WHO'S NEW ... SHANNON LAWSON

Hello, 'Goodbye'

Shannon Lawson's debut hit, "Goodbye On A Bad Day," is about the end of a marriage. Luckily, the song wasn't inspired by something that happened to him - it's about something he feared.

"My wife and I moved to Nashville the day after our honeymoon," he recalls. "We were in a new town, starting a life with the new dynamics of being married, and I thought, 'What would I feel like if this person left me?' I would feel like I was in hell, literally. It would ruin everything."

Two years later, Shannon and wife Mandy are still very much together, and the song inspired by a newlywed's fear may now be his ticket to the big time. It's a moment he's been preparing for all his life. "I got into music because that's all I've ever done," he says, "and that's all I've ever wanted to do."

Indeed, Shannon got his first guitar at age 7 - a gift from his multi-instrumentalist father, who taught him to play. Growing up in small-town Taylorsville, Ky., Shannon's musical tastes were built on bluegrass but came to be influenced by everyone from Merle Haggard to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Shannon began writing his own songs at age 18 and attended college for a year in nearby Louisville before dropping out to pursue music full-time. He soon found himself the youngest member of an otherwise all-black R&B group. "Those guys took care of me," Shannon remembers. "They showed me how to survive on playing music."

In 1993, Shannon also formed a bluegrass group, The Galoots. That band attracted a lot of local attention - including some from Shannon's future wife, who was then a local DJ. In fact, when the couple left Louisville behind and made the move to Nashville, it was Mandy's knowledge of the music business that helped Shannon score a record deal. "She was instrumental," he says. "She learned who was who and what was what in town, and who was legit and who wasn't - and everything just fell into place."

The result is Chase The Sun, Shannon's upcoming debut album, which features 10 self-penned songs alongside one cover - his bluegrass version of Marvin Gaye's R&B classic "Let's Get It On." With that under his belt, Shannon's goals now seem within reach.

"I want to be able to survive off music for the rest of my life," declares the 28-year-old. "That doesn't mean I have to be the top dog or any of that kind of crap. I just don't ever want to go back to a day job!"

-- Chris Neal

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