Up-and-coming artist Shaun Frank started making inroads with EDM fans following collaborations with some well-known dance music bosses. His recent track with Oliver Heldens and Delaney Jane, “Shades of Grey,” mixes deep sounds with mainstage-ready beats and vocals. Frank has a knack for creating a fresh sound that fits in the new wave of deep house that EDM-fans are learning to love. Get familiar with the man behind the beats before his next appearance supporting 3LAU and Dyro at Drai’s Beach Club on September 5.
How did you get hooked up with Heldens and Jane for “Shades of Grey?”
Delaney is a vocalist I’ve worked with before; we have a track called “This Could be Love” that came out about eight months before. I had that vocal [for “Shades of Grey”], and Oliver came to Toronto on New Year’s Eve. He’d been playing some of my songs on his radio show. We ended up going bowling in Niagara Falls, like the next day [after his show in Toronto]—I won, by the way. We headed to my studio and I was playing a bunch of stuff. He heard those vocals specifically, and he really liked it. We worked in the studio and went back and forth until [it was finished].
Where did the title come from?
Nothing to do with the movie, I promise. Delaney and [I] were sitting at the piano, writing, and it just kind of came out. We didn’t realize until later that it could be mistaken for the movie—or the book, I should say—but the lyrics just worked with the whole vibe we were going for, and that’s how it came to be.
Was it you or Delaney who wrote the lyrics?
Well, actually, that’s how it all started. Delaney had written a poem. I remember, we had the chords, and she pulled up this poem, and that actually is the lyrics.
Do you ever write the lyrics for your vocal tracks?
Yeah, I’m definitely involved in the lyric writing. I used to sing in a band. How I started in all of this was as a songwriter. I love working with vocals singing at a piano or with a guitar. I just like writing a song from scratch, before we even get in the studio and produce anything. That’s a big part of the process for me. There are some songs that I’ve written all the lyrics to.
What kinds of music did you play when you toured internationally with your band?
It was always really melodic. I liked punk rock when I was really young; I worked in a couple of bands like that. But my last band was like a Coldplay-meets-Foo Fighters kind of melodic rock band.
And then you crossed over into EDM?
I was asked to sing on a couple of dance records for some European DJs. One of [the records] ended up becoming No. 1 in Spain. I came on tour, singing with that DJ. That’s kind of how this all started. I had always been producing my own house music on the side, but never thought I’d put it out. I did that tour, and I came back and decided that I really want to pursue it. That was a couple of years ago.
Were you always a vocalist in these bands? Or do you play any traditional instruments?
I started as drummer, and I was talented on the piano. I play drums, piano and guitar. I can definitely write and jam around on any of those. But I do mainly vocals. And now I’m behind the decks.
Who were some of your early dance music influences?
Bob Sinclar, Paul Oakenfold, early Tiësto … When I really started taking it seriously the last couple of years, the records that really got me excited [included] the record Mat Zo put out, “Lucid Dreams”—that was amazing. Also Porter Robinson and Deadmau5. All the guys who really bring musicality and melody to the genre, that’s what I’m into.
Do those artists still influence you? And what’s your ultimate goal?
I wouldn’t say ‘influence,’ but ‘respect.’ I’m obviously working a lot with guys such as Oliver Heldens. I love all the new house stuff. Chris Lake is doing amazing things right now. I’m trying to bring a lot of melodic songwriting to the deep-house genre.
Why did you choose music over any other profession?
I just really enjoy performing and sharing music with others. [I enjoy] being in environments where people are affected by music, and bringing them together. I’ve had the opportunity to play my first festivals this summer, and just the vibe of all the people, there’s so much love for the music—especially in dance music.