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Interview With Christopher Shayne

Original Site Posting: 11-Jan-2017

I have to say I’ve grown to be quite a fan of Christopher Shayne. Last year, he dropped his debut album ‘Turning Stones’, to a fairly decent reception. I found it really enjoyable and even ended up putting it on my Best of 2016 list. So to start off 2017, I sat down with the man himself to chat about his music, playing live and the love of rock ‘n’ roll.

You had a pretty successful year, in 2016, with the debut album, Turning Stones. What’s 2017 got in store?

Yeh, It was a lot of fun. Well, we’re working on the new record. Everything is pretty much written and now we’re going through all of the preliminary stuff of making sure the songs are right, finding all of the right people to make it all happen and of course trying to travel and tour and do all of that. So we’re just going keep on doing that. We’ve got NAMM, SXSW and a show with Shooter Jennings all coming up. Yeah, whatever really pops up, we’ll get to.

That’s excellent, I love Shooter. I saw him in Manchester a couple of years ago, just an amazing show.

Awe yeah, he’s excellent.

Well, what do you think drew you to playing and writing music in the first place?

I grew up in a musical family. My dad played bass in band around town so I always followed that path. Every time I saw music videos or went to concerts, I always felt a lttle bit of jealousy or something like “I can do that, I want to be up there and do that”. So it just kinda started. A friend of mine picked up a guitar and being the competitive person I am, I bought one the next day and we starting competing and it all spiralled from there.

Just a point of note, do prefer acoustic or electric guitars?

It a different feel. It depends on what the song needs and where we’re playing. As we do tread that ground between rock and country. We know that certain sounds won’t appeal to certain crowds and we change it up to fit the mood that we’re in. If we’re in a small town thing we might go for the more country sound but we’re doing big venues with bands like Steel Panther we might steer away from that sound in favour of the heavier tone. However, coming back to the question I prefer acoustic because it’s got a brighter tone and a more unique sound. Especially now with Dave and Zach, how they pick up electric, it adds a nice little underbelly and it fills out the sound.

Coming off of that, what were your influences when you started writing music. Who were some names that you could spitball?

As an angsty teenager with a guitar I started with thrash metal, Megadeth and the likes. Then I got into roots music, as you can only be an angsty teenager for so long. I started getting into blues music. I attached myself to blues players and how they formed that history. So, started diving into all of that. R.L. Burnside will always be my number one. It’s not pretty as far as guitar playing goes, but then again none of the old style blues is. His music always had this cool emotion behind it, that just really grew on me. It’s interesting to see how all of the sounds they developed have influenced and spread into rock ‘n’ roll, from the 40’s all the way to now. So, I started with blues and went from there. Rory Gallagher was another one. When I heard him I wanted to get into slide guitar and figuring out those sounds. Then I have all my rock influences like Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin They have this great sense of drama in their music, you can feel it when the music swells and then as it lightens up. I always wanted to combine that sound with the blues/country sound.

I noticed that when I heard your album. It was these dulcet country tones mixing with heavy rock and I found that I found enjoyable.

Well, we wanted to do all of that. We’ve always liked that old style country, that kinda storytelling country, that had a emotion behind it. So we wanted to take some of that, some of the blues level tones then wrap it all up in this Guns ‘n’ Roses type grandiose rock.

I had a similar musical journey as I started with country music and then found all these southern rock acts like Tantric and Saliva. That’s where I started as a fan.

Well, it’s funny how everything always links back through different musical channels. I mean, you listen to blues music and that’s what birthed rock ‘n’ roll, it’s what birthed country music. You listen to how it’s all separated now, but also how it’s all coming back together. There’s all sorts of music that’s bringing it together, I mean you listen to acts like Blackberry Smoke. It’s so cool to hear that now.

Yeh, I’m loving the country-rock that’s coming out these days. It’s fascinating. Bringing this back around to your music and your sound. What do think is the biggest difference between how you treat music in a studio and how you perform it live on stage?

When you're in a studio, there’s always a constant thought of permanency. As when you put it out there, it out there. You don’t have control of it anymore. You have to think, what are the things we really want to do, what’s that thing that would make this song something unique. What could we make a moment? The studio is the place where I think what would happen if we did x,y and z.

When you perform the song live you have to bring an energy and a vibe. When you’re performing you start to feed off of the energy and you want to direct that energy in a way that everybody is included. I’m a big fan of making the people a part of our live shows and making sure that they feel that we’re all experiencing something together. You don’t get that with writing and recording, you hope that people like it and attach themselves to it but it’s when you see it live and you start to feel that energy that it comes together. It’s like we’re telling them “OK, you’ve heard the record but now we’re going to play like this” because it would be cool or we just didn’t think to do it that way at the time. So it’s alway evolving and it continues to do so night after night as we find more stuff we want to do.

As mentioned, you’re doing a show with Shooter Jennings. Who are some people that you would like to tour/play/collaborate with?

Shooter is awesome, he just has that thing. Blackberry Smoke would be another one that would be so great. Even going as far as Jason Aldean because he has a beat on that rock/country sound, so it’s cool to listen to him. Up there at the top would be someone like Billy Gibbons, who can really dig in his heels and really bring out something incredible in a song. That’s what Billy is great at. He always finds those little tiny hooks and subtleties that as a guitar player you can really appreciate. It’s some really insane stuff he’s pulling off and making sound flawless. I’ve always wanted to sit in a room with him and watch how he thinks about it and how comes up with those details. I would also love to work with Hank Williams III, I mean I don’t know if I’d survive the day, but it would be awesome to work and try and find something cool.

As established, you’re a long-time lover of rock ‘n’ roll. What would be the best show you’ve been to as a fan?

There’s a band here outta California, called The Stone Foxes. That show was excellent, it was in a small club and it was packed. I had their record before, so I knew who they were going into it but I wasn't engrossed in their music before this show. Seeing them up there and seeing how they got the crowd involved. They jumped on the monitors just clapping and the drummer comes out and starts singing with the harmonica, you doing a harmonica solo with the drum kit as well. The guitar player went back and they switched everything up. That was one of the first times it felt real and alive. You know sometimes you go to a show and it’s a well produced show but there always feels like there’s a degree of separation. That separation is necessary to a certain point because of health and safety. Yet, seeing something in a small club where it’s bouncing off of the walls all around you. That’s what really drives music for me. Being able to feel it right in my chest will always be something I look for. So, that show will always stand out to me.

With rock music making a comeback on the mainstream radio, in some form or another. There’s still a tendency to for the populous to downplay it from both sides, the hardcore rock/metal fans and the popular music listeners. What would be your thoughts on mainstream rock/metal on the radio and how it’s usually portrayed in the media?

It all goes in circles man. Pop music will always be pop music because that’s what it is “popular music”. Those acts are doing a great job at finding those sounds that can appeal to a wide audience. When it comes to country & rock. If you listen to Chris Stapleton or Sturgill Simpson you find that they’re just making the music they want to make. It’s been really cool to see Chris Stapleton flip the script in country, it was moving to this very pop area, but he pulled the reigns a little and said “no, we’re going to make old style music country” and it seems that it’s starting to resonate with people. It’s be the same with rock music. It may move to a pop sound but there will be someone who’ll make that classic rock sound popular.

You know everyone has had their moment in the sun at this point, rock music in the 70’s and 80’s, then the hip-hop explosion in the 90’s. Now, the internet has just blown everything right open. So we might not be looking at an enormous sized rock act anymore because everything is starting to become more localised and it’s shrinking because everybody can now find that one thing that they like. Their group of music and that scene and they can be a part of it without having to be physically a part of it. I think when it comes to reaction to rock music, I think it’ll come around, it already is to a point. With bands like Highly Suspect and Royal Blood, guys like that pulling the sound back to a more roots sound anyway. With rock there’s always going to be that angst that attaches itself to everybody. Anyone who listens to this genre has that little bit angst and emotion that sparks. To various degrees genres have lost their way but it’s coming back around again to the actual root of their music.

So now I will just end on this question. What is the hardest thing professionally or personally that you’ve had to overcome and how did you overcome it?

I was in a hard rock act called Whiskey Six, I headed that up and that was my first experience of fronting a band. Each night I would go out and yell my brains out, trying to get those angry yelling tones. It was cool but I was dying every night. Which is awesomely poetic for an artist but a bit foolhardy for a career. So, that blew up. That’s when Dave and I said that we wanted to do Christopher Shayne. So, we thought “OK, these are the songs that we’re getting ready” I and was thinking to myself that I just couldn’t perform these songs the way have have been doing, I can’t keep doing it this way. So, I had to pull myself back and really think of how I wanted to present myself from now on. As a vocalist and as a person, because when I was in that band I went through this phase where I turned into a mega-jerk and pissed off everyone. I was on a David Lee-Roth Kick. After I woke up from that I realised that I had to start making some changes. I had to go through this process of trying to find who I really am and what I wanted to be. The hardest part of that was exposing people to me as a person not a fake front and not an ego driven character, but as an actual person. So, as I grew comfortable at exposing my imperfections and my failures then I translated that into lyrics, my vocal tone and everything like that. It was a really hard thing for me to project, who I thought I really was, out and letting people into the reality of my life. It’s gotten easier but the transition was the really hard part. That’s all part of the journey of an artist.


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