Shallou opens up about his debut Island Records album release “Magical Thinking,” life in 2020, and his creative process.
Music has the potential to inspire hope even in the darkest of days. Since first emerging into the electronic landscape in 2015, talented producer Shallou has garnered more than 350 million streams, making him one of the scene’s fastest-rising stars. Performing at Outside Lands and Coachella and collaborating with Bob Moses in 2019, Shallou recently dropped his highly anticipated debut full-length album titled Magical Thinking, out now on Island Records. With the record, Shallou takes us on a mystical journey replete with euphoria and wonder.
Carrying an ambient and otherworldly vibe, Magical Thinking powerfully reveals the range and beauty of Shallou’s production while powerfully maintaining his signature ambient, emotive, and atmospheric sound. Featuring Shallou’s own vocals as well as superb top-lines from established artists such as renowned duo The Knocks and female vocalists Daya and Ashe, the 12-track album tells a powerful and eclectic narrative sure to withstand the test of time.
EDM.com recently had the chance to catch up with Shallou to chat about Magical Thinking and his musical direction. Despite the many twists and turns of 2020, Shallou continues to shine bright with his powerful words of wisdom far beyond his years and his inspirational messages that overflow with love, passion, and strength.
EDM.com: Why is your name Shallou?
I started the project in my college dorm room. I was making beats under the name Low Tide. I was influenced by the aquatic, wavy style and visual. We found that the name Low Tide was taken so we were trying to come up with similar oceanic inspired stuff. We were initially gonna go with Shallow like in shallow water but think there was a band named Shallow so we dropped the “w” and made it a “u” just so it has this unique little sound to it. It has a little enigmatic feel to it and fit the music I was making very well.
Shallou: Why did you decide to name your new album Magical Thinking?
I was learning about the concept “magical thinking” in Psychology, which is kind of the idea that your thoughts or your actions can influence the world around you. It’s like this causal effect of people thinking they can control events with their own mind. It kind of came into like a practical use for expressing my own emotion through the book The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didian, which is about her grieving process with the loss of her husband. I was going through some sad stuff with my family and with my girlfriend’s family. I wanted to really express more emotions in my music and tell more of my own story and a story of with deeper concepts. That’s where I went with this album with expressing some deeper emotions while still having a few love songs in there. I love music like that. It lifts people up. And love is like the greatest thing in the world so how could you not write a love song?
And how would you say this album differs from your earlier music production?
Well I definitely brought in a lot of more collaborators like The Knocks, Ashe, and Daya, so I ended up making some stuff that was kind of like me but was sort of like in a new zone. It brought me out of my comfort zone a lot to working around what other people were suggesting and just making it more of a collaborative effort. From there I was using string arrangements, my voice more, and gospel vocalists to give everything a deeper dimension.
What has your experience been like working with Island Records?
I think it’s been extremely positive. When a lot of people hear the term major label they think they’re going to change your sound or things about you that your fans love or you love or try to influence you in ways that kind of destroy your brand. The way we approached the deal in the first place was we just wanted Island to be a partner and support whatever my creative vision is. They’ve been really supportive of the vision and the content I’m trying to make. It’s been really positive and I’m really excited to work with them on the next one.
What has it been like releasing your debut album at this challenging time in history?
It’s crazy because we’ve been working on rolling out the album for several months. I released my first single in September and I’ve been releasing a single like each month since then. Everything with smooth sailing until Mid-March. We started talking about having to postpone shows and when those will be in the future. My mindset was there was the option to push back the album but the way I was looking at it was people need music. People thrive off of music to get through difficult situations.
As an artist who makes money from streaming, I still have some passive income, so I could make a little sacrifice when it comes to doing these kinds of things. I wanted to give people the product I told them I would and not pull the rug out from under them because everything else was getting pulled out from under them. I didn’t think that was good for morale in general.
What’s currently keeping you inspired and motivated?
A lot of it has to do with that I don’t really have a choice. I don’t that many to things to occupy my mind and that has made me reorient how I want to spend my time, and most of the time that’s making music. That has been inspiring in a way that it has made you strip away the nonsense and made you figure out what you’re about and what you want to spend your time doing when you have no distractions really.
That has been the big thing and then I’ve been watching a lot of streaming like that show “Devs” that has incredible production design. There are all of these great shows and content and movies you may not have had the time to watch before but now you’re like you have time to add that to your list because your list is never ending. I’m doing things I wouldn’t normally do and watching things I wouldn’t normally watch. That’s giving me a new perspective.
What’s your creative process like?
I think it changes from song to song. It starts with me and the laptop in the box with an idea and me slowly building pieces around that and then when you get that excited or aha moment when you’re like this could be something. Then I get to the point where I could be coming up with vocal melodies or coming up with how I can build the song structurally and it’s a snow ball effect. It’s free flowing.
Some songs will take hours to get to that aha moment and some songs will take months to get there and you’ll just have to take a break away because you feel like there’s something there but you don’t want to ruin it or take it in the wrong direction of where you initially wanted it to be. It takes a lot of time trying things, playing with sounds. I think also for myself I’ve had a lot of luck taking songs from other songs I thought were cool and building that library in my DAW or building that synth catalog or drum sound catalog. I know what works for me and I love employing that. Having a library of Shallou sounds is helpful with creating.
You had the opportunity to work with Bob Moses. What was that like?
It was cool. We got connected when we were both playing Coachella last year. My publisher Ultra was setting up sessions. Anyway, they reached out and connected us. We’d never met or talked online before. We met up in the Ultra Studio.
It just started like building a normal house beat with this dark tinge that they do so well. I wanted to dip my toes into that world and see what came out. We started a demo we thought was really cool, and then we met up again, they were like “we think you should sing this.” I was singing a lot in that session, and I was trying to showcase more. Tom has such an incredible voice, that’s the singer, and I was like, “no man, you’re the best. You should do it.” I tried it anyways, and I was really excited, and they fell in love with it and that’s kind of like how the song came about. So it’s definitely like a step forward into the vocal world. They’re awesome guys.
What is your biggest achievement of your career to date?
It’s relative but I think the bigger thing for me was playing headline shows for the first time and having people know the words in the audience. I know it’s a little stereotypical but there’s just like this incredible feeling with people you don’t know connecting with you on that level. It means more than any stat or label signing.
What word would you use to describe 2020?
My positive word for 2020 is connection. Connection because even though we’re isolated, we’re more connected than ever. We’re calling people and talking to people we haven’t talked to in years. We’re starved for that connection. I think people are exploring that way more than they would otherwise.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your fans?
Keep doing things that make you feel level-headed, reach out to your loved ones, and stay connected.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.