If there were an easy path to pop stardom, singer-songwriter Shawn Hook would have crossed it long ago. Instead, he traded the short shelf life of teen idol status for the steady mastery of his craft. The game plan paid off with Shawn’s debut hit single, “Sound of Your Heart,” which tore up Top 40 radio last year. That only set the table for bigger things to come: his Hollywood Records premiere EP, “My Side of Your Story,” Shawn’s most mature and musically adventurous work to date.
In its four songs the EP shows Shawn’s flair for musical and emotional colors, grounded in irresistible pop panache. “With an EP you don’t have a lot of time to give someone an impression of your work,” says Shawn, who co-wrote each song. “I wanted to make sure my music was diverse. My tastes are diverse. So it’s not one tone or one taste.”
As the title implies, the EP explores relationships that tend to go off script. The EP’s premiere single, “Reminding Me” (written by Shawn with Ethan Thompson and Jonas Jeberg, and produced by Stephen “Koz” Kozmeniuk) has already drawn national attention. The sensual ballad features Shawn in duet with Vanessa Hudgens, all grown up since her “High School Musical” days. The two clicked on the song and its steamy companion video.
“She was so confident and friendly,” Shawn recalls. “Vanessa knows what she wants. Our first scene was the bedroom scene. We got comfortable with each other, and once you’re shooting, you commit to the role.”
Their chemistry similarly clicked with fans. The track has logged more than 15 million streams on Spotify and already hit the Top 20 in Shawn’s native Canada.
“Good Days,” produced by Jason Evigan, reflects nostalgia for a long-gone relationship, while “Never Let Me Let You Go” (produced by Ammar Malik, the Monsters & Strangerz and Kevin Snevely) brings a retro-Eurodance vibe to Shawn’s tale of a stormy love affair.
The EP closes with the hard-edged “Dancin’ in the Sky,” co-written by Shawn, Joey Vitas, Ryan Tedder of One Republic and Noel Zancanella, who also produced the track. It picks up on the nostalgia theme, proposing a world much better than today’s hot mess. Sound impossible? That’s just how Shawn Hook rolls.
Raised in rural British Columbia, Shawn Hlookoff grew up far from the big city, but from an early age harbored big dreams. He studied piano as a kid, later making his first attempts at songwriting. His high school music teacher changed the course of Shawn’s musical life by forcing him to learn a new instrument: the trombone.
“He wanted to broaden my range,” Shawn remembers. “I ended up getting into jazz combos, seeing amazing jazz bands, going to jazz clinics. It rounded me out as a musician.”
Passing on the opportunity to work in the family business, Shawn instead bet on himself. He changed his name for starters to something more apropos: Hook. “When I first started writing I focused on hooks,” he says. “A hook is the basis. Once you have it, you can form the story around it. We all sing karaoke waiting for the hook.”
With no manager and no prospects, he went all in on his career. “I had no back-up plan,” he recalls. “I played open mic shows every night. I wrote a song a day. I knew I had to get better every day.”
Shawn eventually recorded and produced his own debut album in 2004. That led to signing with his longtime manager, Pierre Tremblay, and shifting the focus to the U.S. market. Shortly after, Shawn signed with Freeform as a staff songwriter. He had his original compositions featured on several Freeform and ABC network shows, including “General Hospital.”
From there he made the move to artist. He had several high-charting hit singles in Canada off his album, “Cosmonaut and the Girl,” with “Sound of Your Heart” becoming a Top 30 hit across North America. He toured the U.S., Canada and Europe with Lindsay Stirling and Marianas Trench, and also signed with Hollywood Records/Universal Music Canada.
“They are a great company,” he says of his new label. “Typically labels make promises that never happen. Here they’ve been patient with me. When I first sat down with them, they asked me what kind of record I want to make.”
With the release of new EP and single, Shawn has been seizing the moment, appearing on NBC’s “Today” (singing “Reminding Me” live with Vanessa Hudgens) and getting ready to bring “My Side of Your Story” to the world.
It’s a story ready to be told.
“Music does bring people together,” Shawn says. “There’s that affirmation moment when you look out at a crowd and see such a diversity among the people. You don’t know what divides them, but you do know what unites them: Music.”