We all explored new avenues in the first coronavirus lockdown in Spring 2020. Some of us took up writing, some cross-stitch, some banana-bread-baking. (Okay, I think most of us did the latter.) But not many of us posted a hastily recorded cover of Celine Dion’s and Andre Rieu’s The Prayer on Facebook for their family and friends, only to have it take off and launch them into the world of online – and soon general – fame.
Luckily, Mat and Savanna Shaw did. Savanna – 15 at the time – dragged her dad Mat away from the gardening to record a song for her new Instagram page, set up to keep in touch with her choir friends. It grew and grew, from Facebook to other social media platforms, including YouTube, which is where I saw it. I was sitting on my parents’ bed one Tuesday evening, composing a shopping list for our weekly shop (the highlight of my week at the time) and getting distracted by YouTube. I was getting into Celine Dion at the time, and found myself listening to a cover of The Prayer by a father-and-daughter duo. I remember finding the looks of pride and reassurance they gave each other throughout the video absolutely lovely – and so did the many comments underneath.
The next time I saw them, they had four or five videos up. The next one I watched was their cover of A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman. There was so much raw talent in them that I was astounded. The views were mounting, so I followed Savanna on Instagram (on what is now their joint page). I even sent her a message at the start of April 2020, telling her how much I loved their singing, and she replied, which made my day. From then on, they were a regular fixture on my Recommended page on YouTube, and my Instagram feed, always making me smile with how beautiful their voices were.
Fast-forward to June 2020. One evening, my cat got attacked by a dog and went into hiding. We spent the next day walking the streets around where we live, calling for her, putting out flyers and contacting everyone we knew who lived on the estate. I was fairly hysterical by the next afternoon, almost teetering over the edge with frustration and anxiety, so I retreated to my room. Mat and Savanna were top of my YouTube feed, and I started listening to all their covers, of which there were now several, one after the other. I started to calm down. The next thing I knew, there was a shout from downstairs. My cat had returned. Now I’m not saying that Mat and Savanna actually manifested my cat’s return, but they certainly helped me cope with the stress for a time.
They released their first album Picture This in Autumn 2020, featuring their first self-penned track, also called Picture This. It tells the story of how their singing careers took off. (Also, side note, I LOVED Savanna’s outfit in the music video. Well, I actually love all her outfits…) Not only was the song catchy and upbeat, but the whole album introduced me to what are now some of my favourite songs. Their mashup of Fly Me To The Moon and Come Fly With Me was – in my humble opinion – a work of genius, and the cover of Tonight You Belong To Me (with Mat’s young daughter Pennie-Jean singing along and son Easton on the ukulele) warmed my heart. And on top of that, their cover of Hallelujah, joined by Stephen Nelson, has probably the best three-part harmony towards the end I’ve ever heard. (Listen out for the line, ‘And even though it all went wrong/I’ll stand before the Lord of Song/With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.’)
Fast-forward again to February 2021. I’m not going to lie, the first few months of 2021 were nothing if not a disaster for me and my family. I lost both of my grandfathers and a great-aunt in the space of a month. One grandfather’s funeral was in the middle of February, and I have a distinct memory of sitting on my bed before college one day just before the funeral, listening to Mat and Savanna’s cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water (originally by Simon and Garfunkel). The line ‘And if you need a friend/I’m sailing right behind’ really got me, because that was what I hoped my grandfather was doing. It was a moment of peace and clarity amongst a really horrid time, and now I’ll forever associate that song with that moment.
Over the last two and a half years, I’ve seen them grow from a proud dad humouring his fifteen-year-old daughter with a nervously recorded cover in the middle of lockdown, to a father and daughter taking the world by storm with countless songs, collaborations and six albums out (one of which from earlier this year was Happy Like That, which has the most breath-taking cover of When You Believe from The Prince of Egypt you will ever hear, and is now on my designated 'writing playlist'). And all the way through, they’ve never stopped being lovely human beings. I responded to an Instagram story of theirs a few months ago, thanking them for sharing a poignant song at a time when I really needed its message, and they replied. I can’t imagine how many messages they get every day, but they still found the time to reply to me. They haven’t stopped being human, even though they are so incredibly talented.
I think it’s safe to say… they make me Happy Like That.
Mat and Savanna’s latest Christmas album, Christmas Together, is available now!