Subscribe to our Mailing List
River Music Experience

Calendar of Events

Guest List Series feat. Shawn James with Jon & Ren Band

Wednesday, October 09, 2019 7:30 PM
Redstone Room
Free Admission

Doors: 7pm / Show: 7:30pm
Opening Act: Jon & Ren Band
Age Restriction: All Ages
Genre: Blues, Folk & Soul

The Redstone Room is a general admission venue - a seat is not guaranteed.
This season’s Guest List shows are supported by a grant from the Regional Development Authority.

Shawn James’ voice is a force of nature, a musical preacher to a flock that accepts
everyone, a combination of the gospel choirs he sang with as a youngster and his
training in classical music and opera. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago,
James’ timeless sound is steeped in blues legends like Robert Johnson and Son
House, forever at the crossroads of damnation and redemption, the two inextricably
woven into the fabric of his songs.
The Dark & the Light, his first album for L.A.-based indie label Parts + Labor Records,
marks a creative leap forward for the 32-year-old troubadour. James annually tours
more than 150 dates around the world and has released some 70 songs over the past
five years, both on his own and as part of his “more raucous, rock” band the
Shapeshifters, a loose group of musicians formed in Fayetteville, AR, which served as
his temporary home before a recent move to the west coast.
Transcending any and all genres, James’ songs speak as much to these tremulous
times as they do the eternal human condition. Steeped in mythology (the fearsome a
cappella which opens “Orpheus”) and America’s dark past (the deep delta blues of
“Burn the Witch”), The Dark & the Light seeks to turn despair into hope – as he does on
the two-part tribute to his steel-worker father on “Love Will Find a Way I” and “Love Will
Find a Way II.” Shawn’s father died an alcoholic when he was five and the two songs
feature a journey from the depths of despair to the heights of ecstatic communion.
Shawn sings, “The blood that filled his veins flows through mine/It’s not that I’m
ashamed but how can I redefine how your story ends.”
“The record’s about turning the darkness and pain I’ve experienced in my life into songs
that can inspire others to make the best of hard times,” he says.
Recorded at his new label’s Venice Beach, CA, recording studio with producer Jimmy
Messer (AWOLNation, Kelly Clarkson, Kygo, The White Buffalo), the songs for the new
album were written by James while back in Chicago.
“I’ve discovered how to get to the point quicker, to do more with less,” explains James
about how his songwriting has evolved. “I’m confident enough now to make my music
more accessible without losing its integrity and honesty.”
Songs like the Memphis soul of “There It Is,” which vows to counteract bad deeds with
good work and the deep blues of “Haunted,” about moving on despite the injustice
around us, both tackle the current volatile cultural climate without mentioning names or
taking sides.
“For a long time, I wouldn’t mix music and politics, but I reached the point where I
realized I shouldn’t be ashamed for speaking up,” Shawn says. “All the craziness is
what inspired me to speak up, to try to live a moral life in spite of it.”
In “The Weak End” and “The Curse of the Fold,” James urges us to embrace our
vulnerability in the midst of those who would take advantage, urging us never to give up,
to keep going, and not just turn our cards over.
“Without music, I honestly don’t know where I would be right now,” admits Shawn. “I
was lucky I had something to bleed into, to cope with the struggles of my everyday life.”
After James’ father died, his Greek stepfather introduced him to the Pentecostal church,
where his vocal talent was recognized immediately and put to use in the choir. A child
prodigy, Shawn entered a number of vocal competitions, with a multi-octave range that
makes him unique as an artist. He didn’t start playing acoustic guitar until high school
and didn’t start writing songs seriously until he was in his mid-twenties. Studying
classical music helped him hone his vocal technique, but he learned to let loose
emotionally in church. “I had the mix of both worlds,” he says.
Much of those ministers’ fiery rhetoric resonated with James, whose music offers a
congregation with no borders or boundaries. “I’ve found that my songs with the biggest
impact are the ones that inspire people, and try to lift them up,” he says. “Fans tell me
how these songs saved their lives. Is there any greater accomplishment than that? I
fully embraced that on this album. These days, people need encouragement, and I just
wanted to contribute.”
The new album is James’ fourth solo effort, following his 2012 debut, Shadows , 2014’s
Deliverance and 2016’s On the Shoulders of Giants , in addition to a live release ( Live at the Heartbreak House ) and a two-song covers EP recorded while on tour in Madrid
(including set staples “That’s Life” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”). His songs have been
featured on HBO, CBS and Sony Playstation’s The Last of Us 2 videogame, with the
track, “Through the Valley,” topping Spotify’s Global Viral Charts, while generating more
than 60 million streams combined on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube. More recently,
he recorded a soulful take on Macy Gray’s Grammy-winning “I Try” for’s
“Grammy Reimagined” series.

*Seating Disclaimer*

The Redstone Room at River Music Experience is a standing room only concert venue. All tickets are General Admission unless otherwise stated. For the comfort of our guests, a limited amount of seating is available on a first come first serve basis:
  • General Admission Tables: A number of tables are available when doors open. First come first serve.  
  • Disability: If you require handicap accessible seating, you will need to purchase your General Admission ticket first, and then call the box office to reserve up to 2 seats. Tables must be purchased separately.

Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?
Most shows in the Redstone Room are 19+, unless otherwise noted, but minors may attend if accompanied by a parent or guardian.
What are my transportation/parking options for getting to and from the event?
RME & The Redstone Room are in the heart of downtown Davenport, and accessible by public transportation or cabs & ride-share apps (Uber, Lyft). There is a paid parking garage right next to the RME that only costs a couple of dollars for an evening. When using the ramp, make sure that you prepay at the pay stations in the garage stairwell or on the Parkmobile app. Free street parking is available, but sometimes hard to find on concert nights.
How can I contact the organizer with any questions?
You may call the RME's box office at (563)326-1333 or email
What's the refund policy?
Purchased tickets are nonrefundable.