Tolan Shaw and his six-piece band will perform as the featured artist in the Local Flavor Concert Series at the Museum of Making Music June 7. He’ll be debuting his self-titled solo album at a concert at the Belly Up later this month. Courtesy photo
Arts Featured Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Tolan Shaw is having himself a ‘prolific year’

CARLSBAD — While every generation seems to reject their parents’ music, Tolan Shaw embraced the soulful sounds of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye that he learned from his dad, Doug Shaw a vocalist and guitarist with the band, The Rhythm Method. 

“He exposed me to music of the 1960s and 1970s and when I heard Jimi’s (Hendrix) wailing guitar, I had to learn electric guitar,” he recalled.

“I don’t know why, but I like older things — the chord progressions and music that is recorded live. To me, that old crackly sound of vinyl, and the way it is recorded, will never be repeated.”

A 2007 graduate of the San Diego Academy, Shaw said he knew he always wanted a career in music. He had his own band, The New Archaic, which played original songs inspired by the vintage R&B he liked so much.

Being practical, Shaw continued his music while working his way through the University of San Diego and earning a bachelor’s degree with a double major of international relations and Spanish in spring 2011.

He graduated with Sarah Vahalla, his girlfriend, now fiancée.

They have known each other since attending Capri Elementary School.

After winning first place as Best Songwriter at the San Diego County Fair in 2011, Shaw and Vahalla set out on a trip south of the border to 72 cities and 11 countries including Mexico, Belize, Guatamala, Nicaraga, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina.

“Lyrically, everything I wrote came from what I experienced and the relationships I made,” he said. “I spent time teaching English in Guatemala. When you are in a state of travel, you have time to think about other people, and cultures, and to reflect. I think about how lucky we are to live in San Diego.

“The biggest thing I learned as a musician on this trip is that I really want to do this as a career. It’s what I love to do most.”

When Shaw returned home in February 2012 he began to perform solo at Lestat’s Coffee House in Normal Heights, the E Street Café in Encinitas and the Belly Up in Solana Beach.

To date, he has won Best New Artist at the 2009 San Diego Music Awards and was nominated for Best Alternative Album, Movers and Fakers, in 2012.

On June 7 Shaw will perform with a six-piece band at the Museum of Making Music as it presents its popular Local Flavor Concert Series, which showcases up-and-coming artists from Southern California.

“This will mark the beginning of the fifth year of the series,” said B.J. Morgan, marketing manager for the museum.

“Local musician, promoter and writer Bart Mendoza recommended that we take a look at Tolan Shaw.

“Bart has worked with the museum on a number of educational and entertaining events and has an expansive understanding and connection to the San Diego local music scene. We really enjoyed Tolan’s songwriting and his ability to tell an intriguing and honest story within his music.”

On June 27, Shaw will release his debut, self-titled solo album at a concert at the Belly Up.

He’ll be accompanied by an eight-piece band including horns and backup singers who have performed previously with Jason Mraz and James Morrison.

“It’s been a prolific year,” Shaw said. “I set a goal and I am going forward full force. I have a valet job ( at George’s at the Cove in La Jolla) to pay the bills. Every second is put towards building the passion for music and trying to make it a career — to support myself and eventually a family, hopefully.”

He and Vahalla are getting married Aug. 10.

Tickets for the Local Flavor Concert Series are $10 and includes food and beverages provided by Stone Brewing Company, Flippin’ Pizza and Knockout Pizza.


Walter J Santos June 6, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Tolan Shaw can set a groove in motion with his words and melodies, I know his new offering will make the grade and deliver far above whats expected, his new professional career is off to a glorious start….so INJOY everyone Tolan Shaw is a star rising.

Jan Grant June 7, 2013 at 2:10 am

I’ve heard of Tolan’s music all the way from Australia and I think it is really terrific. He is clearly on the way to big things. Love the integration of the old sounds with the new.

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