Shawn McDonald Biography
Review The Artist (10)
Shawn McDonald’s life has been marked by a string of heartaches, bad breaks, and personal mistakes, events that have landed him both in trouble with the law and in love with the Lord – in that order. The streettough but tenderhearted McDonald has never shied away from telling his story – of growing up in Eugene, Oregon, as an angry, rebellious teen who was a drug addict and a dealer, looking for any and every way to escape his pain and a dysfunctional home. In 1998, at just 20 years old and at the end of his rope – and facing nine felony counts on a drug bust – McDonald cried out to God . . . and started turning his life around. He hasn’t looked back since.
When his first album, Simply Nothing, released in 2004, it was clear that this was a guy who would spill his guts into every song and every gig. His lyrics were bold, stark, palpably authentic. Ditto his shows, where
McDonald shared his compelling testimony night after night, holding nothing back. “Honesty,” he said at the time, “is huge.”
Six and a half years later, it still is. So it makes perfect sense that McDonald would call Closer, his fourth studio project, “a very honest and vulnerable record.” Honestly, what else could it be?
His first three albums – Simply Nothing (2004), Ripen (2006), and Roots (2008) – chronicled the journey of a broken man who’d found redemption, who was growing in faith while expressing his doubts, singing praises and lamentations along the way. But always a picture of a man drawing closer to the God who saved his life . . . and his soul.
“I was starting to mature in my faith and putting my roots down,” McDonald says of his 2008 release. “I was reaching a point where I was allowing my life to be rooted in Christ. But that was also about the time when I really started going through it.”
Which brings us to Closer. McDonald wrote most of the 13 songs while “going through it” – a painful few years that ultimately ended in a failed marriage.
He’d walked down the aisle in 2005; two years later, they had a baby boy named Cohen. But all was not well on the home front: Their marriage was falling apart. McDonald says he and his wife both made mistakes
from the start, and they never found unity they’d longed for. “I was too young when I got married,” he says. “I had no clue what I was doing. My parents were never in my life, so marriage had never really been modeled for me. I had no idea how hard it was going to be.”
McDonald and his wife tried to reconcile their differences. They underwent counseling, and Shawn mostly put his music career aside to focus on their marriage. But after a couple of years, things were only getting worse, and the marriage finally ended in divorce in April 2010.
“It’s incredibly humiliating,” McDonald says. “I feel like I’ve failed, like I’ve let a lot of people down. I hate what happened. This definitely wasn’t something that I ever thought would be part of my story, but now it is
my story, and I have to deal with it.”
McDonald is concerned about how fans, retailers, and radio will react, but says he won’t try to defend himself. “The reality is that my wife and I both made mistakes,” he says. “We both screwed up. For me to try
and defend myself, that’s almost like trying to deny the fact that I messed up. But I did mess up, I hurt people, and I feel ashamed about it.”
He says his label and management have supported him “and walked with me on this road” – but only once they were convinced that McDonald was doing everything he could to turn things around. They suggested
that he step away from music for a while to sort things out. Even the new album, which has been ready for over a year, was indefinitely shelved. They wouldn’t release it until they felt McDonald was making progress
in working through his problems.
“I felt like Shawn did the work to try to reconcile and make his marriage work,” says David McCollum, McDonald’s manager. “The last thing he wanted was to become a statistic. He’s having a hard time accepting the fact that he’s a divorced father. But he’s grown up a lot through this, and we feel like Shawn’s in a good place and ready to move forward. We’re putting our professional reputations on the line by continuing to stand behind him, but we believe he can safely go out now and facilitate his career.”
Peter York, president of EMI Christian Music Group, agrees. “I think the world of Shawn,” he says, “but I’ve never thought from the day we signed him that he was going to be the perfect model artist. Some believers
will have difficulty with the news of his divorce, but divorce is just as much of an issue with believers as nonbelievers. It’s an unpleasant reality that we, and the church, need to deal with.
“Our artists have a responsibility to be models, but they still have problems. If an artist is willing to contend with their problems, I try to find grace and walk with them down that road. If they don’t want to take
responsibility, it’s not a good relationship for us. That’s the delineating factor. I’ve seen Shawn wrestle with his failures, and I’ve seen him earnestly contending with this challenge.”
York and the label helped by putting McDonald into a rigorous 6-week counseling program in Nashville, an experience the artist says was life-changing. “It was extremely intense and very hard,” he says. “You just get
real honest with your life and your heart. There was a lot of crying and healing, working through a lot of brokenness.”
The kind of brokenness that brings one Closer to God, that is. It’s a recurrent theme on the new album, one McDonald wrote mostly while in the midst of his struggles.
“If you listen to these songs,” he says, “you can hear the pain I was going through.”
Most of the songs were penned by McDonald, but he shares several writing credits with Brandon Heath, Joy Williams, Ben Glover, and Josh Garrels. The album is produced by Christopher Stevens (tobyMac, Sanctus Real). First single “Closer” released to radio in October and was being played nationwide on a number of stations.
McDonald hopes the songs – and his own mistakes and heartaches – can help others who are hurting, by pointing them to the One who heals.
“I don’t ever wish anybody to go through what I’ve been through,” he says. “But regardless of my pain, on days when I would be like, Where are you, God?, I would remember that He is faithful. Even in my brokenness, there was always a deeper feeling of hope. God was showing me immense mercy, even as He was rocking my faith to the core. It was like He allowed things to crumble just so He could rebuild it all. God has redeemed me, and He is healing my heart.
“So I hope this record can be a redemption story for people, that God can use it to speak and bring hope. Because that’s what He’s done for me.”
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Messages thru his music | Reviewer: Israel Martinez | 10/26/12
The first time i heard the lyrics to the song " Open Me " I could not believe how deep and sincere the words were. I thougt is he singing about me. I'm 57 years old and I'm old school when it comes to songs.I never really ever got into music like Shawn's
the whole cd is awsome full of power and grace. With a message from the all mighty God. Bless Shawn and all who listen!!!
Thank you! | Reviewer: Deb | 10/22/12
How can one thank this God gifted talent that brings me to a place of peace and worship and reminds me who I am in Christ . His music reminds me to pray for those I know who are in the same situation as he once was. There is not one of his songs that fails to touch my soul. Bless You and Thank You Shawn! God keep your eyes focused on The One who calms the storms and your heart tucked in His hands.
Amazing. | Reviewer: Belteshazzah | 6/5/12
Now, I understand where he's coming from!
And I totally agree to what he says about Honesty before God and Men. Until we can relate to the two on personall level, it's always hard to communicate effectively. Joseph Rojas (Seventhday Slumber) and some other artists are good at relating to we the listeners on personal grounds and I can testify of the mind healing I have recieved from them...Shawn iI no exception.
AMAZING!!! | Reviewer: kathy | 3/18/11
I have been listening to him for 2 years now and WOW! I am moved by his music, touched and blessed. I have shared his music to addicts that I work with-one of them has his ringtone now. His words are easy for us sinners to relate to and his words of grace remind us that it can always be ours if we surrender to god. If his life is not a testimony I don't know what is. God has an amazing way of revealing his plans for us. Those plans one way or another are for salvation for us and for us to share the word of god. I love you Shawn!
ROOTS | Reviewer: Berta | 8/26/10
Shawn McDonald is so amazing. The Roots cd is so great. I felt that he did not not get the reconition deserved for that cd (Album of the year) but he knows God is pleased and so is his fans! His music reaches to all people. I have all his cds, I am 58 .
amazing grace | Reviewer: Maria | 6/14/10
His life story is a great demonstration of God's grace. Now I understand why all of his songs are so deep and takes me evreytime to God's presence... I have my fingers sored because i'm so 'addicted' on playing the songs on guitar everyday... his music crossed the ocean, cause I'm an African girl... God is using his songs to touch lives... God keep blessing Shawn...
Take my hand | Reviewer: Sarah | 5/23/07
AMAZING SONG... i don't believe in god, but the music Shawn creates is amazing
One who lives what he sings | Reviewer: Nicole | 4/7/06
Not only does Shawn sing great songs about redemeption and forgiveness, but he also lives it... from what I've seen anyways. I saw him at his Church and at first was just Shocked that I was attending my favorite singers Church. But every once in a while I noticed that when the pastor was cracking jokes and everyone was roaring, Shawn had his head bowed and was totally warshiping God. Ever since that day I have had a greater respect for Shawn, and am enjoying his music more... because I've seen the man behind the words, and I liked what I saw.
Beautiful | Reviewer: Crystal | 12/16/05
The voice of Shawn McDonald is absolutely beautiful. His sweet voice along with the sound of the gentle melodies, put me at ease at my most stressful moments. I got the cd a week ago and cannot quit listening to it. I agree, if you love Shane and Shane, you will equally love Mr McDonald's music. I hope that he makes a new cd real soon. I am excited to see great things happen for this individual.
Simply Nothing | Reviewer: Sarah Graham | 8/20/05
If you like Shane and Shane, then there's agood chance you will probably fall in love with Shane McDonald (music first of course). He puts forth songs that cut straight to the core and adds soulful acoustic guitars to his lyrical wondering. In his Live from Seattle album he unshamedly tells of his past , his "before I was Christian" as it were, and from that it breathes life into the music he puts forth. His testimony makes his musical career that much more meaningful.
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