In the spotlight – Shayan Regan

In the spotlight – Shayan Regan

Shayan Regan is a 22-year old singer/songwriter originally from the United Kingdom, who is currently living in Florence (Italy). From a young age, he found solace in a variety of artists and songwriters particularly focusing on genres such as pop, indie, singer/songwriter, acoustic and folk, which contributed to him shaping his own identity as a vocalist.

“I grew up primarily in England but we did move a fair bit when I was growing up. I have lived most of my life in London. I spent more time with my grandparents and grew up around them since my parents were mostly out of town for work, so most of what my personality is today stems from my primarily my grandad, which is just a homely way of saying I’m old fashioned when it comes to taste. Just a simple guy, I like simple things.”

How did you get into music, and what is your musical background?

“My family are big time music lovers and I grew up listening to a lot of it. My grandad was heavily into Jazz, and my parents were both into all these different genres of music. I basically grew up listening to a fair share of everything but majorly artists like Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Calloway, Billie Holiday when it comes to Jazz and then there’s your usual list of Rock acts like Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, Elton John, CSN, The Beatles, Beach Boys etc.”

“When I came more into my senses, I also developed a taste for folk music and just music that heavily focuses on songwriting. Listening to Cohen, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Damien Rice, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks etc. All this to pretty much say I like everything. I enjoy listening to Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and the works as much as I enjoy some John Lennon.”

Did you have any music lessons growing up? What instruments do you play?

“I have never taken any professional lessons for anything music or anything in general really. I like to have fun with my hobbies and try to get better at what I do organically, by myself. I feel like I find it more comfortable that way because 9 out of 10 times how I would do something would not fit in the conventional norm of said thing. So it’s easier for me to try and do it myself, it’s more fun. I currently only (try to) play guitar and nothing else, but I’d love to learn and play more.”

Who are your main musical influences?

“It’s hard to place this, for me personally. I mean the person in front of me might listen to something I make and tell me it’s influenced by so and so but for me it’s difficult to narrow it down. I put songwriting first in my music so maybe you can go along the lines of prominent songwriters and poets like Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan etc. But I wouldn’t call them my “main” influences. For me, the feeling in a song, or even a single line of a song, a word enunciated and/or pronounced a certain way can be a major influence. I pick and place from a lot of things that just run together seamlessly in my mind as my inspirations and influences.”

Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics?

“This is funny but I feel like most songwriters would agree, when I look for inspiration, it’s almost never there. It’s like you’d focus on a thing, or an event, or a person to write a song about, and all of a sudden you know absolutely nothing about it, or them or about songwriting even. I find inspiration striking me most when I live. When I’m just there for the moment, or the thing, or the person. When you celebrate the thought of what’s in front of you, you’re bound to be inspired by it. I feel like it makes more sense that way, since you get the added inclusivity. You’re a witness, you’re there, in fact, you’re a part of it. And then it can be anything, a conversation with a friend or even a stranger, a line in a book, a scene in a film. When you experience something without looking for something else within it, I think that’s when you fully experience it. And that’s when it truly inspires you, unless you’re Paul McCartney writing songs in his sleep, then you ascend us all. I’m no Paul, I’m barely a songwriter.”

You mentioned you put songwriting in your music first. What else can you tell me about your creative process?

“Very messy to put it in short. There isn’t a structure to my creative process, to a point where it’s doubtful to even call it a ‘process’. For instance, I can’t tell you about a single time in my life where I’ve sat down to write a song knowing what I’m going to write about beforehand. Never have I ever written something with its final version/vision in my mind. It always happens as it happens, and I let it. The only structure I guess there is to it is that I sit down without a song and then get up with one. Other than that, I could not tell you half a thing about my creative process that would make sense. And I promise this is not me trying to sound like “a natural” or anything. Because god knows there’s struggle. I just really am very messy and unorganised with it.”

To me it sounds like you’re someone who continually writes. Am I correct?

“For sure. Not necessarily songs or at least complete songs. I jot down random things and stuff that comes to my mind almost everyday. My phone’s notes are filled with what I like to call edges to songs – songs that aren’t finished yet but they still exist somewhere. These edges help me grab and pull the song through. Say you’re walking on the street and the name of a coffeehouse strikes out to you, so you write it down. It could be a good setup to a song, the name of a street, something you overhear someone say on the same street. These things, in my phone’s notes, act as stock ideas/lyrics for when I’m writing a song. They help me out. So yes, I write a lot, almost every other day.”

You produced, mixed and mastered your album. Is it important to you to have full control over a project?

“I produced, mixed and mastered my entire album. I did it entirely on my phone with an app called Bandlab. I even recorded the majority of the album (vocals, some instruments etc.) using my phone’s headphones mic. Primarily because I wanted to go against the whole notion of “you have to have the proper tools in hand before even thinking about making music”. There’s like this whole investment angle of having the right equipment, the proper people to do the job, the correct recording space etc. And I’m not against any of that, it’s just that I wanted to do it without any of that. And like I said earlier, it’s best for me to work under my own hand without the conventional backdrop of things. So I made the whole album on my phone, using an app that’s basically a DAW on your phone. And I liked how it sounded so I decided to share it with everyone. I am aware it’s not the top tier content quality, but it does it for me, and I feel like as long as it’s something I’m satisfied with, I should go for it right?”

“It’s not imperative for me to have full control over a project, but I do like to make sure that once we’re through with it and if it were my vision that we based the project on to start off with, it sounds how I’d want it to. It’s more about the fulfillment and satisfaction for me. It’s about comfort, and it’s about cohesion. If we get to that without me having any control over anything we do, I’m perfectly fine. Long as we bring it home, I’m okay with it.”

Why did you name your album ‘A Poison With an Aftertaste’?

“In short, it’s just a fancy way of saying slow poison. But that notion is what I intended this project to be. I guess where I wanted to land with the album initially was a spot that gets the listener a little after they’ve heard the album. I wanted to make something lingering, something that stings you after a while. Like sometimes when you have a conversation with someone and they say something which in the moment feels very casual or normal, but on the same evening, it hits you harder. You realise what it actually meant. You understand it a few hours later. I wanted to make something like that.”

“Additionally, it’s the tale the album tells. It’s the story of two lovers who go through a bunch of things in their relationship that are this kind of slow-burn, slow poison experiences. Ranging everywhere from regret to agitation to giving up, and then trying again. From a sudden rush of love and affection to a dull romance that’s mixed with passive aggression and argumentative undertones. And to collect all these feelings and emotions in a list of songs and calling it all a poison with an aftertaste just felt right. Felt fair.”

What’s your favourite song on the album and why?

“I think I’d pick Track 9, ‘Maybe’. First off, it’s my favourite because I wrote it with Anna Bowden, who is a friend I made over the internet and is one of the most brilliant songwriters I have the pleasure of knowing in my life. Secondly, it just comes into play in the album at the most perfect point. It even came along like that. It just happened to be, and that too in the perfect spot. ‘Maybe’ is this argumentative yet patient back and forth between the two “characters” of the story that the album tries to tell. It brings forth the agitation that’s a major element of the whole album’s lyrical side. It is at times quite hopeful, talks about second chances but then very quickly shuts them down. This song ironically wrapped the story up while leaving it up in the air at the same time. It ended the tale with not a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, but a ‘maybe’. “

“And that for me set up the perfect scene for the album closer which describes the aftermath and then further reels you back to the start. Plus, this song ended up being so inspiring for me that I wrote a part II to it which you can hear on the Deluxe Edition of the album.”

If you could be a fly on the wall for the recording of any album in history, what album would it be?

“That’s a really good question. I think it would either be ‘Blue’ by Joni Mitchell or ‘Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac. ‘Blue’ especially during the time she wrote it, if I could be a fly on the wall for the songwriting period of that album, I’d be the luckiest fly in the world. Rumours because it’s just the perfect record, it has everything. From emotion to structure, feeling to transition, from perfect arrangements to exceptional lyricism. It is a complete record, and it would just be so exciting to be present in the room where it came to life. So yeah, those two for sure. But also not for sure because I have a list, and the order can change at any given moment. Think it depends on the mood.”

Why do you think music is important?

“Because it has something for everyone. It’s one of the most evocative, most therapeutic things to ever exist really. Music is one of the biggest reasons behind growth. It’s one of the most major driving forces behind change, be it personal or societal. Time and again, it’s been our friend, our guide, even our reason of existence at times. Personally, I’ve found music to be cathartic, it’s been a place I can go to for anything. To get away or to get with, music has been a milestone. It holds the power to bring, and bring so much. To an individual, to our world. It’s a proven fact that music heals, and with the times that we’re in today, we need healing more than anything. Music allows you to free yourself and be exactly who you’ve always wanted to be and to me that feels like one of the most important things in life. To be, and to be able to be your true self. And on top of that, who dares to deny a groove?”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“To celebrate everything! My grandad told me to take everything in its purest and most original form, don’t try to mold into something else. If you’re happy, be happy. Celebrate that happiness to its highest peak. If something makes you sad, be sad about it. It’s okay to take in the sadness that life brings you. It’s best to celebrate it. To celebrate these feelings the way they come to you, loss, pain, regret, disappointment, lack. All these things exist for a reason, give them that reason. What you get in return is a lesson, experience. Plus it only gets worse if you try and suppress it or deny it. That never ends well. So take in everything the way it comes and ride it out. If life didn’t have the downs then you would not realise the importance of the ups. And when it’s all the same, it’s boring anyway. It’s okay to feel, no matter what you feel. To live is to actually live and not just pretend while breathing. Celebrate life and what it brings. Good or bad is out of the question.”

What are your plans for 2022?

“I’m currently in an entirely new place with my wife. We got married 2 years ago and we’re still riding the high. While adjusting to Florence, living and making a living. Trying our best to do better each day. I work at a cafe and at a pottery store, which was a hobby that I picked up last year and worked on enough for me to earn decently from. I am not much of a planner really I just go with the flow of things. So I guess we’ll just have to see where it all goes. There aren’t any solid plans, but we’ll see. Life is pretty mobile at the moment.”

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?

“Honestly as long as I’m comfortable with what I have, it can be anywhere. If it’s something that I’m content with, which then again I don’t expect too much from life since I find my peace in less, it’s what I’d gladly be and do for the rest of my life. I don’t wanna do something that I don’t wanna do. I wanna be content and comfortable, and if in five years from now, that means me with my family in a tiny little place while I run a flower shop for a living, nothing would make me happier.”

What’s on your bucket list to do before you die?

“One of the things on my bucket list is to visit Tokyo. Mainly, it’s maybe because I’ve read a lot of Murakami, and how he describes Tokyo is just something special to me. I wanna be able to travel to all the places that he talks about because the way he talks about them just intrigues me so much. I’m a big time romance reader and there’s something very romantic about Tokyo to me then again maybe it’s majorly because of Haruki Murakami. So yeah, that’s definitely one of the things that I’d like to do before I’m gone.”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

“I’d have to pick ‘Old Pine’ by Ben Howard because I just love Ben Howard. It’s the kind of music that I enjoy listening to. It’s the kind of songs that always feel new to you whenever you listen to them, doesn’t matter if it’s the first time or the hundredth. I love Ben’s arrangement and his lyricism just stands out to me as both personal and free flowing which is always a beautiful combination. I love the whole list but if I have to pick one song in particular then it would be ‘Old Pine’.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“I would love to introduce the listeners of Cool Top 20 to my amazingly talented friend and artist Francisco Sola with his song ‘Self Sabotage’. I love the tune, I love the passion that he’s put into the song. And on top of it all, I just love the trumpets that play in that song. That’s definitely the highlight of that song for me. I met Francisco over the internet, just because I love his music, and now we’re friends. Then again, another thing music can do for you. Make you friends.”

Follow Shayan: Instagram, TikTok, Bandlab, Twitter.