Austin Songwriter recently sat and talked with Shawn Pander at an enchilada house near the Saxon Pub, where he would be performing later that night.
We asked if anyone had ever mentioned his resemblance to a young Gregg Allman.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that before.” So much for breaking the ice.
The Allman Brothers ended up being a constant theme. Pander group up in Houston, where Duane and Gregg and the band were an important cultural marker for decades. Closer to home, his dad played bass for a southern rock band that once opened up for the boys from Macon.
The elder Pander also played with the legendary Roy Head, and apparently passed down some serious musical genes to his young son, who, at the age of five, started playing around with an old guitar given to him by the handyman at his dad’s car lot in east Houston. Shawn moved from the guitar to a drum kit and world of jazz, ultimately earning a music scholarship at University of Texas at Austin. He finished his formal schooling back in Houston, then picked up the guitar again to pursue his true calling, the life of a singer-songwriter. After stints in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Nashville, he returned to the mothership, Austin, and is happily pursuing his passions with a passel of artistic collaborators and a new marriage. As a writer, performer and sometime producer, Pander is plowing the fertile fields of his Texas home.
But his work goes well beyond these borders. Compared to luminaries as diverse as Ryan Adams and Sam Cooke, Pander’s songs grow from the roots of the Texas songwriter and spread into branches of pop, even a little jazz, into blooms of universal love, hope and loss. Check out the breezy “Not This Time” or the driving “Never Gonna Let it Stop”. Or “Tell Mama”, a gripping story of a returning veteran saying goodbye to his former life and his former self.
Pander has released four albums of mostly original work in his young career, with much more to come. He has left behind the life of an instrumental technician, focusing on content more than form, and uses the guitar to deliver his words and melodies. “I’m really just a drummer playing guitar,” he says.
Shawn Pander is still at the beginning of his journey, a fine young man finding his way. But he has found his path.