Updated: Sep 14, 2019
Daniel Shaw, 21, hails from Melbourne, Victoria. At the age of 12, he released his first album and embarked on his first tour in America and Europe. In 2019, he emerged as the runner-up of 'The Voice Season 8'. He has been busking since he was eight years old and performed at Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne for the last 13 years. His latest releases include his calming, insightful 10 Years album and mesmerizing Cross The Line EP. One of the greatest highlights of his music career was during the World Championships of Performing Arts, in which he won silver in five categories for his original song "Hey Little Brother” from his 10 Years album.
Although he is an introvert at heart, his shy personality vanishes when he plays the piano. His quiet voice speaks volumes on his talent and he has been likened to artists such as Ed Sheeran, James Blunt and Coldplay. Yet, he projects a prominent style of his own.
I had the privilege of interviewing Daniel regarding his journey as an artist and how it all began for him more than 10 years ago.
Tell me a little bit more about yourself.
I come from a pretty big family: a family of nine. Five sisters, one brother, my mom and dad. I started off on the piano along with my elder sister under my dad's guidance. At times, I was near giving up, but my dad wouldn’t let me. I was and am a very shy person so he had given me the push that I needed to be who I am today.
Congrats for having all four judges turn during your audition on The Voice! Were there any reasons that you chose “Beneath Your Beautiful” as your first song?
I needed something intimate. My main kind of style is ballads and songs that really moved people. For my performance, I wanted there to be moments of silence and moments of just allowing the coaches to feel something. That’s why I sang the first line and then, I had a huge, long pause before singing the second line. I just wanted them to take it slowly-
Because silence is very powerful.
There are many great singers on the show- it’s crazy how many there are. Many of them can hit high notes at great volumes. But I really wanted to show that I didn’t have to do that. I just have to feel and connect with my audience- and that was enough.
How would you describe your style or genre of music?
I find it hard to describe my style because I don’t know how it’s gonna be until it comes out. When I cover songs, it's just a very 'Daniel Shaw' voice- I've heard from a lot people that I’m a mashup of Ed Sheeran, Dean Lewis and Passenger. If I were to be remembered for something though, it'd be the guy who really moves people through his songs on the piano.
Name a few artists whom you look up to.
This usually always changes but one that hasn’t changed is Billy Joel. He got me started on the piano and singing in the first place.
When I first started busking at eight years old, I covered songs by Billy Joel and Elton John.
Haha, I think I may have even played the song, "Daniel" by Elton John. That was my style to begin with and I kept evolving and changing it. Looking back, I don't think I could even sing. But people around me told me that I could. That was enough to keep me going. If you told someone that they could sing for long enough and help them, then, maybe someday they will.
You've been busking for 13 years. Do you have any tips for singers who are just starting out?
Yeah, busking has been the majority of my life and all I really remember doing. Tips- well, it depends where they’re starting out. In Melbourne, for example, it’s so easy to get started with busking. You just got to get your permit and you can start doing it. I think it’s only hard to go out there and do it by yourself. You need someone like my Dad was to me. Maybe, build a small team around you with friends or anyone who is willing to support you. You'll need equipment, you'll need motivation and a little bit of a strong mentality because you’re gonna be told to move and to turn it down and at times, you’re gonna get people shout at you. I don't think I'm strong; I just knew that I had to keep going. It's not easy but if you really want to do music and be a singer, put yourself out there. I find that very challenging because that’s the exact opposite of who I am. But given the opportunity and space in the city, I'd say,
give busking a try. It’s a great way to get your music out there.
It's mind-blowing that you toured America and Europe at the age of 12! How was that for you?
Haha, that was hard! Yeah, I was just going through school and stuff, and then busking on the weekends, and then school again- and teachers always had a go at me for not showing up at school. Sometimes, I’d be so busy doing music that I went to school just to turn in my homework. Eventually, I had to drop out. I had an opportunity to perform in the World Championships of Performing Arts in LA so I left school to do that.
I thought I'd be there for only two weeks
but we ended up ordering some CDs, contacting radios stations and managers, going places and touring. We did that for ages and I was just busking randomly all over the world. A manager from Europe contacted me so I went over there and we got a whole bunch of things done. I was burnt out and I haven’t toured ever since. I should have kept going, though. That was my biggest regret.
Trust me, you're already doing amazing. Now with your album, 10 Years and Cross The Line EP out, can you share the inspiration behind your albums?
Well, they’re both journeys. Cross The Line came from... a sort of relationship. The girl from Denmark whom I've been seeing for 6 months was leaving. I wasn’t ready for that, but she flipped it round on me and said I never loved her. I guess she was trying to detach herself from me. I wrote a whole bunch of songs on that, but Cross The Line is also about touring. It's about getting really close to making it but not close enough, being almost there but hitting a brick wall and not quite making it.
10 years is my first acoustic album. I wanted to remake all the songs that I wrote with my mum when I was 10.
It's 10 years worth of my songs.
I’ve got heaps from when I first wrote songs until now. It’s a bit of a salute to the past- these are the songs that started me off. These are my very first songs.
Could you share the meaning behind your latest MV "Used to Be”?
"Used to Be" is like a sequel to Don't Leave Me Now. She left and now, I'm trying to block out everything to do with her. For most of the music video, you'll see me walking. It's like the state of my mind; how it’s never shutting down. It’s continuously working and eating me up on the inside so I keep walking away from her house. I make the decision that I’m never coming back. There are occasional flashbacks of our most intimate moments to illustrate the battle that I have in my mind. In the end, I stop and look back and decide that after all this time, I'm actually gonna walk back.
That's so cool. As an aspiring songwriter myself, what advise would you give me and other people on how you start writing your songs?
I think songwriting is different for everyone and there shouldn’t be any set formula to follow or that would hamper your songwriting ability. The whole idea of songwriting is to get everything you’re feeling onto paper. It isn't easy. Sometimes, I feel a song but it takes a couple of months before I can turn my emotions into words. You’ve gotta still yourself and forget about everything that’s going on. Let yourself feel what you’re feeling.
You have to kinda work out where your heart’s at; it’s like meditation.
Piano’s my instrument but if yours is the guitar, pick a chord progression and just start playing. Ad lib. That’s what I like to do. When you press the record button and listen back to it later, see if anything pops out and maybe, you'll find a chorus or a verse. I work backwards from that.
Everyone’s a little different but what's important is you keep the rawness of the song.
Do the melodies or lyrics come to you first?
That’s the thing- I don’t know what’s gonna come- it just comes spontaneously. It always has to be spontaneous. I guess I'd moments like "Don't Leave Me Now" when I couldn't sleep that night. Sometimes, a song keeps you up and then you grab your phone and you start typing lyrics and you say, "I don't know the melody for this but I just know I need to write what I'm feeling". So you then write it down and on the next day, you come up with a melody. I find that it's much easier to have the lyrics and come up with the melody.
Cool. What do you think is a highlight from your entire music career so far?
Hm, to be honest, The Voice is a turning point and a platform that propelled my career. My biggest point is probably way back when I was touring. When my song "Hey Little Brother” won silver in the championships, that was a huge point for me. "Don't Leave Me Now was the next biggest thing to me. From that point, everything started happening. People came into my life and all of a sudden, The Voice is a thing and then my manager was another. You just have to start doing something and then things will fall into place.
Just before we end, would you like to add anything?
(laughingly) I've got merch?
- Daniel, 2019
And to Daniel, I say, "Shaw, no problem. Just don't cross the line."
In all seriousness, don't forget to drop by Daniel's website and get me one of those comfy beanies:
A huge THANK YOU to Daniel for sharing his insights with all of us at Livewireau! Please note that this interview has been paraphrased and condensed for clarity.
Be sure to check out his latest music video, "Used to Be" from his Cross The Line EP!