Jade Shipman used to be in several Bay Area rock bands, though never as the main songwriter. But after going through a difficult period involving a divorce and the loss of several people she loved, she funneled her emotions into songwriting – and now, as the leader of Little Shrine (featuring guitarist Tony Schoenberg, violinist Ryan Avery, drummer Andrew Griffin, and keyboardist Garrett Warshaw) she’s returned with a sophomore album that showcases those heartfelt songs.
“They were tender and sensitive, definitely not rock songs, and it pissed me off, actually,” she remembers. “I don’t like sharing that side of myself unless I’ve built trust with someone. Yet I felt this weird sense of responsibility to the songs, almost like they were little kids that needed to be cared for. I felt like it was my job to shepherd them somehow, and that I’d regret it if I didn’t.” Following 2017 LP Wilderness, Little Shrine will release The Good Thing About Time on April 17.
The album features the single “Sound Barrier,” which is about “that moment where you realize you have to get out of a situation,” says Shipman. She wrote it after a partner of hers decided to get a pastry and “chill” at a coffee shop instead of meeting her at the hospital when she was sick.
“This song is essentially me saying no to the relationship,” she explains. “Maybe that’s why the chorus repeats three times at the end. Like no, no, and no again. Do I have to yell it? Because I totally will.” The quick tempo and happy-go-lucky tune add humor to the dark situation described in lyrics like, “Each month zooms, we push faster still / The speed of it makes me ill / I pull the eject, your anger reflects, confirming expectations.”
The rest of the album addresses issues that are both personal to Shipman and common to many women, like “I’m a Ghost,” which tackles the toll of emotional labor, and “Lost Potential,” which is about Shipman’s abusive father and how, “as women, we have to worry about pleasing a man to stay alive,” she explains. “To grow up like that, it takes a big toll. That fear of someone bigger and stronger than you, it’s very visceral,” she says. “I spent a lot of time trying to be small and not anger him. I felt like a piece of paper, trying to flatten myself against a wall. It’s taken a lot of work to make myself 3D again. I’m still working on it.”
She describes “Come On,” another song on the album, as a piece about pushing against the limitations described in those songs. “I almost didn’t put it on the record because I felt it sounded bratty to sing that ‘I want what I want, and I don’t want to say I’m sorry,'” she says. “When I was talking about it with our producer Ben Bernstein, we discussed how a man would probably not hesitate. So I thought, let’s do it. It turns out it’s one of the most fun and freeing songs to perform live, especially as a full five-piece band with Garrett Warshaw on keys and Andrew Griffin on drums. I feel alive and unselfconscious, which is a real antidote to the fear I felt growing up.”
Shipman sings in an almost conversational manner that invites the listener into her inner world, and the music combines standard rock instrumentals with violin, which gives it a folk vibe. All in all, she hopes her music inspires “liberation, people freeing themselves from their patterns and other people’s crap, and really anything that holds them back.”
She’s currently spending her days “singing to the cat” and getting inspired on walks through an empty San Francisco. “The city’s landmarks, like the Palace of Fine Arts or the paths leading to the Golden Gate Bridge, look incredibly different with zero people,” she says. “There’s a surreal vibe, but in a way, the emptiness is a sign of love. Some of that feeling might make it into a song.”
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