Shawn Amos

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Nominee at the 10th annual LA Music Awards

“Shawn is a new American singer-songwriter of the first order. In flashes he reminds me of some of my favorites from the past, from Randy Newman to Bill Withers, but mostly he reminds that it can still be done.” –David Wild, Senior Editor Rolling Stone

Shawn Amos’ third and most personal album yet, Thank You Shirl-ee May, is a tribute to and exploration of the life of his late mother, singer Shirlee Ellis Amos (known professionally as Shirl-ee May). The songs on Shawn’s new album serve as a series of musical photos, home movies, and mini-documentaries that add up to a celebration of a life lived fully but often painfully, in which enormous potential was thwarted both from within and without. But mainly, it’s a love story between a woman and the son who only came to completely know her — as an artist, a woman, a mother, and a wife (Shawn’s father is Wally Amos of the Famous Amos cookie empire) — when trying to make sense of her suicide.

Shawn Amos is a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter whose previous work has dealt incisively — often through biting humor — with questions of race, history, and the trickiness of masculine identity. As a musician and lyricist, he’s proven he is an astute social critic, an activist, and a poet. All those roles were brought to bear on Shir-lee May, in which the task of illuminating his mother’s early years (before Shawn was born) and her turbulent inner life were balanced — and underscored — by the profound sadness of her death. “It’s so funny, because I honestly didn’t think about the fact that we were both artists — writers and singers — until very close to the end of recording this record,” says Shawn. “I was so caught up in my grief and the newness of these discoveries about her that I couldn’t see the career parallels. She was an amazing singer with a beautifully trained instrument. And she was this very commanding presence. I’m still trying to make sense of it.”

Shawn has worked as an A&R executive at Rhino Records (where he produced or co-produced already classic African American historic compilations, including the GRAMMY®-nominated Rhapsodies in Black: Music And Words From The Harlem Renaissance; Say It Loud: A Celebration of Black Music in America; and Q: The Musical Autobiography of Quincy Jones). Currently at Shout! Factory, a two-year-old Sony/BMG-distributed label, Shawn has directed projects for artists ranging from William Shatner to Lenny Bruce to Herb Alpert to Solomon Burke (who is an old friend of the Amos family and appears in a cameo on Shirl-ee May along with other such disparate appearances from Ray Parker Jr. and Garrison Starr). Four of Shout! Factory’s 2004 releases have been awarded GRAMMY nominations this year.

In addition, Shawn has written songs for film and television, has been a much sought-after performer on college campuses across the United States, and has won critical acclaim for his live shows. He’s been nominated twice (in 2001 and 2002) for awards at the LA Weekly Music Awards, where his co-nominees included Macy Gray, Jill Scott, and Solomon Burke.

A husband and father whose professional and personal lives are deeply intertwined, Shawn juggles his assorted responsibilities by letting them feed off each other. It’s what gives him a broad perspective to help keep his priorities in check and appreciate the many gifts he’s been blessed with.