In our season 6 finale, we host producer, songwriter, musician, author, and keeper of the American blues music flame, Shawn Amos.
Shawn came to the Hoffman Process feeling like he was living his life while “… at the whim of all of these unseen forces and past traumas, and unconscious reactions to my parents…” A couple of days into the Process, Shawn realized he had to stop being cynical of the work if he was going to get the most out of his week there. He went all in, which opened him to the profound possibilities available for lasting change.
Through the work of the Process, Shawn says he was able to “get control over” himself. He realized that the Process offered him an owner’s manual to himself, to his unique way of being. He shares that the tools and transformation he found at his Process have stayed with him over these 15 years since. In his words, the transformation from healing the pain of his past “was profound.” He now operates from a more grounded, conscious aware presence.
Shawn also shares his inner conflict around race and identity. For many years, Shawn played the Saxophone. Then, he started playing the blues harp and singing blues music. It was then he felt a profound reconnection with his Blackness and his lineage, both backward and forward. At around 22:00, Shawn plays a bit of the blues harp for us. Listen in for a taste of the music he creates as Rev. Shawn Amos.
Content Warning: This episode mentions child sexual abuse and might not be suitable for all listeners.
For Shawn Amos, it’s about the story. He’s made a name as both a teller of tales and an astute shaper of others’ stories.
He comes by the storytelling chops naturally. The only child of William Morris agent-turned-cookie entrepreneur, Wally “Famous” Amos, and singer Shirley “Shirl-ee May” Ellis, young Shawn spent hours in shadowy nightclubs, on the funky streets of 70s Hollywood, and in his own broken home, listening intently to people’s stories. He helped make his father’s cookie hustle real. In young adulthood, he jumped from screenwriting for A & M Films to the stage, crafting acclaimed Americana music that wrestled with race and identity. On the other side of the microphone, Shawn oversaw soul icon Solomon Burke’s last three albums, and produced seminal CD collections Q: The Musical Biography of Quincy Jones, and Grammy-nominated box set Rhapsodies in Black: Music and Words from the Harlem Renaissance, among others.
Since 2014, as the Reverend Shawn Amos, with harmonica in hand, Shawn has brought blues to audiences from LA to Amsterdam, delivering unbridled joy – both live and through recordings. Blue Sky, the 2020 release by his band, The Reverend Shawn Amos & the Brotherhood, hit Number 6 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart and scored four out of five stars from American Songwriter magazine.
For his 2022 debut novel, Cookies & Milk, Shawn delves into his past to concoct a wildly entertaining story about the strength of family and the power of forgiveness – plus just the right amount of semisweet chocolate – to mend hearts. Shawn’s doppelganger, Ellis, embarks on hilarious and sometimes harrowing misadventures as he helps his dad open the world’s first chocolate chip cookie store in the multi-hued 70s landscape of music, ambition, and often-challenging elders. The book was awarded the NAACP Image Award in 2023.
Rona Elliot and Roger Brossy, Shawn’s dear friends.