Women in Music 2019

Kitchen Dwellers Address America's Opioid Crisis With 'Shadows': Exclusive

Silky Shots
Kitchen Dwellers

Kitchen Dwellers' "Shadows," whose video is premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Nov. 13), may have a spirited tone but, as the title indicates, it came from a darker place.

Shawn Swain, mandolinist for the Montana roots troupe, tells Billboard that he wrote the song "upon witnessing the devastation of the opioid crisis we have going on in our country," via personal experiences with people he knows.

"'Shadows' is the fictional story about three people with their own struggles connecting to each other through this epidemic," Swain says. "One of them is the addict, one is a family member and the other one is in love with the addict. I tried to point out what it's like for people who are living in this situation in an attempt to open some eyes and let people know that a lot of people out there need help -- and when you do need help, it's hard to ask for it."

The video, meanwhile, features the band playing "Shadows" in a closed hospital in Butte, Montana, a town Swain says has been hit hard with substance issues. "In Butte you see this trend of people who worked in these copper mines and got hurt, and that type of addiction definitely overtook Butte for a while," Swain explains. "We chose this absolutely terrifying, abandoned hospital that hasn't been in use since the 1950s. There's all sorts of interesting people who have squatted and lived there since then, and I imagine some of their tales might be similar to some of what's going on in 'Shadows.' That's not why we chose that location, but it did seem like a perfect place to do [the video]."

"Shadows" opens Muir Maid, the Kitchen Dwellers' just-released, crowd-funded sophomore album. It's not the only topical song on the 12-track set, but Swain says it's "probably the most heavy as far as current connecting...especially with the rise of awareness of mental health issues we have in the music industry." Much of the album, he adds, is inspired by the four group members' recent travels, including to Alaska. "We wanted to showcase our growth and who we actually are as people, through our music," Swain notes.

Muir Maid was produced Chris Pandolfi of the Infamous Stringdusters, which Swain calls a positive experience for all concerned. "Working with Chris was unbelievable," he says. "Just the kind of mass of knowledge and musical understanding that guy has is hard to find with anybody else. You’re talking about a guy who's studied at Berklee, and we're a band that has no training. So for him to put himself where we are and be the musical director and wizard and bring things out of us we didn't know we had before shows how musical and how genuine of a person he really is. I can't tell you how wonderful it was and how great we feel [the album] came out."

Listen to “Shadows” below.

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