“That’s my main priority, to be honest with my work, and put my heart out there.”
“Musician’s musician” may be a hackneyed and overapplied label, but it certainly describes Shannon Wright. The guitarist, pianist, and singer-songwriter has been making emotional, intense, iconoclastic music since the late ‘90s, earning the devoted fandom of friends like Dirty Three, Low, Steve Albini, and Yann Tiersen. Yet the mainstream recognition enjoyed by comparable peers like Cat Power or Sharon Van Etten has somehow managed to elude her.
As she speaks to us by phone from Atlanta about her new album, Division, Wright admits she doesn’t see “musician’s musician” as an insult. “It’s a really good thing,” she says softly. “It can be frustrating, because sometimes I wish more people would understand [my work], but it’s definitely a great compliment. It’s something that’s been an ongoing thing with me throughout my time playing. It’s great to inspire other musicians. I always feel very lucky that that’s happened with me.”
Division, a stunning record that’s as simultaneously delicate, wondrous and strong as spiderwebbing, came about in part because of peer recognition. Wright was at a low point not too terribly long ago, when renowned classical pianist Katia Labecque appeared backstage at one of her shows. “[She] said some really beautiful things to me,” Wright remembers. “It was kind of a crazy moment, probably the moment when I needed to hear those things the most. I was telling her that I was thinking about quitting, and she was not for that. She was saying, ‘Why would you quit? You were born to do this. You don’t have to do it a certain way, there’s no formula.’” Labeque offered her studio in Rome as a place to meditate on new music during a spate of upcoming shows Wright had in Italy.