Image Credit: Chris Cordone
We had the good fortune of connecting with Shawn Carter Peterson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shawn Carter, where are you’re from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland. I began training as a classical pianist at the age of 4 so music has been a part of my life since I can remember. I began playing violin in elementary school and middle school as well as singing in the school choruses. While in middle school I also began acting and singing in school plays. That continued until I went to Vassar College where my music & theatre work morphed into being musical director for the school’s gospel choir as well as student theatre productions. In essence, I’ve been creating music and storytelling all of my life. When I moved to Los Angeles, after a few years of just being a part of others’ work, I remembered that I had the ability to direct, create and artistically express myself in the world of film. I’d directed a couple of short film projects in high school so tapped back in to that. My professional filmmaking journey started as filming shows or auditions for friends. Then I directed a live concert film for my girlfriend at the time. After that I conceptualized and directed music videos for her which started airing on various music networks (BET Soul, Logo, MTV Europe). She became my wife during this time and the artistic relationship that we developed then continues today. I have since directed numerous music videos, lifestyle shows, pilots and now a Variety Show series. Most of my work has a strong musical through line.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art takes many forms. Being multifaceted is something that I’m proud of. For so long, so many have said that I needed to focus on just one aspect of who I was as an artist. I find, however, that the more I learn in one milieu, the more it affects another. So my art continues to grow because everything continues to be informed by new artistic experiences. I’ve performed leads in Shakespeare, played Liszt at Carnegie Hall, directed music videos that have aired internationally, and been in Box Office #1 feature films. The thing of which I am most proud right now is our Variety Show. “Shawn & Sy’s Variety LIVE!” came out of the need during the quarantine to channel my energy into something creative and positive. It’s something that came from deep inside and it has become something that has allowed me to grow exponentially. Lessons in patience with myself, with the creative process, learning when to let things go and when to push are all things that I’m faced with during every episode. We’ve done three episodes so far, each one a little different than the one before. Learning to allow the piece of art to become what it wants to become can be difficult…you have to put ego aside…but it’s part of the process.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Interesting question! For a week-long stay, I would start off with some of the typical LA tourist fare. We would make a stop on Hollywood Boulevard to see the Walk of Stars, pass by Grauman’s Chinese and the Kodak Theatre, just to take in some of the Hollywood Scene. I would probably then head over to the Griffith Park Observatory for the obligatory view. After that we would stop by one of my favorite diners, Fred 62, on Vermont. It is one of the first places I was taken when I moved to LA and it holds a special place in my heart. I love that Vermont corridor- Fred 62, the Los Feliz Cinema on the next corner and the Figaro Bistro half a block down. The next day I would then most likely take them to the Grove and the Farmer’s Market area then maybe do a little window shopping in the Melrose/West Hollywood corridor. Perhaps we would drive down Sunset as well, heading over to Beverly Hills. Catch a glimpse of the Beverly Hills Hotel and then do a slow drive through the residential area to view some of the homes before ending up in Downtown Beverly Hills. We would take in downtown on foot, maybe grabbing a coffee and dessert at Edelweiss Chocolates. On day three we would head to Venice Beach. We would drive by Abbott Kinney to see if there was any interest in seeing any of the shops then head over to the Venice Boardwalk. You’d need to take in the local color, of course. The Venice/Abbot Kinney corridor can be an entire day excursion but if not , we would head up to Santa Monica pier as well. The next day would be a Malibu trek. We would make our way up to Malibu to one of my favorite places, Point Dume. It’s a relatively quiet beach and peaceful. The drive is lovely and of course, by this point, you would want something without a lot of tourists. Spending some time on the beach, we could head back down the Pacific Coast Highway and grab a gelato at GROM in the Malibu Country Mart. If not gelato there are a few tiny eateries in this complex. Moonshadows is an easy spot to relax and grab dinner on the water as well. Day 5 would be a journey into my favorite area of the city, South Los Angeles. We would visit the Hot & Cool Cafe in historic Leimert Park to grab a coffee or iced tea and stroll around the area to see some of the local shops. There’s an art gallery, Jamaican restaurant & Eso Won Books which specializes in books and literature of the African Diaspora. Leimert Park is an historical and cultural center of the African American community of Los Angeles and if we’re lucky and it’s summer, there may be a festival happening on that day, which would be priceless. And if not, maybe there will be a drum circle in the park that flanks the historic Vision Theater, named by former owner, actress Marla Gibbs. After a little drum circle dancing, we might go to Kenneth Hahn park which is right next to Baldwin Hills, Beverly Hills’ more colorful sister. Kenneth Hahn sports another breathtaking view of Los Angeles and on a clear day you can see the ocean! After that we might go to Post & Beam, one of my favorite neighborhood spots for drinks. There we could have hand tossed brick oven pizza or various soul entrées with a modern twist. We could also take in another of my favorite local spots, Harold & Belle’s, known for their world renowned Creole Cuisine. After an early dinner, we could head over to the Band of Vices Art Gallery on Adams in the West Adams corridor. Band of Vices One of the leading contemporary art spaces in the burgeoning West Adams Arts District. Have a little wine as we experience some of the newest artists on the art scene. Painting, sculptures, collage and so many other art forms will be on display by some of the most talented artists of the day. After taking in the art with the artists and gallery owners on hand and, of course, purchasing a piece or two that strikes your fancy, we would end our day directly across the street at Alta Adams for a celebratory dessert and maybe an aperitif. There are a couple more days left in the week but our guest might need to leave room for a day or two of pool side rest somewhere in the middle of all of this adventure. Their dance card is definitely full.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I definitely would like to give a shout out to my father, Harold Peterson. He was the one that recognized and nurtured all of my artistic abilities very early on. He helped steer me by taking me to the theatre and concerts and exposing me to the world of the arts. His consistent support continues to this day. I am forever grateful to him for helping mold me into the artist that I have become.
Main photo by Chris Cordone with black glasses – still from Pitch Perfect 2 the other are candid shots