DJ and producer Shaun Warner first came to Dubai in 2014 when he and his wife took an opportunity to live and work in one of the world's most vibrant cities. The move would propel him forward professionally. It would also be the place where he and his wife started a family together, but it did something else for him, too. It gave him the necessary boost to get his music career off the ground.
Fast-forward, and the Dissipate hitmaker signed to Universal Music Mena. The Irishman has worked with some of the region's most talented musicians, including Lebanese singer/songwriter Hadi and former The Voice Arabia contestant Stephanie Farah.
Finding success on the US charts
His songs have hit the shores of New Zealand and Australia, his collaboration with Russia's Zeskullz made it to the World Cup, and he's laying down tracks with artists as far away as Los Angeles. If the concept of a global village wasn't strong enough before, this DJ certainly perfectly embodies the term.
His new album, Stay, was released on June 29, with an intimate launch at Zabeel House by Jumeirah in Al Seef. While the event was small, the broader market seems to have responded well to the new offering. In the build-up to the release, the three singles he released clocked more than 700,000 streams across digital channels. Warner's single Chasing also hit the US Billboard dance charts for several weeks.
"I really wanted a body of music that I can look back on and that I can say, hey, that wasn't bad or even that it was potentially OK," he jokes when describing his the album. "It's a lot more work, but I enjoy it. With a song like Stay, it's the title track on the album, but we haven't released it as an official single. It is deeper and has meaning. If I didn't have an album, that song would never see the light of day."
'I want to perfect the live show'
For this album, he was more prepared than for his previous record, for which he says there was a lot of interest and hype upfront: songs were on radio and reaching the right market, but as soon as interest in the music started to wane, so did his profile. He says the experience highlighted the importance of continually working on and creating new music.
“I want to get the most out of this album while I can. I still like it, and when people have had enough of it, I’ll hopefully have some new stuff for them to jam to,” he says.
In the next few months, Warner has several collaborations and an EP on the cards. He doesn't share too much, but from an early listen to a raw and unpolished version of one track, it is perfect for the dance floor and radio-friendly, too.
“I want to perfect the live show. I’ve still got some videos to come out and then keep hustling for playlisting, and then it will be on to the next one. I’ve got a pretty decent release schedule from now until next year,” he says.
It's a busy time for the DJ. Besides holding down a full-time job, Warner also balances being a dad to his two young children, who are arguably his biggest fans. "I do music because I'm happy when I finish a song. It's not about the Billboard charts, it's not about having the song played at the World Cup stadiums, being on MTV or anything like that. Those are great," he says, but it's moments like the one he recently experienced that bring him the most satisfaction.
"The other day I was chilling with my newborn, and in the background, my 3-and-a-half-year-old was going around the house singing. I was like, what's he singing? Turns out he was singing my 1000 Diamonds track. I'm like, that's awesome. That made my day."
Warner says that after his children go to bed, he gets to the music. He has limited unnecessary distractions such as television, which has allowed him to focus more on his craft.
Gone are the days of putting out only physical records in music stores. These days, releasing tracks on digital platforms is where a lot of the effort is dedicated. Then there are advancements in technology and social-media platforms that allow fans and talents alike to interact directly. It's where many opportunities come about.
“Technology has changed things. Without it, I wouldn’t be making music,” he says. “I had a friend ask me for one of the tracks a few weeks back. I took the sample track from my Dropbox folder, put it on a link and sent it via Messenger. It’s become that easy and equally important.”
Getting the right vocalists on tracks is vital, too. How does he test voices? Sometimes it's as simple as sending voice notes on WhatsApp. "Logistically, with time zones and language barriers, it can be a nightmare if you need extra things. And there's time pressure and deadlines, too.
“Music is where the passion is, and I’m hoping to bring more of that to my fans.”