Luna Shadows: crafting a version of alternative pop all her own

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Photo by Nina Jordan

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine’s Summer 2019 – Special Pop Edition

Multi-talented is an understatement for singer, musician, songwriter, producer, and visual artist, Luna Shadows. Crafting a version of alternative pop that is all her own, Luna Shadows aims to create music that is representative of her interpretation of the world and its happenings.

Equipped with a distinctive sound, which can be described as music enriched with captivating melancholia and paired with an undeniable California twist, Luna Shadows has achieved more than 35 million streams to date. Her recently debuted single “lowercase” is sure to continue her number of successes and provide fans with the uniquely outstanding sound they have come to expect from a celebrated artist like Luna Shadows.

Being that we are Guitar Girl Magazine, we love hearing about the successful women who have discovered a connection with the guitar. Could you tell us a bit about when it was that you first began playing and why? 

When I was around 8-10 years old, I found my father’s old guitar from the ‘70s on a family ski trip. I was completely intrigued by it. I rarely came into contact with guitars, so I sat on the floor for many hours and strummed it, tapped it, pressed my ear to the hole, etc. At some point, I went to turn the tuning pegs out of curiosity to see what they did. I broke a string and was completely startled. I thought I had broken the guitar, and I ran into the living room crying to apologize to my father. Much to my surprise, he reassured me that the strings were over a decade old and could easily be replaced. A few years later, when I was around 12 years old, my older brother started playing the guitar and quickly became a total shredder. Because I copied everything he did, from watching Ninja Turtles to playing N64, I went to the store and bought a very cheap hand-me-down blue electric. It was a blue Hondo II that I named “Josie” after the girl in my favorite Blink 182 song, “Online Songs.” Josie had a little chip on her body, so I put a bandaid over it. The first song I learned (or attempted) was a Green Day song.

Do you have a particular brand of guitar or equipment that you tend to prefer?

I love Fender. They’re so sleek, elegant, and easy to play. My current electric is a vintage white Fender Empress Telecaster. It’s lightweight, which is helpful for me as I have a small build and guitars tend to hurt my shoulders. Fender says of the Empress: “Mythology holds that the fabled Phoenix bird would only land amid the branches of an Empress tree when a good ruler was in power.” 

Which female musicians/artists inspired your sound and your ambition to become a professional musician?

In chronological order: The Little Mermaid to Pocahontas to Meredith Brooks to Alanis Morissette to Mulan to Hayley Williams to Lana del Rey to St. Vincent.

Could you tell us a bit about your songwriting process? Where it is that you pull inspiration and how you go about composing your songs? 

It’s different every time. I would say most of the time, I prefer to start creating a bed of music with a coproducer. Once we get a beat going and some chords, I start browsing my iPhone notes (where I store all my lyric ideas) to find the words that match the feeling I get from the music. From that point onwards, things move together (lyric and music). I am very meticulous when it comes to things like structure and rhyme, so I spend a lot of time making sure that the foundation has been laid before I leave the studio for the day.

When/how did you get into producing?

I got into producing out of necessity, to some degree. I always wanted to be a singer, and I’ve always enjoyed playing instruments. It wasn’t until I started recording my own songs that I realized how frustrating it was to lack the skill set and vocabulary to articulate my ideas. In 2011-2013, I was writing for people at major labels, and all I had was GarageBand and my built-in microphone. My ideas sounded good in my head but fell short in recordings, so I started investing in some very basic production gear. A few years later, I started working on my own music. I have a fear of singing in front of people, so I wanted to learn to record my own vocals so that I could minimize the time I spent taking vocal chances in front of others. I still do this today, although I am getting a little braver! After becoming more confident with vocal production, I moved into the world of production as a whole.

Have you or would you be interested in producing music for other artists?

I am and I do! I did some vocal production for Chelsea Jade’s album Personal Best, as well as some coproduction on The Naked & Famous record A Still Heart. I worked on a ton of projects last year that have not yet come out, but they will soon. Stay tuned. 

Your recently debuted song, “lowercase” has such an outstandingly distinctive sound. Could you expand upon the content of the lyrics and how you went about creating it?

Thank you! I often think of a universal feeling or expression; then my next move is finding a new way to express it. Mostly everyone can relate to the feeling of “feeling small” or being shut down by someone else. We all have people in our lives that know how to push our buttons. Sometimes, all this person has to do is leave the room without saying anything. I had written down “lowercase” and “all you have to do is leave the room” as two separate, unrelated ideas. As the melody started coming together, I connected the ideas in my head. I’m the kind of person that reads into everything, so a text message with a hard stop period or a short answer will send me into a spiral. The idea that I could feel so small from a few letters or a grammatical case is wild, but I also realized this is something very relatable for all digital natives. It’s like we have a secret language! So I used the idea of millennial type to discuss a feeling of minimization from another.

How do you feel visual art and aesthetics support the music that you create? 

I absolutely love participating in the visual aspect of my project. I consider Luna Shadows to be half audio and half visual. My coproducer Brad (on “lowercase”) is also my codesigner. He lives cross country, so we have digital meetings where we photoshop things back and forth to one another until we land on something good. We work on all the album art together. 

What can your fans look forward to from you over the summer and within the coming months?

New music, new visuals, new era.