Our destination: Shelter Cove World. The Nashville-born group’s new single ‘If I Could Die Like this Tonight’ is so commanding in its emotion that it will take you to another world entirely – three minutes and thirty-eight seconds of pure telepathy, transporting you to a metaphorical emotionally-charged parallel universe.
This young three-piece band have a knack for making music that cuts deep – their last single, ’Shut the Lights Out’ garnered attention for its emotionally loaded pop-rock, and their latest single hits all those same high notes. The group’s new release is an experience from the get go; after a euphorically minimal (a juxtaposition you can blame on that smooth synth) intro and a scene-setting verse that builds with the help of some artful guitar and drum work – ‘dancing round the kitchen, drunk at 2am’ – the song heads straight into the otherworldliness that is the chorus: an experiential moment of dramatic, energetic pop-rock that is coming to characterise this trio’s music. Suddenly, we find ourselves getting lost in a warm tsunami of glittering guitars and off-beat drums, pressing our memories for our happiest moments, banal or otherwise. ‘If I could die like this tonight/Just let me drown right here in your eyes.’
Every element of this song is impressive, but it’s Abbie Garrett’s unique vocals that give it true character. With stunning depth and an alluringly warm timbre, every word is emotionally-charged yet beautifully sincere, hitting as though directed straight at you. Her delivery cuts through the catharsis of sound with its melodic urgency, impressing with smoothness and rawness in equal measure. Garrett – who cites everyone from Martine McBride to Coldplay as inspirations – compels you to keep listening, as though your aparty to the conversation somehow.
That Coldplay influence is felt in the song-writing, too – poetic, dream-like lyrics seem to be just one of Shelter Cove’s fortes. ‘You and your ocean eyes just spinning me round in the dark of night/ I’m feeling like you and I are glowing light.’ Yet their sound is something more evocative of 80s and 90s pop-rock bands encompassing all the emotion of young, all-consuming love.
Underlining all this, though, is the heartbeat of the song; the fantastically off-beat drums which give it the edge of rhythm that Shelter Cove are so good at. It’s the work of their third member, drummer Andy Modaff, and serves to magnify the urgency of emotion, his unexpected beats gently nudging you into some kind of voluntary oblivion. If this song is a trip, then Modaff’s drums are the engine, guiding the song – and the listener – from runway to 40,000ft and landing again. That same analogy would be true of the emotional ride that the song takes us on, and it’s one I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. And herein lies the trio’s very raison d’etre – to make music that moves you so much, you can’t ignore it. Suffice to say they’ve delivered that here, and then some.
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Now that you’ve heard about them, it;’s time to hear from them. I sat down with Abbie, Andy and Ethan from Shelter Cove in a break from quarantine life to discuss their new single, Nashville and their favourite thing about each other.
Interview Shelter Cove
- This is an absolutely stunning track guys. Congrats! I can hear many different elements stylistically. Was that intentional for this song or was that a by-product of your creativity?
Thank you so much! This song was quite experimental for us production-wise. It was our first real attempt at meshing together some very pop production with our instruments. It is somewhat of a transition for us into what we have coming next musically, which definitely feels alternative/pop in genre. We have always teetered on a strange line of being too rock for pop and being to pop for rock, but I think we are finally feeling excited and comfortable with our own unique sound.
- You hail from Murfreesboro, Tennessee but you are concentrated in Nashville right now which must be every musician’s dream. Transport us there and describe what it is that Nashville has that is so inspirational. What effect if any, has the place had on the music you’re writing and on you all both collectively and individually? In that vein, what was the music scene like for you growing up as independent artists?
Abbie (vocalist): Nashville has such a wide range of musical talents, and it has inspired me personally since I was very little. I grew up listening to country music artists out of Nashville and going to their concerts at Bridgestone. My mom listened to SO MUCH Martina McBride and Faith Hill when I was growing up; therefore, when I first started singing, it was all country music. Eventually, I happened upon Taylor Swift’s music and that changed everything for me. She lived in Hendersonville, TN, which is where I grew up! She is the reason I started writing music at 12 years old because she was the first time I was really aware of an artist writing their own songs. As I have gotten older, there have been several independent artists out of Nashville that have inspired me and even become my friends in the music scene. Sometimes it feels like a burden to be located where there is so much talent, but other times I realize how lucky we are to be surrounded by so many people who share the same dreams as ours.
Ethan (guitarist/producer/mixer): This one requires a long answer to really get it right… I’ve had the Nashville music scene woven into my DNA since before birth hahaha. My dad has been a top session player as long as I can remember and the rest of my family are all in the industry as well. Since about 4 or 5, I would go with my dad to every session I could. So, all of the session guys are like family to me. Once I started playing guitar, getting to sit and talk to or watch guys like Tom Bukovac, Michael Landau, David Levita, Sol Littlefield, Craig Young, Josh Henson (uncle), and all of the rest of the long list of incredible musicians play, was unreal. They’ve shown me anything I’ve asked and hooked me up with gear I had no business having hahaha. But yea, I couldn’t be more grateful of how the session guys have treated me my whole life. Once I started getting older and wanting to be part of a band and be an artist, talking to other artists has been huge. Tim McGraw in particular has been so incredible to me. I think he finds great joy in teaching and helping younger people. Talking to him makes you feel like you could take on the world. As far as our careers go, Nashville is mostly geared towards country music, which adds its challenges. We have a lot of fun playing out in Nashville, but we have to give a huge thank you to the scene in Murfreesboro for taking us in with open arms. I cannot express how incredible they have been to us so far.
Andy (drums): I grew up in the western Chicago suburbs, a very different environment from Nashville both culturally and musically. But since my travels to Tennessee began almost 4 years ago, I think that the caliber of players cranking out hit records in the Nashville studios has been some source of inspiration for me. Living in an area known almost solely for its massive musical influence has been a kind of reassurance. Though we find ourselves well outside of the country music dominion, I definitely feel enmeshed in a real history just being here.
- There is an anthemic urgency to your music that totally immerses the listener into your world and indeed you describe how you want to ‘make music that moves us’. Does that make you the ultimate story teller?
Abbie: I tend to mostly write songs that I have experienced personally. If I am being honest, my life may not seem all that interesting if I was not able to find poetry in the mundane. I truly think that is what songwriting is all about, and that is all it takes. If you can find what is poetic about simple everyday life occurrences, then that is some pretty awesome storytelling skills. There is something poetic about waking up in the morning and making a cup of coffee. There is something poetic about driving in your car. I think everyone has that ability in them if they try.
Ethan: Oh man.. that means a lot. We really try to be as pure and precise in what we are trying to portray and that is a long learning process that we are still in. I think it all starts with vocals and is enhanced by the drums. Those HAVE to be right to portray an energy to match a message. As a guitar player, I can choose to play on top or back to get a certain energy out of a song. In this one, I leaned up on the choruses to try to help push that energy outward with everyone else and just make sure everything was complimentary production and mix wise. It really means a lot to hear that someone else is feeling what we put into it.
Andy: I can only speak for myself as the drummer who has zero part in writing lyrics, but we’ve all talked about ideas concerning intentional meaning and interpretation: I think that Abbie most certainly writes only from personal experience and has a determinate “meaning” in mind, but what listeners get out of it is out of our hands. That is, whether someone interprets Abbie’s lyrics “correctly” isn’t paramount to us. One way to think of it is that we want to help others to feel their own stories more viscerally, to act as a conduit for the clearer expression of their own emotional ties and associations. Like you said, we want to make music that moves, that compels people to feel intensely; that’s the endgame.
- Your favourite thing about each other. Go!
Andy: I haven’t seen these losers in over a month so it’s gonna get sappy, and they’ll probably say something sophomoric about me so I’ll look really stupid and then they’ll be satisfied. I’ll say about the both of them, they’re the best friends I’ve had and pretty much the best people I know. If you spend enough time around her you’ll notice Abbie’s intense capacity for sympathy and genuine concern for other people’s problems; it’s not any kind of feigned, empty etiquette to pander for social media likes and attention, which we see a lot of these days. Ethan’s that freaking guy that can sense a poor mood walk into the room and somehow always gets you to begrudgingly laugh despite how much you really, really don’t want to.
Ethan: I don’t like either of these people! Jk. First, these are the two most incredible human beings I’ve ever met. Abbie is absolutely the most caring and sympathetic human being I think I’ve ever met. It isn’t fake and I’m not sure she even knows she is. But, everything she does is done with the utmost care for every individual. She’s incredible. Andy is just a pure concentration of human intellect and knowledge. I’ve never heard a more precise and logically consistent human being. I’ll spend hours and hours in thought on some philosophical concept that he condenses into a sentence so precise it makes my OCD smile Hahahaha.
Abbie: Ethan and Andy are my best friends. They both make me a better person, and I feel like I see the world differently because of them. I couldn’t possibly pick just one favorite thing about them. They are both a constant reminder of just how lucky I am to be alive, to get to be around them, to hear their thoughts and ideas, and to hear their horribly crude but hilarious jokes. If I have to choose my favorite thing about both of them, it would be how they have changed and affected me as a person. Andy is the most loyal and steadfast friend you will ever have. He is a self-proclaimed a-hole, who is actually one of the warmest, kindest human beings you will ever meet. Ethan brings out the best in everyone, whether it is making you laugh or showing you a more positive way to look at yourself or a particular situation. On top of those things, I feel like I learn something new about life or even myself every time I listen to a conversation between the two of them. They pretend like they aren’t as smart as they are, but they will make your head spin in the best way possible.
- Who is the most organised of the three? And who is the joker of the pack?
Andy: I am hands down the most organized in the band. It’s just not even a question. I think one of the many things that have made us grow so close is our absolutely deplorable, just awful sense of dry humor. Ethan’s usually more willing to make himself look like an idiot, I’m good for a dark quip here and there, and Abbie just kind of shakes her head at us (hypocritically so because she’s just as twisted as us and reminds us of it every now and again).
Abbie: Andy is easily the most organized, and he probably wants to strangle Ethan and I half the time for how unorganized we are. Ethan does some pretty wild things to make us laugh. I can’t even describe how strange some of the dance moves are that he pulls out just to make us uncomfortable. Go to our TikTok for reference, and you will know exactly what I am talking about. Lol.
Ethan: Andy is more organized by faaaaaar. If we are talking about the classic sense of a jokester, probably me. I love hiding around corners and jumping out to scare people. I’m tempted to not reveal my act, but if we really want to get into psychology, I think I try to be the extreme case of not taking anything too seriously so that I can pull people around me back to a less stressful place. I genuinely enjoy doing embarrassing things to make Abbie and Andy uncomfortable hahaha.
- ‘If I Could Die Like This Tonight’ sounds like a beautiful catharsis. Talk us through your songwriting process.
Abbie: Our writing process usually starts with either a lyric/melody that I have come up with or a simple part or chord progression that Ethan brings to me. For this particular song, Ethan sent me a chord progression for the verse, and I am a procrastinator, so it took me a while to sit down and come up with something for it. The song is based on a true story, so I sat down and wrote it immediately in the moment of inspiration. That is how a lot of songs happen for me. Once I have a solid verse and chorus, Ethan and I will get a rough recording and start on production immediately. This one was exciting to work on because it was happy and something quite new for us. Once we get to a certain point, we finally get Andy in to play drums and more times than not this will re-inspire the song for us. We always have so many more ideas and become even more excited about it once Andy’s part pulls it all together. Usually along the way, we will get frustrated with a song and have to put it down for a bit, but this song was a unique one where the entire process was seamless. It was a great feeling for all of us.
- What has the Covid19 Pandemic done to change what you do as artists, what/how you write and how you stay productive together?
Abbie: Oh boy. Where do I start? Andy is currently back home living in Chicago, IL, while we are currently living in Florida. That is about 14 hours away. That makes things very difficult for us as a band. We can’t play music together. We can’t sit in a room and talk about ideas. We can’t just hang out. This has definitely taken a toll on us, not just in regards to working together but also because we are basically family. We had several big plans that have been cancelled. We were going to play our first big-production show at our college’s theatre on campus, and that has been cancelled. I personally was going to walk for college graduation in May. I am also currently living in Florida to keep my parents and myself safe. I have not seen my family since the end of February. I have been incredibly inspired to write music, but it is all quite sad right now. I miss my people a lot. We have been doing pretty well at staying productive, and this situation has forced us to become quite creative in how we do that. We have a podcast called The Cove on YouTube and Soundcloud, and we are now recording that podcast over Skype. We have been doing acoustic covers on our Instagram stories as requested by our audience. We are currently recording a cover of Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die” to post on our YouTube. I have also figured out how to create memes, so I have created some pretty great Shelter Cove memes to post when we have nothing else to post. We are working on a lot of new music until we reach a point where all it needs is drums. We are doing everything we can to keep our heads up during this time. We definitely miss playing shows and just being together in a room, but we will get through this.
Andy: Since the beginning of March we’ve been separated by hundreds of miles, and it’s forced us, along with the rest of the music community, to get as creative as possible. As far as songwriting, we each have remote recording set ups to send ideas back and forth. We’ve been getting as involved on social media as we can, doing instagram live streams, instagram stories of covers and reactions, recording podcasts over skype, slowly breaking into tiktok, all that good stuff.
Ethan: It’s been very different. We don’t have the immediate ability to get together when we have an idea right now. Abbie and I are stuck at other ends of the country from Andy. It’s really been a lot of Abbie and I at a computer trying to hash out an idea without drums and then sending it out to Andy. What is weird is that’s how the band started before andy moved here to Tennessee, so it isn’t as odd as it would be had we never done that before. We are really itching to get together again. I think what it has allowed us to do is really knock out production on songs before we go into the studio to track drums. That aspect, I think, will be really fun to experience in the studio. We are usually working on it all at the same time and waiting until parts are done to move onto the next. Now, drums will be like the final touch and we will really get to feel it come together in an instant in the studio. I think that will be fun. Just trying to look at the bright side haha.
- To finish, now that you have released this stunner of a track what have you got coming up that you’d like to let everyone reading know about?
Right now, we are working on some really exciting music to release in the future once we are able to get back together and record drums. We have a track called “Nightmares and Daydreams” that we are currently sitting on, and it is our favorite song we have created yet. It is captivating and different, and I think it makes us all want to jump on a stage SO badly. The song is about the strange feeling when life is actually going well and your mind can’t help but wonder if it’s too good to be true. Despite these dark feelings translated throughout the song, the production in the chorus is dance-y and upbeat. I think people will be surprised in a good way by what we have coming next.