New. Now. Next. Reed Shannon

When Grammy Award winning, Oscar nominated multi-hyphenate Amir Windom calls, you answer. In catching up with the A&R, Music Supervisor and Film Producer and inquiring about his forthcoming projects, he says two words: Reed Shannon. “You’re about to see him everywhere…” began Amir, “He’s an actor, singer, dancer, comedian…he’s the next Bruno Mars.”

When the man who won a Grammy for Bruno Mars’ album, “Unorthodox Jukebox” tells you someone is the “next Bruno Mars”, you believe him.

Similar to the “Finesse” crooner who began performing professionally as a child, Reed has graced more stages and performed to more sold out crowds than singers twice his age and he’s only 18. Before he was a teenager, Reed honed his vocals and his stage presence embodying legends Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Berry Gordy in “Motown: The Musical”.

Reed then moved on to television voicing the role of “Singing AJ” in the Nickelodeon series, “Blaze and the Monster Machines” in addition to on screen roles in “Henry Danger” and “School Of Rock”. Reed recently made his big screen debut in the socially conscious thriller, “Canal Street”, along side Bryshere Gray (“Empire”) and Woody McClain (“The Bobby Brown Story”) which is slated to hit theaters in January 18, 2019.

As Reed prepares for the January release of his debut album, “Soul Play” I was honored to speak with the talented and gracious young star at Hotel Indigo’s, 18 Social in downtown LA. During our conversation Reed shared how his latest acting role changed his life, his transition from child star to young adult as well as the importance of having patience through his development phase as an artist in the midst of the instantaneous lure of social media fame.

Zon D’Amour: Many people were first introduced to you when you were 13-years-old through “Motown: The Musical”. You also have a fan base that would recognize you from several Nickelodeon series. Now that you have a new album coming out where you’re talking about some mature topics, which is understandable now that you’re 18, has it been hard for you to transition from child star to a young adult?
Reed Shannon:
I wouldn’t say it’s hard but it’s challenging trying to pick projects that show that I’m older. If I do a younger project it keeps people thinking a certain way but if its too old, some people will say, ‘Oh no! This doesn’t make any sense, it’s not adding up’ and for others it may help to expand their perception to who they think I am. It’s a trial and error situation and I guess that’s just apart of growing up.

Filming “Canal Street” when we did was probably one of the greatest things that could happen in my life…

ZD: Your debut film, “Canal Street” is a very serious, racially motivated, social injustice film that touches on the plight of African American males and the judicial system. Your upbringing as a child actor is vastly different from the real life experiences that inspired director Rhyan LaMarr to write this film. What did you learn by being apart of this project?
I’m from North Carolina so that in itself, being from the south, you’ll get a certain amount of looming racism—when I was younger I started to notice it. Luckily my parents are very aware; they went to college at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) so they were always teaching me and my two older sisters about America and the things that they don’t really tell you in school. They started to show us things that you wouldn’t really see unless you were looking for it.

When I was younger, I always had problems in school, not because I was a problem child but because they didn’t know how to handle a young, black, creative kid in class so I learned a lot of lessons through that with “Canal Street”. It’s cool because I get to play a role where I’m aware of what’s going on but I’m in a school where everyone sees my character as the “cool black kid” so I sort of settle for that. But there’s something that happens within the film that makes my character come to conflict internally. There’s a moment when I see another young black man treated so vastly different from my character and in my mind it’s like, ‘Wow, but we look the same’ and it’s a wake-up call. No matter what your upbringing is, if you’re a person of color, there’s some aspect of this film that you can relate to.

ZD: There’s often a lot of pressure put on artists to also be activists. When you film a movie about what’s going right now, you can’t ignore it. Whether you choose to insulate yourself from it, you’re still cognizant of what’s happening. Having been apart of “Canal Street” is there something in particular that you’re passionate about as it pertains to millennials and/or young African American men?
Filming “Canal Street” when we did was probably one of the greatest things that could happen in my life. I was 16 when we finished filming and I was just being introduced to the world that wasn’t built to support me. And I got to see that through something that I love which is acting. There were parts of America that I hadn’t seen it and I began to ask my parents more questions and they explained a lot of things to me. In terms of having a platform, I don’t want it to feel inauthentic.

If you’re speaking out against an injustice in the world I want it to come from the heart. It shouldn’t come from a place where everyone is telling me I have to talk about this so I’m going to talk about it, that’s not genuine and it’s not really going to change anything because no one takes you seriously. I feel like I’m still developing my platform so i can’t really make the changes that I want to make, yet but I’m building my foundation. That’s the great thing about acting, you always find the truth within you to display it on screen for everyone else to see.

ZD: I’m excited to be at the beginning of your career as you transition into being an artist as well as a film actor. You have an amazing team around you, your parents are so supportive and you’re incredibly talented. As you’re in the midst of your development stage, when you see other people on social media who seem to be “winning” in the moment, how do you trust the process? How do you remain patient and trust that everything is happening at the right time?
I have to tell myself whats for me is for me and it’s hard because I have a lot of friends who are “it” right now. It’s hard to sit back and see them doing all the things that I want to do. I ask myself, “well when is it my turn?” But, I have faith. And I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing than this so I just have to wait for it to all happen. I have a great team who continues to encourage me and tell me, ‘you have “it” don’t worry about that.’ This industry will make you feel like you don’t have what you really do have and it will make you feel like you’re not worth as much as you really are.

It’s been really tough just getting through that mindset then something happens and it’s like, we’re good…so it comes down to having a lot of faith: faith in God, faith in the people around you, faith in your abilities and your gifts and faith that it will all work out. That’s what I have to tell myself. But sometimes that doesn’t work and I just have to sit in my sadness and then I think about how far I’ve come. I think about that little 11-year-old Reed who really wanted to do this and that drives me. It’s like when a candle goes out but you still need it so you have to light it again…that’s a really bad analogy (laughs) but you get what I’m saying!

ZD: Have you had those moments where you thought you really wanted something but in hindsight you’re glad it didn’t work out?
Yes, I go out on a lot of auditions and there are some roles where I’m like, ‘I want it, that’s mine.’ and then I see it and I see why it wasn’t for me. And I look at what I’m doing around it and if I had gotten “x” then I wouldn’t have been able to do “y”. I was up for this boy band and they wanted me to focus solely on music. As much as I would have loved to do it and in the moment I was like, ‘this is it, I’m set. we’re next up if we do this…’ When I think about it, [had I joined the band] I wouldn’t have been able to film “Canal Street”. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to audition and be selected but it just didn’t work out and in hindsight, I think it was best that I didn’t join. There are a lot of examples like this, especially in the acting world [so in the interim] I’m always working on my craft and I feel like I’m constantly growing and getting better.

…It comes down to having a lot of faith: faith in God, faith in the people around you, faith in your abilities and your gifts and faith that it will all work out…

ZD: What do you think about the state of the music industry right now? I think there are so many artists whose “plan” is to do what’s hot right now and in their mind they believe that they can switch from, for example, “trap” to “country” two albums later because that’s what they’re truly passionate about but then your audience gets confused like, ‘who are you, really?’ How are you selecting music that you’re actually passionate about as opposed to what’s on the radio?
I think that’s one of the cool things about my EP that’s coming out, you can hear something different in each track. It sort of lays the groundwork for anything I want to do in the future. I think the music industry is in a very weird place right now. There’s really good music out there but people are slowly paying attention. What’s most popular is the stuff that’s easy but as time goes on, I’m starting to notice that people know who my favorite artists like Daniel Ceasar, Sabrina Claudio Billie Eilish and Tori Kelly. Those are all artists who make quality music that’s true to them and they’re building their fan base.

I think patience is real in the music industry because it doesn’t happen quick unless you make something that’s trendy. I want to make content that lasts but if I focus on doing what’s hot now, it won’t be what’s hot tomorrow. There are songs from the early 2000s that were hits that people my age don’t know now and the only reason I know that music is because my older sister was in college in the early 2000s.

I have a lot of friends who do music and we’re sort of on this journey together.There are moments as an artist that you feel alone and to have people that are in the same boat as you and trying to figure it out as well is helpful. There’s a level of understanding that your peers have that your parents don’t. Parents can help you through it as much as they can but your best friends sometimes know you better. Love you mom!

This industry will make you feel like you don’t have what you really do have and it will make you feel like you’re not worth as much as you really are…

ZD: Speaking of parents, they’re typically the first to identify our skill sets and they get the ball rolling on developing our talents. Since you were working and touring at such a young age, did you ever stop and think, “I just want to go home and color?’ When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in entertainment as opposed to just doing what your parents wanted you to do?
My parents are really cool. From the time they knew that they were having kids, they decided to let my sisters and I do whatever we were interested in. I don’t feel like they’ve ever pushed me to do anything that I didn’t want to do. When I was younger, I loved playing baseball and if I wasn’t doing this I would probably be doing that. And I was a Boy Scout, which was probably the only other thing my dad really wanted me to do. But i never had to switch it up or change gears because I’ve always liked whatever I was doing.

I started dancing when I was two-years-old. My parents saw that and enhanced it. I found “Motown: The Musical” by myself. I wanted to audition for the original show but I wasn’t doing that well in school. My teacher sent a note to my parents saying that I was having behavior issues, missing homework, missing projects, etc. so my parents didn’t let me audition and I respect them for that. A year later I saw the audition again and I was doing better in school. I begged them, ‘Please let me do this!’ and they said, ‘Alright, you’ve proved that you can handle it.’ So they let me audition, I booked it and they let me go on tour. It was hard but it was fun. That’s one of the main things that I like about this industry, it’s hard and it’s frustrating, it gets me down sometimes but I love it.

You can follow Reed’s ascent to greatness on Instagram & Facebook @Reed.Shannon