In conversation with… Shaun Escoffery

Let me begin by saying, if there is one single tune that so sublimely conjures up summer and the happiness those hazy lazy days carry then it is, undoubtedly in my book, ‘Days Like This’. I’ve heard it countless times, a perennial favourite at the incredible monthly night of groove and friendship that is the legendary London club night ‘Sunday Happy Day’, and I shall never tire of it. It’s a modern classic, crossing generations; it is a blissful holiday encapsulated in song. If music is love in search of a word, then ‘Days Like This’ finds love and names it the exultation of joy.

I can rest easy in assuring you that this track alone would allow Shaun Escoffery to rest back on his laurels as the deliverer of an eternal gem in countless households near and far, not an easily achieved accolade by any means. Of course, Shaun is thankfully far more than a one mega hit wonder. Indeed, the success of this track came right on the back of the 2001 release ‘Space Rider’, which first introduced us, the wilder world, to his masterful vocals.

“I wrote ‘Space Rider’ with Geoffrey Williams and I still love that track. It’s a timeless song and one that I’m very proud of.”

I’ll come to more of his recording in a moment. But worthwhile mentioning is his work upon the stage too, which included a 2007 Laurence Olivier Award nomination for the musical ‘Parade’, and his taking on in the following year of the majestic Mufasa in ‘The Lion King’. These and other roles, along with his recordings of vintage tracks such as ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’, where his smokey gravel begins through impressive range to a beautiful falsetto, excelling to easily match the original whilst standing firmly on its own; together these alone place Shaun as one of our leading lights of the UK music scene and beyond.

So now we come to ‘The Red Room’, Shaun’s latest album released in 2014. If you’ve not yet discovered this for yourself, what are you doing my friends, go forth and make a purchase forthwith (and make sure it is the Special Edition, you will not be disappointed with what that brings you). This is for me a true shining moment in his career, a collection of songs that stand rich with their maturity, delivered with such accomplishment of lyric, voice and accompaniment that pulls you in, and grows on you with each listen. Though not to dismiss any of his previous offerings in the slightest way, I was left and remain feeling this is a disc that at last completely and distinctly offers up his talent for our discerning ear; the album we’ve been waiting for him to make. It was Beethoven who said: “music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” Shaun does that here.

“It has been a long time since I’ve released a body of work. And for me it’s just been a case of having something to say musically, and having the right elements in place to make it happen. And just enjoying the process of making music and falling in love with the process of making music again. It was a real labour of love making that album.”

Opening with ‘Nature’s Call’, less a call to arms and more a plea for the essential harmony we need to see in those who are leading the more serious issues facing our society and the world at large. I know, sounds heavy going; trust me, it’s a pounding catchy rhythm, along with the (not on the album) Idris Elba’s Ibiza Disco Mix, the two friends going way back.

“Idris is a very good friend of mine. I’ve known Idris for well over 20 years. As well as being a Fantastic Actor is a great producer and musician in his own right. We have worked on a few projects together throughout the years.”

There’s also the sing-a-long anthem of ‘People’ (two versions on the special edition, though here we have the DJ Spen and Gary Hudgins Remix). Don’t get me wrong, Shaun hasn’t gone all pious preacher on us, but as gospel-tinged as this album is he certainly has some important messages to get out there. Personally, I always admire it when an artist sings tale to us that is more than simply regarding the highs and lows of the quintessential affaire de coeur.

These are there of course, and splendidly so. From the dreaming beatitude of ‘Perfectly Good Affair’ to the true growth of the seductive ‘Do U Remember’ and on to the repeating mistrusting headache of the heavily infectious ‘Crazy’.

For any lover of ‘Days Like This’ (who cannot be) comes a captivating acoustic version which allows you the luxury of closing your eyes and imagining Shaun is right there with you jamming out on that massive hit, and once again succinctly focuses you onto what a fine instrument his voice is. This track sees me hit the repeat button often here at musicgspot towers.

Shaun has just finished a sell-out set of dates in London, which I’m gutted to have missed. Maybe I can persuade him to perform a brief set at the aforementioned ‘Sunday Happy Day’ where he is so universally loved. One thing I’m certain of, any chance to catch him live must be a blessing to behold upon one’s soulful ear; and with this proven track record of music thus far, his continued ascendancy in the realms of his artistry is promised most certainly. This will no doubt be propelled further by his forth-coming single ‘When The Love Is Gone’, taken from his next album ‘Evergreen’ which is released in September 2015, including a duet with Joss Stone on the title track. The album, just as ‘The Red Room’ was, is produced by Gil Cang, who is from a family of three brothers all of which are musicians. He has a long history in reggae and credits in the pop world as far reaching as Michael Jackson.

“We hit it off straight away. It works because we have the same vision and it’s all about the music… the rest is history in the making.”

So I await the arrival of ‘Evergreen’ with great anticipation, and trust that it will propel Shaun to even further and greater success.