Space Rider (2001) and Days Like This (2002) were two of the biggest tracks to come off the eponymous debut album from the talented Shaun Escoffery. The London born singer, songwriter (who grew up with the equally talented Idris Elba) was part of a select group of hugely successful UK singers who initially plied their trade in the house and UKG scenes-other notable names at the time-think Craig David.
Shaun was able to bring his booming soulful vocals to the popular house movement appealing to the underground and mainstream with ease. Subsequently he dropped a further two well received albums; Soulnica (2003) and Move Into Soul (2007).
Due to that powerful delivery Shaun’s services were requested for musical theatre and for the next seven years (since his debut in 2001) he graced the stages for huge musicals like The Lion King, Les Miserables and Parades which earnt him a Laurence Olivier nomination for best supporting actor. Finally however with his newest album Red Rooms due for official release this year, fans are finally able to get some fresh music and surprisingly rather than some complicated reason for his absence it’s a simple answer.
‘I did not have anything to say’ he laughs, before adding ‘The thing is I stepped away from the music for a bit because I did not feel inspired so I transitioned into acting and the theater discipline more- in truth it has been a really great move. I have been performing in the Lion King for a number of years which has been really good. I did Les Miserable which and Parade at the Dogma Theatre where I got nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for the Best Supporting actor so it has been really busy.’
Shaun’s musical pedigree cannot be disputed. It was in many respects a brave move into musical theatre. At the time, Shaun’s ascendancy seemed to show no limits. Case in point was a seal of approval from none other than Elton John.
“I remember I was sitting down it was a Saturday night and he [Elton John] was being interviewed for one of those talks shows. They were talking about his new single and then they asked who he was feeling at the moment and he mentioned my name and said he loved my album-I nearly dropped off my chair?” The plaudits were well deserved and talking with Shaun we collectively reminisce about the enduring popularity of some of his well known tracks.
“I remember when I did the first album and people were saying that it’s a wicked album but it is far ahead of its time. I just thought it was an excuse because they were not feeling the album but they were actually telling the truth. It’s amazing because even now I will get a teenager coming up to me saying, ‘Days Like This’ is a brilliant tune’ or I will hear people covering my track; as an artist that is a great feeling.”
Red Rooms is his fourth album and points to an artists who is ‘older’ and definitely ‘has something to say’. Now working independently without “label pressure” this latest album he confides was more of a joy partly because he found a producer in the shape of Gil Cang. Gil’s pedigree was cemented with tracks like Whatever Happens taken off Michael Jackson’s tenth album Invincible (2001).
“I met a Kwame Kwaten (Laura Mvula’s manager) to Gil Cang who co-produced and co-wrote Red Rooms. We were on the same vibe musically and I just liked his attitude-there was no fluffy type of talk.” He adds, “We sat down and Gil asked what type of album you want to make? It was not that I did not have a clue but I just stated I want to make music that I love like; Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Isley Brothers, Donny Hathaway and if it was a quarter as good as them then I would be happy.”
Unrestricted by any prior deadlines, Shaun clearly reveled in the creative process.
“The journey was fun we had some real jokes. I really enjoyed making the album because there was no pressure or labels breathing down my neck, it was quite leisurely. The album took a while Gil and I were just so busy. There were times when long periods of time would go by because I could not get there or Gil was caught in another project so it has taken about two years. In all fairness we could have done this a lot quicker but it just the way it goes.”
While the album is ostensibly a retro soulful retro type of album, Shaun pays homage to his house roots with two cuts from Dj Spinna and his good friend Idris Elba.
“House music has shown me so much love over the years that there is no way I am going to drop an album and not have something for them. House music is my roots and they supported me back then and they still do.”
Despite so many years out of the industry (which for some people can spell the end of their career), Shaun’s hiatus already looks like a good move and the press interest in him (despite the gap) seems to confirm his standing in the UK music scene. Shaun is long enough in the tooth to know that the music industry is fickle but his sheer enthusiasm for performing has by his own admissions kept him going and will evidently keep him going.
“It has always been hard to make it in the industry there has never been a time where I thought it was easy to make it in the music industry. To be successful in this industry there is no real formula to success: it’s talent, it’s graft, it’s luck, the right team it so many different things. Someone asked me the other day what advice would I give to young artists? I just said that you have to love what you do and really hone your craft. You have the attitude where you would love to make it in the industry and be successful but if you don’t I will still continue because at the end of the day the love is there”.
RED ROOMS released on 01 09 14