Portland’s Shy Girls

Dan Vidmar is one of the young, sparkling-eyed 20-somethings who moved out West after college to trade in his small-town East Coast lifestyle for a more liberal and laid back perspective in Portland, Oregon. He’s a part-time employee at one of Portland’s emergency rooms during the day, and by night he works at a new recording studio, owned by Emigrate Records.

Vidmar is also a musician who goes by the monikers Shy Girls and Federer, recording impressive slow-jam R&B tracks that sound like early 90s vinyl caught in a groovy, golden dream. His latest Shy Girls release, a four-track EP titled Sex in the City, is garnering buzz for its smooth, mature sound. The EP took around two months for the musician to self-record and produce at his home studio in Portland. According to Vidmar, the collection of songs is really about where he is in life now:

Shy Girls, and specifically the new EP, is just an attempt at making music that I would want to listen to. I think that goes for just about everything I do and probably for everything everybody else is doing. I’ll probably never feel like I’ve succeeded in that regard, but you can’t let that stop you from producing and releasing. In a few years, I’m sure I’ll look back on this EP and it will very obviously mark a particular time in my life. But I’m probably too close to it now to make any enlightening realizations.

When considering what types of music influences Vidmar’s recent work, he credits a long list of classic boy groups and iconic hit makers of earlier years, like Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys, Bell Biv Devoe, Shai, Luther Vandross, late Smokey Robinson, early Celine Dion, and Aaron Neville. Such artists clearly stray from that of the typical scene people hear about in Portland. Vidmar says of his current musical taste, “I think I’ve relaxed my boundaries and severed my prejudices towards a lot of music. In other words, I’m able to find musical value in a lot of material that my friends scoff at.”

Listeners can hear the Smokey Robinson influence in Vidmar’s work; high-ranged vocals are one of the musician’s trademarks, flowing seamlessly in and out of songs and never scratching the tops of notes. According to the musician, there is no editing or vocal effects on the album–pretty surprising considering the quality of the vocal tone. Sex in the City‘s first track, “Gonna Get My Name Back,” is a prime example of glossy Shy Girls vocals, with girl-like “oohs” tucked between the light, melodic lyrics, all of which Vidmar sang himself.

“My mom asked me who the girl was that did the backing vocals. I’m not sure whether she was impressed or unsettled when I told her it was all me,” jokes Vidmar.

All of the four songs in Sex in the City are coasting, slower songs that take listeners to a calmer, sexier place. Vidmar thinks his music could pick up in a future release, though. “I can almost guarantee the sound will change as things progress. Like I said earlier, that’s just how I am,” he explains. “Maybe I have ADHD. The project that led into Shy Girls was called SUN MAR and I was writing much slower jams for that. Like 60bpm, more tribal. So maybe things are speeding up.”

One of Vidmar’s two album covers for Sex in the City. Photo by Doug Zajaczkowski

Another record is currently in the works, however, it might be released under the name of Vidmar’s other project, Federer. The musician says having two separate ventures gives him an opportunity to work on two different parts of his musical headspace, covering more creative ground.

Regarding playing live, Shy Girls and Federer have not made any public appearances since the late November release of Sex in the City, but Vidmar plans on booking some spring dates, adding Portland friends Ingmar Carlson and Dan Sutherland to the Shy Girls roster. Generally though, Vidmar is modest about his musical goals and plans for 2012:

“I don’t necessarily have any wild musical aspirations. I’d like to go on tour this year. I’d like to finish another record and play some more shows locally as well. If Shy Girls starts getting more publicity for some reason, my mindset might change. But right now, I’m comfortable just making music that I want to make and playing some shows. I’ve never been very good at self-promotion. I could probably do more of that.”


To book Shy Girls and/or Federer, listen to the acts, and learn more about Dan Vidmar’s music, visit http://emigraterecords.com.


–Jen Brown


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