Shawn Amos Is a ‘Troubled Man’ on Upcoming Album With New Band The Brotherhood: Exclusive

Shawn Amos and the Brotherhood
James Freeman

Shawn Amos and the Brotherhood

The Reverend Shawn Amos has accomplished much in the music industry, both as a performer and behind the scenes. And on his new album Blue Sky -- due out April 17 and including the track "Troubled Man" that's premiering exclusively on Billboard today (March 12) -- he's found another new creative route.

"On this one I really wanted to cede control to the guys," Amos -- the son of Wally Famous Amos, a record producer and a former staffer at the William Morris Agency and Rhino Records -- tells Billboard, referring to the three members of his new band the Brotherhood, including drummer Brady Blade, guitarist Chris "Doctor" Roberts and bassist Christopher Thomas. "It's the first album I've made where I've shared so much space and shared songwriting. I wanted to be part of a band rather than a solo artist -- that was a big motivating factor for me."

The rhythm & blues-flavored Blue Sky is, in fact, part of a period of transition for Amos. He recently moved from Los Angeles to Dallas, which he describes as "jarring, to say the least." He fought off an inclination "to run back home and make an album in L.A.," instead opting for the hill country of Wimberley, Texas, south of Austin, to shake things up even further.

"I thought, 'This is probably an opportunity for me to dig into this place and figure out how I can make it my own and gain some ownership over," explains Amos, who co-wrote most of Blue Sky's songs with Roberts. "It gave us a chance not only to isolate ourselves, but for me personally it forced me to look at my relationship with Texas. I think that comes out in the songs as well as a little bit of a change in my psychology."

One thing Amos feels the change brought about is a new direction for his writing, particularly in his lyrics. "I think if anything it's me giving myself permission to be easily misunderstood," says Amos, who cites the late Chris Whitley as one of his inspirations in making Blue Sky. "I was trying to play with metaphor and allusion and allow myself to be more poetic than I have before, where I felt this commitment to do the traditional blues thing and write, like, a real literal 'done me wrong' kind of song. I gave myself permission to be purposely maybe a little obtuse, hopefully to allow people to bring their own meaning into it rather than having it literally spelled out for them."

"Troubled Man," which features a guest vocal from Ruthie Foster, is "a song about denial and what it means to be a person living in desire, to have that collateral damage that occurs when that happens," according to Amos. He also acknowledges a nod to Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man."

"I love that song and I love Marvin," says Amos, who co-produced a version of Gaye's What's Going On album for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. "I wanted to take what he did and dive in deeper about what it means to be a troubled man. I really think we live in an age of denial and you have all these deeply wounded men who are deeply in denial about their own behavior or their sort of lack of self-awareness and the damage they cause because of that. That's the bigger picture."

Though touring is, of course, a volatile prospect right now, Amos currently plans to hit the road in April, starting on the East Coast and going around North America, with hopes of heading to Europe later in the year. "The thing really lives on the road," Amos says. "With recordings, it's hard to get people's attention to listen to stuff anymore. I feel like whenever we play live, it becomes fully realized. That's where it all clicks, not just for me and the band but for the fans, too. That's why I'm always anxious to play live."

Listen to “Troubled Man” below.

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