NASHVILLE, Tennessee- A duo that kept showing up in my Instagram feed was a couple of kids, known as Jake & Shelby. Jake Lawson and Shelby Haim are teenagers from Hendersonville, Tennessee. Known for their smooth vocals and intricate guitar arrangements, their magical mix of melody and lyrics is enticing. The pop duo has nearly 900,000 followers on Instagram. Their TikTok videos have had over 70 mllion views.
At just 18 and 19 years of age, I knew if I had any chance of featuring them, I had better contact them as soon as possible.
Friday, Jake & Shelby released their debut EP, Just Us. The self-penned collection of six original songs, with their purposeful lyrics and deceptively simple arrangements, is the perfect vehicle to showcase the duo and their style of music.
The pair met at Cedarstone Music School in Hendersonville. While both were taking part in their weekly sessions, they auditioned for the school’s acapella group and rock bands, and they ended up being in three musical groups together.
Haim explained, “It took a while for us to start talking because we are both a little on the shy side. We’re two years apart and I remember looking at him as this older guy. But we ended up becoming friends. And once we got to know each other more, we decided to start writing songs together.”
Lawson and Haim wrote songs together for a year before officially becoming a duo in March 2022. “There was just something special there and we wanted to see where that would take us,” they shared.
Then, in July of 2023, Kim Kardashian messaged the group and asked the teenagers to sing a cover of Patty LaBelle’s “If You Only Knew” for Khloe Kardashian’s birthday. They thought she would privately share it with her sister, but Kim Kardashian posted it in her Instagram stories. Since Kim Kardashian has 364 million followers, the group got a whole lot of new followers.
At some point, the music industry also started paying attention because they, too, realized that the Kardashians and Bublé had stumbled upon something extraordinary.
Last year, the duo started recording their own music and recently released their debut EP.
One of the things that drew me to the pair was that their music is not overproduced. In their newly released EP, Just Us, their carefully constructed songs easily flow out.
Lawson, who takes the lead in the song arrangements, said, “We really want to keep it as organic as possible. That’s something important to us.”
One thing that sets them apart from all the wannabe country singer/songwriters in the Nashville area is that when they compose songs, they often start with the melody as opposed to lyrics.
“Usually, Jake ends up having some kind of guitar idea or sometimes I’ll have a guitar idea or a piano idea. And we’ll just kind of go from that and find a melody first and then just through singing random vowels and stuff, it leads to lyrics for a song,” stated Haim.
Knowing this writing process, you would think that lyrics wouldn’t be as meaningful as they often are in country tunes. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Released a month ago, their song “Oh What a Dream” has struck a chord with fans of all ages. With the lyrics, It’s been a hard year/ but the sun is shining/ Friends are still here/They’re my silver lining/ Long live the little things/ Laughing and free/ Oh what a dream the song urges the listener to live in the moment.
And while each song is authentic to who they are, the songs are unique and can stand on their own.
Lawson stated, “It’s kind of fun because with every song I like ended up using a different guitar and/or tuning. It kind of makes it hard for if we want to play them all live, but they’re all different, which is fun. The only music that is behind us singing is the guitar. So, it was a lot of work just fine-tuning those parts and getting what really supported the melody and the lyrics best. Then once we got that, that’s what took most of the time. Then we just had to record our voices.”
And while Haim gloriously sings lead, Lawson joins her at the right moment to take the songs to the next level.
The first song they ever wrote together is the song “Sweet.” It took them a while to get to the finished product, but it’s evident that these two were born to make music. It’s my favorite off the EP.
With other original songs like “Challenge of Choosing You,” “Girl I’ll Be Tomorrow,” “You and Me,” and especially (I’ll Never Get) “Over You,” the two appear to be madly in love to any outside observer. But when asked if they were an actual couple, they provided no comment. One thing is for sure: if they are not a real couple, they ought to be full-time actors because the chemistry they depict would be nearly impossible to fake.
As they were promoting their new EP Just Us, someone from the Recording Academy (Grammy’s) commented on one of their videos. Lawson took a screenshot of their comment and posted it on their Instagram story. He wrote, “Thank you for commenting on the video, recording academy. We hope we can be with you some guys someday soon in the future.”
Someone noticed, and a day or two later, the teenagers got an email inviting them to come to their Next-Gen party and red carpet. Look for the pair at the Grammys on Wednesday.
As a person on YouTube succinctly described, “When words, music, and feelings collide, you get magic.” That is an apt description of the level of artistry this young duo brings.
After the Grammy’s, the pair is excited to start playing shows live because, up to this point, they have mostly been featured on social media.
If you live in the Nashville area, check Jake & Shelby out on February 20 at 8:00 PM New Faces at the Basement for a free concert.
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