The songs on R&B singer Ryan Shaw’s first album are, by design, different from what’s on mainstream radio.
Shaw, 26, says he doesn’t often watch videos of contemporary songs. For one thing, they aren’t very musical. For another, he doesn’t "get" the theme of most popular music.
"It creates this whole self-hatred thing," he says, talking about tunes where the singer declares "I’m hot — and you’re not."
Playing tonight, opening for Joss Stone at the Warfield in San Francisco, Shaw says, "People can be judgmental. My job is to show them love. My message is love."
In a recent phone chat from the road in Austin, Texas, he calls "We Got Love," the second track on "This is Ryan Shaw," his signature tune.
His album recalls the classic soul sounds of acts including Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke, whom he says he "channels."
"I’m a sponge," he admits.
He grew up in Decatur, Ga., and got his trainingsinging gospel in church, where he performed since he was 5. Somehow, he always knew he would be a singer: "God would give me dreams," he says, of being onstage in front a lot of people.
He didn’t listen to secular music at all until he went to New York to begin a career as an actor and singer. He first found success in the Tyler Perry gospel musical "A Good Man Is Hard to Find (Part II)."
His next gig was at the Motown Cafe in New York, where he performed soul classics. Later he joined the Fabulous Soul Shakers, a soul and doo-wop group, which he found to be a natural fit. "I could lean more on my gospel roots," he says.
Shakers’ guitarist Johnny Gale alerted longtime session musician Jimmy Bralower to Shaw’s talent; the result of their efforts is Shaw’s album on Columbia; the singer also calls it "God’s record deal."
Shaw is looking forward to the day he’s headlining shows himself; in the meantime, he enjoys being on the road with his band.
Mostly though, when he’s not singing, he says, "I like silence. To be in peace. Pray. Meditate."
Ryan Shaw, opening for Joss Stone
Where: The Warfield, 982 Market St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today
Contact: (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com