The Shadowboxers are currently out on the road with Justin Timberlake, which is part of a long relationship the band has had with JT since 2013. Back then, the band covered a version of “Pusher Love Girl,” which Timberlake retweeted. Since then, Timberlake (very quietly) produced the Shadowboxers’ recent EP, Apollo, and took them on the road with him for the “Man of the Woods” tour.
The Shadowboxers – primarily Scott Tyler, Adam Hoffman and Matt Lipkins – have been around for a while now but began a complete rebuild about five years ago and just now are reintroducing themselves as a brand-new band with a new sound. There was a time when their shows were the hot ticket of their home base, Nashville, and were venturing to the West Coast for the very first time.
That’s definitely changed, and we asked for an update.
OK, so this is one of those simple questions that could have a significant answer: What’s new?
Scott: First of all, nice to talk to you again. Seems you’ve made some strides yourself.
Since we last spoke, we got into the studio with Justin and that was in June of last year. We spent two weeks at Jungle City, in the Loft, the side room of Jungle City. We recorded seven songs and six made the EP. It was all we’ve been working toward for the past three, four years.
We just narrowed down our favorite songs of the 150 or so that we’ve written. We reached a place and an energy we haven’t been able to capture before. Justin was coming every day to help with production and even songwriting at some point, to just polish them and take them to a place, with energy that we could never get in the studio.
That was in June. We were playing shows and continued to write for the rest of the year. Then, at the beginning of 2018 as we started to release the music, Justin called us and asked us if we wanted to join him on tour. He thought it was the right time for us to get out there and showcasing our live performances. Now we’re a month in.
Seems like it’s been years, literally years, to put this album out.
Adam: That’s completely right. It actually took us years. That’s in part because we cared so much about it and we weren’t willing to compromise on any aspect of it. We knew, especially with Justin in board, and especially with the new identity we were discovering as we continued to write more songs that we weren’t going to put something out just because the time was right, or it had been a while, or people were expecting it.
We ignored that and it took a lot of patience on our part but we were all really glad that we waited and finally got it right. We got it exactly as we wanted it to be. Also, we wanted Justin to be in the studio with us, to produce it, and he’s an extremely busy guy so that took a while too. But once we finally got in the studio, he was ready, and we were ready. It was the perfect storm.
Can you do a compare/contrast of playing in front of someone else’s crowd versus your own? Or are they both the same thing now?
Matt: You know, when we went into this show – I don’t want to say we were naive, but we prepared for a different reaction, and the reaction we got was not bad, it was just different. I think we went in with the mindset that we were now this darling group and we were going to have this music out, and it would be the first time we had music that we could support and play and have people know, which is crazy for a band that’s been around for as many years as we have.
I think we were really excited to promote the EP, and it took us a few shows to realize that while we are there to promote the EP, we’re there to do what we’ve done for when we opened for any act.
Adam: Basically, our job is just opening for Justin, to hype up the crowd. It’s to get the energy in that arena as high as we can possibly take it for the person they paid to come see. But, through that process, there was a very steep learning curve when we started the tour to be opening for one of the greatest entertainers of all time.
But, as the tour progressed, we would tweak our show, we would find new ways to make it better, to make it hit more, to find more impact, to reach more people, to interact with the crowd more. And now we’re at a place where our show is really resonating with people. A majority of those people have never heard of us, have never heard a single song, so it’s a really steep task to engage people. But we are finally at a place where our show really is connecting with people and, by the end, the crowd is totally with us, they’re singing along, they’re clapping, the energy in the room is on 10, and we’re seeing that interaction spread to after the shows on social media.
We’re finally at a place where our show feels like it belongs opening for Justin Timberlake, which is a big thing to say.
So you’re still doing your headline gigs throughout all of this: March 23, New York @ PUBLIC Arts; April 30 – Los Angeles @ Peppermint Club; May 10 – Nashville @ Basement East…
Matt: I was going to say, the same way these big shows have felt more like, really, really fun work, it’s still work. We’re still trying to win over a crowd every night and get 15,000 people who haven’t heard of us to pay attention.
These shows, the smaller shows, have felt more like a celebration that we finally have out, because it is fans. They’re coming to hear these songs they’ve been waiting to have recordings of. It’s so satisfying to have people come up to us and tell us how happy they are on how the songs came out and how long they’ve been waiting for these tunes because they’ve been coming to shows for years and hearing us play them and they just haven’t been able to bring them home.
Scott: I think we just want people to know that those 150 songs are just going to be sitting in a vault, never to be released until some anthology. We’re going to be releasing a lot of them, a lot more rapidly, this year.
Check out their “tour diary” on People magazine here.