The Shadowboxers On Working With Justin Timberlake, Covers & New Music
Using original songs and pop covers to show how they stand a part in the crowd, The Shadowboxers are one of the internet's latest music crazes. Scott Tyler, Matt Lipkins and Adam Hoffman met in college, entered a school-wide song competition, were eventually discovered by none other than Justin Timberlake and are now signed to his artist development company, Villa 40.
The talented – and funny – trio mix R&B, soul and pop inspired by Prince, D'Angelo and Michael Jackson. Their harmonies are influenced by the Bee Gees, CSN and Earth, Wind & Fire. They continue to drop singles like, "Finding A Problem" about going through troubles in romantic relationships. We caught up with the musicians at our headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., to discuss working with JT, their new music and favorite covers and how they navigate the music industry.
How did the three of you meet? And when did you decide to start making music?
Hoffman: The three of us met in college. We sort of met our sophomore year and we entered a song into a school-wide competition. It ended up being like the first Shadowboxer song. That was sort of the impetus, then we were like, hey, that actually kinda sounded good when we sang together. From there, we started writing a lot more and playing out within Atlanta and the Atlanta music scene, and that was sort of how we got our start.
What's it like working on music with two other people?
Tyler: It's kind of like we all have paddles and we're rowing in a boat. If we're all rowing together, we can move three times as fast as someone by themselves. But if we don't row together, then we don't go anywhere.
Lipkins: Often, there's at least one person rowing in the other direction, but we found that if two of us are rowing in the right direction –
Tyler: Then we just keep turning.
Hoffman: We just go in a circle. (laughs)
Your single "Finding A Problem" is out now. What was the inspiration behind it?
Tyler: "Finding A Problem" is actually a pretty personal song. At the time, I was single and it's not necessarily autobiographical but it's just the feeling of finding problems with things that are in your life and you're seeing ... whatever the scenario is, you always seem to find an excuse not to dive in fully. So, it's just about kind of the recognition in yourself that maybe it's you not committing fully to something as opposed to everyone else.
You did an awesome cover of Ella Mai's "Boo'd Up." Why cover that song?
Lipkins: We covered "Boo'd Up" because, A, 'cause we love the song, but B, because we're always trying to support and promote stuff that's current, that we love, that we think is great music and we identified with the song. So we had to cover it.
Tyler: There's also a lot of great harmony in the song which is our identity, really. We are a vocal group and there are ... pretty obvious if you listen to the song, there's just really nice soulful harmonies and that's just what we love. So, it was an easy association for us.
— The Shadowboxers (@theshadowboxers) August 6, 2018
Okay, let's talk about JT. He's now a mentor of yours and you were recently on tour with him. How was it working with him?
Hoffman: Working with Justin is amazing and it's also, it's been really cool for us too because we get to work with him in a lot of different aspects. He co-produced the EP that we put out. So, we got to work with him in the studio. He's really incredible in that setting and not many people have gotten to witness that. People see him on "SNL" and onstage and he's an incredible performer, but to sort of go behind the scenes and see him in a studio was awesome. He's a great producer. But you know also too he's joined us onstage a few times and going on tour with him and getting to watch him perform every night and talk to him about all of his war stories, like going onstage before the Rolling Stones and it's just pretty amazing to have that fountain of information sort of right there whenever you need it. He's down to help us through any of the twists and turns of the music industry because he's been through all of it.
Tyler: Also, we grew up idolizing him and to work with him and for him to be so relatable to us, it makes us think that that level of success is way more attainable than we ever thought it could be because if that guy who is on a pedestal to us can ... we can speak with him as peers, it makes that level feel like it's attainable.
You're pretty funny dudes. How do you keep your humor in a business that can have a lot of pressures?
Tyler: I feel like we're not being very funny in this interview. That's nice of you to say.
Hoffman: Yeah. Thank you for that.
Lipkins: Thank you.
Hoffman: Honestly, I think it's like the only way to stay sane for us is like to be able to just like ... especially when you're in a band, you're always literally one inch from each other.
Tyler: This is a very short couch that we're on.
Hoffman: It's an extremely small couch that we're on and that's very representative. To be able to make light of any situation that you're thrown in 'cause you're on the road. You're not home. It's new situations and that's how we keep our feet on the ground.
Lipkins: Yeah in the same way that we started as friends who make each other laugh, we're musicians, we're always trying to surprise each other but we're also always trying to make each other laugh constantly and surprise each other in that way as well. It's important for any marriage.
— The Shadowboxers (@theshadowboxers) September 6, 2018
Earlier this year, you released the Apollo EP. What did that collection of songs say about how far you've come in your careers so far?
Tyler: There are a lot of things in Apollo that we have not done two, three, four, five years earlier. The decisions that we made musically were a lot bolder. The sounds that we used, the lyrics that we used. The adlibs vocally, they're just a lot more confident I would say. They're a lot more bold and sort of ... there's a bravado about it of sort of defiance and like a declaration of here we are and here's who we are. Before, we would have been a lot more probably hesitant and reticent to put ourselves out there to that extent and done choices musically and lyrically that were maybe safer. So, it feels like we went out and did some things on Apollo that really represent how we feel about ourselves right now, which is that we're competitors ready to go to the top as high as it goes.
What is next for you? Can we expect an album out soon?
Lipkins: We would love to put out an album soon, but I think right now, we're just focusing on releasing songs. Song after song after song.
Hoffman: Our sort of loose plan is we have a ton of material and we're writing still a lot more and Apollo was sort of the first release that we'd had in years and it was exciting and with streaming the way it is now, our current plan is to just put out a song every month until someone tells us to stop.
Tyler: Yeah, we're definitely very excited by just the opportunity that all these streaming platforms can provide in the sense that you can just release a song whenever, but we are fans of music and we revere albums so much as a platform … That it's definitely in our future to release an album. It means something to us even if the format is changing, but we are just attracted by the fact that we can just put out a song and continue to lay breadcrumbs towards that. Towards that final album.