Shawnee Kilgore’s Long Precious Road
Includes a mega writer-director and “beautiful kind of permission”
By William Harries Graham,
2:45PM, Fri. Sep. 18, 2015
Shawnee Kilgore is couture model tall. When she enters a room, it lights up like a bouquet of wild flowers. No surprise, then, that Kilgore caught the attention of Hollywood cottage industry Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story, The Avengers). They’ve started writing together and released the single “Big Giant Me” last year.
Kilgore sang “Big Giant Me” in the first set of her Cactus Cafe CD release of A Long and Precious Road last night. It was a big party of friends and fans. After opening solo, the local Washington State transplant called up her extraordinary band: Mike Meadows on drums, Andrew Pressman on bass, and Kilgore’s partner, William Wallace, on guitar.
Even with such astute backing, Kilgore owned the stage. She told quirky, embarrassing stories, including one that found her drunk in a graveyard in Atlanta after a spontaneous trip from Austin. Talk about being both genuine and talented.
A Long and Precious Road was recorded locally at Mark Hallman’s Congress House Studio, produced and engineered by the owner’s right-hand man, Andre Moran, who was front and center at the Cactus on Thursday. He says the new album “truly showcases Shawnee’s unique voice as a songwriter, and I think it’s only the beginning of more great things to come from her.”
Whedon stumbled into collaborating with Kilgore though Kickstarter, which funded the new album. The pair plan to release an EP next year.
“Joss is so incredibly human, and it was so easy right from the beginning,” enthuses the Austin singer-songwriter. “When he backed the Kickstarter campaign, I still wasn’t entirely sure who he was, and for the first few weeks of emailing and talking songs I still didn’t know. It was a fast friendship and writing songs together grew organically. It’s weird how not weird it’s been.
“I still have my moments, not of being starstruck so much as just surreal struck. We picked up a lot of momentum in the beginning and then he was finishing Avengers II. We pick back up later this month.”
Kilgore was born in Maine and starting at 5 was raised in Bellingham, WA. When she was 9, her father, who was a poet, committed suicide. She says she draws great strength from her mother raising her and brothers alone.
Kilgore didn’t mean to move to Austin. She found herself on an extended stay until Austin was home. She also didn’t intend on becoming a folksinger.
At 14, her intention was to become a musician in order to meet teen crush Daniel Johns from the Australian band Silverchair. So she formed a punk band in her mom’s garage. Now she writes songs with Joss Whedon and has yet to meet Johns.
Watching her from afar, you'd never guess she’d been feeling down on her luck last year.
“I woke up one day and realized that my fairy tale Austin life was really not what I thought it was,” she admits. “I realized how much I was waiting for the right people and opportunities to come along and validate me – for someone else to turn this into a lucrative career because it didn’t feel in my power to do so. The growing pains were hard, but the pain from keeping myself from growing was much worse.”
“Folk Star/My Devil Says to Me” from A Long and Precious Road begs an age-old question of the music business: “‘When you gonna be a folk star?’ my devil says to me, ‘’cause you can do it all for freedom but you can’t do it all for free.”
Kilgore describes her music as folk Americana. "That means to finger pick and sing lots of words," she laughs.
“Poetry in which people can see their own hearts and emotions,” she explains further. “I think my music is hopeful and connective, honest and raw. I like to say the things that not everyone can say for themselves. I like to be more honest than people expect.
“My songs tell people that whatever they’re feeling is OK – that they’re human. It’s a beautiful kind of permission.”