By Jay King
CALGARY — The Toronto born and raised prodigy, Shawn Desman, is still doing what he loves and bringing his authentic self to all that he does. Packing over two decades of musical experience and stage performance under his belt, Shawn Desman is coming through Alberta to serenade the heartstrings of new and old fans on Valentine’s week.
Anyone who’s paid any attention to Canadian music since the early 2000s will have heard his name; Desman has had a successful career since his very debut, self-titled album in 2002, which went gold in Canada. From there he went on to win a JUNO with his follow up album, Back for More, for best R&B recording in 2006.
Since then Desman has kept busy with a variety of projects, expanding his love for both musical production and dance. He runs a Toronto-based dance competition, Move, which has become the fastest growing dance competition nationwide. Whereas dance is his original passion, music quickly fused with him, becoming something he wanted to take the reins of. Over the years Desman has taken a more hands-on approach to the production side of his music.
Trying not to become overwhelmed with writing and producing all of his music, Desman relishes the fruits of the labour and growth that accompanies each step he takes. “That’s the devil in the details, you’re your biggest critic,” Desman explains. “When you’re so close to the project you’re always questioning everything. I’m always looking for outside ears and getting others’ opinions. That’s what’s been the key to my success.”
His performance has also grown from the basic choreographed dance routines, accompanied with pre-recorded background tracks. Over the last four years Desman has been performing with a three-piece band. “Before it was just me and a bunch of dancers jumpin’ around out there, but I think I’m passed the dancer stage now,” Desman jokes. “It’s more about everything else, musically.”
Far removed from the slick, sidestepping, heartbreaking days of his early 20s, Desman exudes a maturity that shows not just in his dedication to his professional career, but within his personal life as well. Along with producing music and dance, Desman balances family life with his wife, Chantelle Leonardo, and their three children. “Family life is crazy,” he laughed, before boasting, “but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There’s nothing like having a family and kids, it’s amazing.”
Something else that has inspired Desman has been his involvement with the organization Free the Children. After choreographing for the We Day performance in 2001 and designing some promotional shirts as well, he took a trip to Kenya and saw first-hand what he was supporting. “It’s life changing, the things we take for granted. Our problems are so miniscule in comparison to the things some have to endure,” he says, highlighting how the trip put his life into a new perspective. “We’re spoiled, and not through any fault of our own. It’s just the cards we were dealt. So, it’s great to give back.”
Desman, like any good musical artist, also gives back to his fans through his passion for performing. “Over the years I’ve been able to garner a catalogue of songs that people love. The live band adds an element of excitement and interaction. From the old stuff to the new stuff and everything in between, it’s a fun show,” Desman encourages, with a modest expression that confirms why he’s been able to sustain a healthy and successful career without any of the blemishes which many icons in the pop-star world seem to incur.
Get “Shook” with Shawn Desman at the Marquee in Calgary on February 16th, Envy Nightclub on February 17th and Club NV in Fort McMurray on February 18th.