Earth and The Next Society

Guitarist/Singer/Songwriter Michael Shields birthed the the idea of "Earth and the Next Society" as a platform of expression focused on the evolutionary times that currently face humanity. As the concept began to gain momentum it in itself brought Shields and long-time musical partner/Bassist Harry Burns (the two had worked together previously in the Comets and the Method over a period time spanning 30 + years) along with Keyboardist Tom McMillian and Drummer Ryan Baker on a journey that ultimatly merges the many inspirations associated with the Golden Age of Rock music and beyond with the current Rubicon that faces humanity where consciousenss and reality are concerned.

Shields' vision and concept of their sound is by far the driving force of the band. He tells us, "Earth and the Next Society is really an expression of where humanity finds itself and more importantly what it needs to do to redefine how it sees reality and intends to transcend the current challenges. It starts in the heart of the listener really and is about them…the music is designed to inspire each of us to realize and pursue purpose in the interest humanity as whole." And inspire it has. With a legion of fellow "society members" packing the seats, Shields is taking his unique sound to the epicenter of new rock with a fast and fueled momentum.

Shields adds of his unique sound, "For me it’s the most honest and natural body of work I have been involved in…there is a certain freedom to it that was perhaps missing in other things I have done." Now check out his XXQs to find out more for yourself.

XXQs: Earth and the Next Society (PEV): Michael, you birthed the idea of "Earth and the Next Society" as a platform of expression focused on the evolutionary times that currently face humanity. So, with that, how would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Michael Shields: There are a couple of things that come to mind really. First there is the concept of the music as a vehicle of expression where the message is concerned. Most music essentially can be defined as being an expression of an experience or series of experiences by the artist. Often their work is a direct reflection of their lives and journey. Earth and the Next Society is really an expression of where humanity finds itself and more importantly what it needs to do to redefine how it sees reality and intends to transcend the current challenges. It starts in the heart of the listener really and is about them…the music is designed to inspire each of us to realize and pursue purpose in the interest humanity as whole. Some people might call this a “positive message” but in context it’s not about polarized views of positive vs. negative but rather realization and an awakening to the necessary wisdom required to create the next society here on Earth.

The sound itself is clearly reminiscent of the ’70s in some respects. Drawing from vibes and textures that made that era, particulary the early to mid 70s special. Concerts in those days had social context that was felt by all that participated but it’s clear that faded into the later ‘70s and into the ‘80s as music changed, became corporate and considerably more commoditized in many ways. It’s with this notion and a desire to reignite the feelings of that era and in particular the commune of audience and performer that was the catalyst for making this a live album. We really wanted that connection to come through to have that sense that the audience plays a critical role in the energy that is felt in the music.

I am not certain about this but at least from my perspective I am unaware of anyone else working in this genre and in this manner. It likely defines what we are doing at the moment and is perhaps unique in this respect, but it is actually a natural progression that got us here and it feels that way so I guess you could say it is where we are presently in terms of artistic direction…the heart pretty much tells you where to go if you are willing to listen.

PEV: What kind of music where the members of the band into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

Ryan:  Mix of classic rock and glam rock of the early 80’s; Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors along with Motley Crue and Def Leppard. Kiss was my first concert and it was oh so memorable. Their larger than life production certainly made an impression on my young mind.

Tom:   Growing up I was very much influenced by Funk, Grove and R&B. Hendrix was good but James Brown was great! First concert was Blood Sweat and Tears (Pre David Clayton Thomas) with John Mayall as the opening act (showcased his Turning Point Album performing with no drummer). Also I was into Pink Floyd, Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs (pre disco).

Harry: the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Mountain, Pink Floyd, U2, Eric Clapton’s, various bands, Allman Brothers etc. My first concert was the Who

Michael: I kind of found the guitar early around 7-8 or something like that. I was mesmerized by the magic of  the Beatles and much of the music that happened in the sixties. Guitar heroes soon became vogue as I discovered Hendrix, Clapton and others. Many groups in the early 70’s that were about the guitar thing captured my attention as well as did the incredible song writing of Elton John and Bernie Taupin and others. This era peaked for me with Peter Frampton and other artists that made a huge mark…as I hit my late teens the emerging scene in the UK came into my view and much of what followed defined what I did as I found my way into the music business. I actually was by definition an ‘80s artist by most accounts as were many of my contemporaries…it’s taken sometime, years in fact to shed that…I don’t generally pay nearly as much attention to labeling music anymore…

PEV: Tell us your take on the music scene in your hometown and what was it like trying to break into it?

Michael:  I have moved a lot…and lived all over so I don’t really see myself has having come from or “broken out” of any type of local scene.

Ryan: I knew early on that my hometown of Waterloo, Iowa didn’t offer enough diversity for my appetite. I was eager to learn other genre’s outside of rock and couldn’t seem to find it. I wanted to move to a metropolitan area that would offer more variety and opportunity. There also weren’t many venues’ to play in my hometown. I ended up moving to Phoenix, Arizona and I ended up finding what I was looking for. I delved into all music that was new to me; Latin, Blues, Funk etc.

Tom:  My original hometown is San Diego Calif. Growing up, live music was much more happening then it is today. Back then, you could play 5 nights a week in one of many local clubs. As there were so many local venues to play, it wasn’t difficult to get a gig. I now live in a small mountain community (Flagstaff AZ).  I have never tried to “break into” the music scene as such. Rather, I have always tried to hook up with the very best players that I could. The rest would take care of itself.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Earth and the Next Society show?

Michael: Well, the album obviously in some sense provides some insight into that being a live album….each performance is unique though….we are desirous of making each moment memorable after all the joy of sharing what we do with and audience and experiencing a resonance point of energy from the event is what it is all about. Beyond that it should be both personal and about the community of consciousness and awareness we seek to celebrate with all that are of the mind and heart to share the experience with us.

Ryan: A positive message, excellent tone and performers who love what they do.

Tom:   I think fans will be pleasantly surprised by the high-energy show we produce. This is “feel good” music that will put a smile on your face; long after the show is over.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

Michael: I liken that to opening your front door to guests…welcome …great to see your smiling faces.

Tom:   I think how damn lucky I am to once again be able to share this music with our fans. I never take this for granted…. I have been blessed.

Ryan: The tempos are going to be perfect today!

Harry: the feeling of how beautiful life can be when you’re with your friends doing what you all love and hoping the crowd will feel the love too.

PEV: Having all been in other bands before how is playing with Earth and the Next Society different than those other works?

Michael: For me it’s the most honest and natural body of work I have been involved in…there is a certain freedom to it that was perhaps missing in other things I have done.

Harry:  This is the first band in a long time that puts the music and the love before everything else.

Tom:  This is a truly unique project, both in the type of music we are playing (neo classic rock) and the message that is in the music. Also, the musicians in this project are all “A” players.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

Michael: Inspiration is everywhere…in this moment everything and anything you encounter is fair game. We are at the moment crossing the Rubicon where humanity and its future is concerned…it’s all inspiring.

Tom:  Most, if not all of this music is the product of bandleader, Michael Shields. However, my small contribution to the sound comes from my interpretation of his writing. I am trying to provide texture and context to his concepts. That is, as a keyboard player, I am trying to support Michael’s guitar and vocals by providing a “bed” that will emphasis his playing. For example, I am always thinking of ways to contrast the timbre of the Hammond with that of his guitar work.

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?

Tom: No doubt! I have been so fortunate to have play with some very wise and talented players. They have truly schooled me in what it means to be a professional musician.  In the beginning, all we wanted to do was to play and have fun. It is no different now over some 35 years later.

Harry: Trying to live without playing music in some aspect is not an option.Michael and I have over a 30 year musical relationship and his style of writing brings out the best of my style  and I love him for that.

Ryan: I think about early musical experiences often. It’s only in hindsight that I see how so many experiences prepared me to be doing what I do now as a professional. At the time I was anxious to get to a particular level and didn’t appreciate how every experience, no matter how mundane or trivial they seemed at the time, was preparing me for situations ahead.  

Michael: Well, yes…I tend to appreciate differently  things that I experienced and work that was created softens a bit over time in terms of my criticality. In other cases I become more critical of past work…sometimes can’t even bear to listen.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

Ryan: For me, seeing new places is one of the most inspiring things in life. I enjoy meeting new people and performing for new audiences in a new venue. However, being away from the people who give my life meaning can be difficult. And airports are increasingly becoming very, very annoying. I am usually compromising my eating habits away from home as well. I am very spoiled being married to a chef!

Harry: I’ve learned over the years how not to let the little things bother me and look on the bright side of sticky situations. The best part is just being lucky enough to be able to enjoy the adventure.

Michael: Music is alive on the road….it is needed for in many cases for the work to actually develop and flourish. There are always hassles but you have to remain focused on your purpose and intentions

Tom:    My experience on the road is probably not as prolific as some of my band mates. However, missing your friends and family are a major down side of touring. Food can be medium (I really don’t ever want to see another deli plate). However, there is nothing like walking on that stage and feeling that rush that the fans are feeling at the same time. No drug, sex or other peak experience can compete. It is truly addictive. I guess that is what keeps us doing what we do.

PEV: With such a strong message of hope and survival, what do you want people to realize about the world as a whole? What can people do to act now?

Ryan: Take responsibility for one’s own actions and thoughts. Simply be the change you want to see. In the great wisdom of Smoky The Bear “Only you can prevent forest fires!”

Tom:   This music is about awareness and what that means for each individual. It is also about how each person finds that awareness for themselves. I think our music is trying to help folks understand that there is another way of perceiving the world around them. However, to try to explain what people should do next to gain that awareness would defeat the whole purpose. In my opinion, the journey is just as important as the destination.

Michael: People need to realize they are the solution. Not the politicians, not the governments, not the corporations or any of the control systems. Each of us casts a vote everyday with the decisions we make. What we buy and all of our daily choices either support the control systems or can potentially liberate us from those systems. Our vote is not at the ballot box…its in our daily lives.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

Ryan: I get so much support and encouragement from my family. They are the only ones who have seen my perseverance and can appreciate my growth as a professional and as a person. I get so much satisfaction in performing for family and old friends. I only hope that I can inspire them to follow their dreams.

Tom: My family, especially my wife, have been extremely supportive of my music. She knows that it is my passion and wants me to succeed in what makes me happy. Playing in my hometown has always meant that we are able to reconnect with old friends, players, and non-players alike.

Michael: When family friends show their appreciation for you it’s a great feeling. There is connection to those that have seen you and known you on multiple levels over time..

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

Harry: In a kitchen with a few friends around enjoying life. Being out on or around the ocean, or camping with my lovely wife.

Ryan: Outdoors. You’ll find me outdoors either sculpting the landscape at my home or hiking or camping. It is refreshing and re-charging for me to immerse myself in nature. Traveling is another favorite.

Michael: I have a family and a wide set of interests and pursuits…we enjoy the outdoors and exploring.

Tom:   Hanging out with the grandkids, growing a veggie garden, listening to other’s music.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?

Harry: Past… U2. Why?  Because i love their style of music.

Tom:   Past and present: The boys in Tower of Power (what up Emilio) Why? This is the ultimate funk/soul band. It has also featured two of the greatest soul

Hammond B3 players, Chester Thompson (past) and Roger Smith (present).

Michael: I would think there are a number of people I would enjoy working with. Can’t really name just one.

Ryan: I no longer have heroes. I am delighted and feel that I am in the perfect group every time I am being challenged and my talents respected and exercised. Where there is a sense of camaraderie in the group.
PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

Ryan: The Common Revolution. Of course I am biased as I am a member of this group; however, the songs are quality and intellectual, and the music powerful and innovative.

Tom:   Yes, I will give you a couple of names. First, there is a brand new band out Phoenix Arizona featuring three Arizona Blues Hall of Fame’ers. The band is ReZaNation. Great song writing with great musicians. ( The second is a regional band out of New Orleans that has been around for a while, Papa Grows Funk (

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think each of you would be your career?

Ryan:: Probably opening a restaurant featuring my wife’s talents as a chef.  

Harry: I’ve been in the hospitality business or music business all my life. So if i had to choose another career I guess it would be bartending.

Tom: Good question. I am not sure as this what I have always wanted to do.

Michael: I have also been a software developer for a number of years, I still have involvements etc. I also have a recording studio so if not my own I might be involved in other things. Principally however I have a sense that if not for Earth and the Next Society, I would likely be getting the message in the music out some other way. I am deeply interested in and am always exploring consciousness and the human condition.

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