Don't Give Up On Me

by Nick Shaheen

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    Limited edition first-run of Don't Give Up On Me. Comes in a high quality digipak including booklet containing lyrics, photos and a drawing by Nick Shaheen. Concept and artwork by Nick Shaheen and William Moxham.

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about

With so much new music being discovered and thousands of sub-genres being spat out these days, sometimes the most impressive releases have a worn-in, overtly familiar feeling. In the case of Chicago singer/songwriter Nick Shaheen's debut Don't Give Up On Me, it's a simple backbone: wading on the shores of the last sixty years of Americana, the young upstart visits topics well beyond his years with a relatable, honed-in delivery that calls to mind some of the genres greatest voices. Recorded over two years in various measures - apartments, studios, and even iPhones - this first outing is rife with pain and joy, both equally presented with the same disarming honesty.

A native of the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights, Shaheen's workmanlike mentality spills from his education and onto the written page. Majoring in Finance and Marketing at the University of Michigan, Shaheen toyed with music a bit in his teens and early 20's but admits to not committing to songwriting up until 2009, when he crafted a tune rather out of the blue that he couldn't shake. "The song came out so fast and afterwards, it was something I could look at and I felt like it stood on its own and didn't need me to validate it or anything," he recalls. "I always felt connected to music and knew I'd be doing something with it, but I never really wrote anything (before that)... so it seemed kind of strange. But when it all started to happen, it just sort of unfolded for me and I felt very connected to the whole thing."

After relocating to Chicago to continue work in finance, Shaheen met up with those that would make up his backing band through open mic performances and connections at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. It seems like fate that these members, most of which being from Michigan as well, also sport not-so-typical work histories: Shaheen is backed by a lawyer, an Apple Genius, a mechanical engineer, a brand strategist and a district manager of a hardware store chain.

Far from just another good-hearted singer with an acoustic guitar, Shaheen and his cast of friends and area musicians paint an always moving picture - sometimes with flashes of horn or banjo, but always with flair and playing for the good of the song. The hypnotic shuffle of "Hard Times," the lively storytelling of "Fishin'," the hushed romance of both "By My Name" and "Quite Uncommon" - all are blanketed in a keen sense of harmony, structure and making the most of one's palette. Shaheen has clearly took cues from his influences - Van Morrison, Dave Matthews, Bob Dylan - but these are far from crib notes. He stands on his own throughout this album, spilling Dylan's deliberate lyrical rhythms over a mix of bluegrass, folk and busker-style country.

Don't Give Up On Me is full of poetic musings that speak volumes in their whispers, giving a unique sense of being let in on a secret performance, not so much Shaheen pulling out all the stops to get your attention. Perhaps this LP's greatest triumph is the piano-accompanied closer, "Inside My Shoes." Though hitting the rafters with his voice in some of this album's upbeat moments ("So Long," "I Could Love") Shaheen's notes shake here with a vision of life on the road in sight. Shaheen says this near-perfect track is "about a man trying to come to terms with where he's been, where he's at and where he's going, or wants to go. I wrote it as a direct response to Hank Williams singing 'Lost Highway,' not as a rebuttal, but to look at it through a different pair of eyes."

Despite the dilapidated home of the album cover - a 1956 shot found via the Seattle Engineering Department's public archive - and the pleading nature of its title, Shaheen isn't tied down to a singular theme of disaster or hopelessness. "While I don't think there's an overriding theme, I think the record deals with a lot of the big questions: life, death, love, loneliness. And that always leaves room for interpretation depending on where you're coming from. Some people will think a song is about lost love, when it's really about dying. And that's a good thing. It's important that people connect with music in their own way and have their own feelings about it." In fact, wrapping the entire project under the name Don't Give Up On Me was nearly last-minute. "I was still figuring out the track order, but it seemed like (the title track) was always going to be first (on the album) and I really liked that being the first phrase anyone would ever hear of my recorded music," Shaheen says. As he and Moxham were bike-riding up and down the California coast, Shaheen "noticed a lot of these old houses and cars with this weathered, sandblasted look and the idea they were all calling out 'Don't give up on me' popped into my head." Some may call the such an idea chilling - that we're all just temporary and can be wiped away by just existing - but when you realize that it holds true for all of us, it's strangely comforting. Just like every track on this record.

credits

released 26 March 2012
NICK SHAHEEN | DON'T GIVE UP ON ME

All songs written by Nick Shaheen

Recorded in various studios around Chicago and Detroit

Album musicians: Russell Gillespie, William Moxham, Daniel Cousino, Cisco Rodriguez-Quijano, Max Brink, Aaron Mitter and Nick Shaheen.

Produced by Nick Shaheen, Russell Gillespie and William Moxham

Copyright 2012 BSPROUT RECORDS

Thanks so much to Russ, Will and Dan for helping me see this record through and thanks to all of you out there for your continued support.

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Track Name: Don't Give Up On Me
Don't give up on me, I won't give up on you
Like a paper cup and the summer dew
And like the Delta blues going out to sea
I won't give up on you, don't give up on me

Don't you be afraid like I always am
Just a little boy looking for the promised land
And like a hell-bent man that never knows the way
Well, I always am, but don't you be afraid

And if you gotta leave I will let you go
Like April third let December snow
And like the bell that rings down your golden street
I will let you go if you gotta leave

But don't give up on me, I won't give up on you
Like a paper cup and the summer dew
And like the Delta blues going out to sea
I won't give up on you, so don't give up on me
Track Name: Fishin'
I heard a story 'bout a walking whale
And in a million years he learned how to sail
Led an expedition out into the deep blue
He was lookin' to kill something just like him
But this one was big and white and still had fins
He said, "You owe me a leg and I'ma see I get it back from you!"

Sailed through the water, high and low
Shootin' harpoons at the beast below
Captain pressed on despite the company's groans
And wouldn't you know? Up came the whale
The boat and crew sucked down to jail
Now that sailor, he belongs to Davey Jones

Another story 'bout a hummingbird
Who sung just to sing, not to be heard
So happened it was captured and thrown in a cage one day
By a woman who loved the sound of its tune
She'd listen everyday from dawn til noon
But the bird wanted out and it just had to find a way

Beat on the cage givin' everything
Back to his perch with a broken wing
Knew right then that it was never gonna break out the door
And so it goes, the bird sung a song
So loud that the lady's ears went wrong
And now that lady, well, she can't hear no more

You can pick what you like and go set sail
Whether it be a hummingbird or a big white whale
And chase it all around like you've met your match
But you'll see what happens when you try
To cage a bird that's meant to fly
Or when you go fishin' for something that you just can't catch

When you go fishin' for something that you just can't catch
Track Name: Hard Times
He set off for sea when he joined the corps
Thinking life needs something more
Now he’s fighting for whatever, he ain’t sure what for
It’s hard times coming from a single shore

Reading from a letter signed with his name
Screaming at his picture that he’s all to blame
But she keeps on crying just the same
It’s hard times coming from a single frame

Crying in her pillow, Ma can hardly bear
Bible in hand, sends a plea up in the air
With a million other mothers, does he even care?
It’s hard times coming from a single prayer

And he's out after two years for drunken assault
Pa bursts in the door, comes to a halt
Sees an empty room, his eyes turn to salt
It’s hard times coming from a single malt

Girl’s eyes are red, Ma’s not doing well
Pa’s out of prison now his son’s in hell
And he don’t know where to go or who to tell
It’s hard times coming from a single cell

Staring back at the shore, he heads west
Pa’s back in prison on his third arrest
Ma’s losing hope, but he’ll pass her test
And that girl got married, it’s probably for the best

He never found it in a bottle, couldn’t see it in the sky
It wasn’t in somebody else or the shot wound in his thigh
But he’ll keep on looking, never asking why
It’s hard times coming, but they’ll pass him by

Hard times but they’re gonna pass him by
Track Name: Quite Uncommon
Changing my perspective
As you sit and talk with me
Big brown eyes are deep inside
Your big philosophy
I like your crazy theories
And your hearsays and conjectures
Don’t make much sense but yet
I firmly hold on to your lectures

And I think I might like to listen to you all night

Paint a pretty picture, dear
With your wild imagination
Reds and blues, all kinds of hues
I love your mind’s creations
I study your proportions
Mona Lisa put to shame
I’d like to also mention that
Your figure fits inside a perfect frame

And I might like to look at you all night

You’re quite uncommon, but I like it
Yeah, I do
You’re quite uncommon, but I like it
That’s the truth

Sing a song so sweetly, dear
Just for singing’s sake
Golden sound all around
I love the waves you make
Raising up the rafters
For the common folk to hear
‘Bout dreams and everafters
That would even make St. Peter shed a tear

And I might like to sing to you all night

You’re quite uncommon, but I like it
Yeah, I do
You’re quite uncommon, but I like it
That’s the truth
You’re quite uncommon, but I like it
Yeah, I’m talking to you
You’re quite uncommon
I think I’m uncommon, too
Track Name: I Could Love
She’s way up high, but knows where it’s at
Tightrope walking or she falls down flat
Perfect balance, she’s got it down pat
I could love an acrobat

Digging through the past checking off her list
History accounted for and not dismissed
Learning how differences can coexist
I could love an anthropologist

And in a day these roles we play

To the best for all man she tries to cater
Seen so many wrongs it’s just the way it’s made her
Talks about it now so it don’t blow up later
I could love a hostage negotiator

Graceful, she moves and her white dress fans her
When she gets on stage all eyes do transfer
Dancing just because she don’t need no answer
I could love a ballerina dancer

And in a day these roles we play

I put you on a pedestal, you fell down hard
I got a good look watching from my car
Now everywhere I look, well there you are
No, I can’t love a movie star
Track Name: By My Name
Thought I knew you, I just didn't see your way
The things you do and the wicked games you play
Like I could be sitting right on top of the sky
And I would see the most beautiful bird die

You can break my bones, you can break my heart
Pull me together or tear me apart
Just know that I'd never do the same
Call me by my name

Pleasure and pain, they go hand in hand
Like a bird in rain that has chosen not to land
Suffice it to say that the older the bird grew
Was the price it'd pay for enjoying the view

You can break my bones, you can break my heart
Pull me together or tear me apart
Just know that I'd never do the same
Call me by my name

Thought I knew you, all I knew was what I saw
Then I saw through you, I saw nothing at all
There I watched you as your wings unfurled
And I swear in there I saw the whole wide world

You can break my bones, you can break my heart
Pull me together or tear me apart
Just know that I'd never do the same
Call me by my name
Track Name: So Long
There’s something going on and we need to talk
I’m hittin' it head on every way I walk
And it’s ringin' in my ears like an old time tune
Hangin' on my head like the sun at noon
I’ve got some pennies in my pocket for every time you’d say
We’ll figure it out along the way
But for everything you said, you never told me how
Well, I bought a train ticket and I’m leaving now

So Long.

The sun shined bright on me from the start
My shadow and I, you couldn’t tell apart
Don’t say I’m not who you first met
I’ve just been filling in that silhouette
And I won’t change into what you want me to be
I am who I am, just how you fell for me
Yeah, I could stick around and try to see it through
But that’s not the type of man that fell for you

So Long.

I wish you well, I wish you the best
Health and happiness and all the rest
But most of all I wish you’d say
That I never should have gone away
It wasn’t like I chose to go
You left no choice, but you didn’t know
So here’s to you finding out one day
The one that left ain’t always the one walking away

So Long.
Track Name: Coming Home
Well it’s time for me to leave
Don’t know where I’m gonna go
Slowing down with the last turn of the wheel
I was born into a light
And it’s been a grand ol’ ride
But going back is all part of the deal

I don’t know what is in store
I don’t care about before
I've got one more open door
Life, I’m coming home

I got my kicks for free
As I was walkin’ to your door
I tried knockin', but you wouldn’t let me in
Now I’m standing on your porch
And though I’ve been here once before
I’m ready now to try it once again

I don’t know what is in store
I don’t care about before, anymore
I've got one more open door
Life, I’m coming home

I’m becoming what I’m running from
I’m coming home
Track Name: Inside My Shoes
The good advice says I'll curse the day
I start a-rollin' down that lost highway
But you'd know why I can't refuse
If you walked a mile inside my shoes

I had a love and she was good as gold
She had my heart though I never told
Now instead of love I’ve got a muse
She couldn’t walk a mile inside my shoes

Home sweet home is a place I rent
I’m living off of the government
Without a string and with less to lose
I still can walk a mile inside my shoes

The open road, my guitar in hand
Is looking like the promised land
Maybe I’ll find that it’s all a ruse
Once I’ve walked a mile inside my shoes