was open mike Mondays and she was the queen of the night! It was my first opportunity to sing, and though I did my usual covers -- Billie, Diana, Bonnie Raitt -- she was the headliner and was always so wonderful to see. Prince actually came out a couple nights to watch and (just my luck) I was not there. Ugh!
My fondest memories come from Shine with Prohibited Beats and Nerve. It was a live D&B collective with leader/drummer Jojo Mayer and a bunch of heavy hitters like Takuya Nakamura, Karsh Kale, MC T.C. Islam, and Jonathan Maron, to name a few. We played live every Tuesday at Shine in NYC for about a year. It was all improv, and Jojo was a live drum machine. It was just the sickest thing ever, and I was blessed to be part of such a crew. The experience taught me a lot, and I honed quite a few skills from playing live with a band that never rehearsed.