Tom Shaner

Tom Shaner is the seen-it-all, done-it-all type with a knowledge base that can be considered priceless – the New Yorker has played the NYC subway while in college, taken on the road with his band here in the states, and conquered Ireland with a run of solo shows. And now he’s turned all of that experience into a full-length record… that you’ll have to wait for. Sorry, it isn’t released yet! The news isn’t all bad however, as the teaser EP “Get Real or Get Gone” features seven tunes of 30 that Shaner recorded with his label, Mother West.

We asked Shaner to discuss what the teaser represents – he says “I looked at the tunes we were gonna include, and I realized they all are about someone looking for something real, or true, or at least. But there is a huge world between grief and grace. Between ruin and salvation. And in the space between those states is really where we live, where choices are made that may determine which way you will lean...towards the false or true?  We are all at sea, and everyone has to decide by what and which kind of light they will be guided by, on a daily basis.” If you want the quick summary however, Shaner would tell you his sound can best be described as “Ghost songs, Waltzes, and Rock and roll." Simple enough, eh? Shaner has some big things on his plate including more recording and shows (in addition to his first child due later this summer), so keep an eye out. For now, read on for all the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Tom Shaner

PEV: Having written over 300 songs throughout your multi-faceted career, how would you describe your sound ?

Tom Shaner (TS): I describe my sound as "Ghost songs, Waltzes, and Rock and roll." There's a love and knowledge of tradition and roots, but my songs do not express themselves in any one style. It's whatever the song or music wants. But often I use a sort of traditional rock and roll format, but definitely not always.And that may or may not change, depending on which way things wanna go.Old and new ingredients. Electric, acoustic, whatever fits the the needs of the song.  "Ghost songs, Waltzes, and Rock and roll."

PEV: Calling New York City home, what kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

TS:The earliest music I remember was my mother playing Harry Belafonte and my oldest sibling, my brother, playing The Beatles.  As I grew up, as I always was reaching back to music before my time AS WELL as anything current that grabbed me.  So my taste is pretty broad. From Elvis Presley "The Sun Sessions" to Beastie Boys "Check Your Head." But if I love something, i really get obsessed and will learn the songs pretty well. As long as it's got heart and soul, maybe some humor, or something haunted or sexy or both, something yearning, or an appealing aggression. There's so much music I love, I could write the names of 100 artists no problem. And all of there stuff I would know well.Music both down and dirty or transportive and soulful. Mississippi John Hurt, the Stones, Elvis Costello, Chuck Berry, The Kinks, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Hank Williams, The Breeders, Everly Brothers, Manu Chao,Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong, Gillian Welch, Marley, The Clash, Fleet Foxes, on and on-And friends of mine lke Danielle Howle, Jeff Buckley, Tom Clark, Daniel Harnett. But I am equally inspired by film, writers, artists in other mediums, athletics, food, travel, and whatever a day may bring. I might say something different tomorrow, who knows? Mary Oliver, Chekov, Woody Allen,Charles Bukowski, Rilke, Rumi, Richard Hugo, Dickens,Li Po.Yeats...

PEV: Having played in the business for a good time now, what was it like for you when you first started out?

TS: I used to play in the subways when I was in college. Though I love learning other people's songs, (if i love the song), I usually would learn a more obscure song, like The Beatles "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party.' which isn't the best strategy to get a subway crowd interested. They usually wanna hear something they knew, but I didn't realize that. I though I could enlighten them to maybe some songs they DIDN'T know. So I was not the best "busker." Also,I also used to play at these odd "floating clubs" that often took place in whatever abandoned store front someone could find. Kinda an underground "open mic" thing. But monologists, performance artists, playwrights, poets, and songwriters would be allowed like 10 mins. But it was often entertaining, and always felt like a clandestine meeting.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?

TS:  Well, that happens every time  a spark of a new idea comes to you like a tiny comet and you think you better work with that or you will lose it and be mad later, and also, it will go to someone else. I once wrote a song about a man going to a gun show called, "At the Gun Show." I am not into guns particularly, but I kinda wanted to write a fair sort of "advertisement" mixed with a subtle narrative about a man forsaking his days chores to go to a gun show. I liked that idea. Or a song called "Swim (the tide of love)" About a man kicking what he thought was a football into oblivion, but he realized later it was a rusted halo. And that ends being how he looks at how he has treated the love in his life. But you the FIRST time i felt I was "onto something?"  Hmmm. Many different writing memories are all swirling onto each other right now. Maybe I tune I wrote in college called "When You're in Love."

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Tom Shaner show?

TS: Well, I've done a lot of solo shows in Ireland the last few years after almost always playing with a band in U.S.A.. So IF I AM playing solo, maybe a few spoken observations, perhaps humorous, and some acoustic strumming and picking. Ballads, and some uptempo tunes.Maybe I'd emphasize the storytelling aspect of my songwriting, when solo. And if I am with a band, pretty broad dynamics, varied styles depending on the tune...But either way, it's ghost songs, waltzes, and rock and roll.

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

TS:  Breath and go. Hopefully intense but not tense. To steal from Abraham Lincoln, "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have."  Hmm. Would be good if I actually did think all those things before I hit the stage.

PEV: Any preshow rituals before going on stage or do you just wing it?

TS: Hmm. I'd like to think I have a pre-show ritual. Maybe I do and I won't say. Or...maybe I don't. I am confused now.

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

TS: Wow, that's a huge wide open question. The inspiration can be from anything, ya never know. I think if it was utterly formulaic, maybe it would not have any love in it.Certainly I love my wife, we got married 2 years ago. I met her while playing in Ireland for the first time. So I can say I am inspired NOT to disappoint her!! Aside from that, if you love music and or are inspired to contribute to that part of the human story in any way, maybe at the very least, you are inspired to try and do work that might measure up to those who inspired you and maybe, just maybe, your meager light might shine a little for someone else to enjoy. Ideas for songs can come from anywhere anytime. Walking down the street, waiting for the subway. Or when you are in an undesirable situation, something floats in your mind, some new melody or lyric or both that, if nothing else, acts as a kind of bannister of sanity. Also, i often find, just picking up an instrument can lead quickly to an idea. Not always a good one, mind you.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, “Get Real Or Get Gone”, the EP teaser for your upcoming full length debut. What can fans expect from this work?

TS: It's 7 songs culled from a batch of about 30 I recorded with the support of co-producer Charles Newman at Mother West. In choosing an EP, I decided, at the urging of my sister Anne, to name after one of the songs, "Get Real or Get Gone." Which is duet with my friend Emmy Bean. Then I looked at the tunes we were gonna include, and I realized they all are about someone looking for something real, or true, or at least. But there is a huge world between grief and grace. Between ruin and salvation. And in the space between those states is really where we live, where choices are made that may determine which way you will lean...towards the false or true?  We are all at sea, and everyone has to decide by what and which kind of light they will be guided by, on a daily basis. Like the old gospel tune, "You Gotta Walk That Lonesome Valley All By Yourself..." But, of course, you leave that lonesome valley a lot of the time and if you are luck, you may follow a light to a great love, or a great friendship, but it's an eternal balancing act. Oh.. we are just talking about a little old EP?? In it there are a few watzes, a few rock songs, one darkly redemptive cabaret tune, and maybe a hypno-therpay track hidden in there.But basically, it's ghost songs, waltzes, and rock and roll.

PEV: Do you ever find yourself getting writer’s block and if so, how do you get over that?

TS: Not really. But I do PREVENT myself from writing on purpose often.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Tom Shaner?

TS: I am a pretty decent athlete and wished I could have been good enough to be professional. I a lot of similarities between the arts and sports.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

TS: Hmmm. I never thought about it as a career. But i do have a "body of work." Hmmm. Most artists, I think, might see a "career" as being an possible result in the eyes of someone else, but to the individual artist, it might be that he or she would be doing their thing anyway.

PEV: What one word best describes Tom Shaner?

TS: "Habanero". No, wait. "Curious." No, no, um....That's it. "Um."

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

TS: I traveled a lot around the u.s. with my old band, and it was great to see America that way. I loved so many different regions of the U.S. and the people for so many different reasons. But there are dangers, and real dark characters out there too. Not to mention unnecessary searches by police in certain few states. Maybe it's the New York license plates. But I usually find after week three, the road tends to be hard for me. The worst part is if you have to do a lot of long drives you get "van" body or "bus body." I like be pretty active, so sitting for too long is a real drag. And the food can be challenging, as I a strict vegetarian. But that has gotten better out there. Another difficult thing is bad sound at a club, that can be hard to get past. On the bright side, in term sof touring the U.S.A., it is an amazingly beautiful country and I wish every American could visit every state. I myself have been to about 45 of 'em. Another great thing about my experience on the road is aI met my lovely wife touring in Ireland.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

TS: So many places I would love to play. Turkey, Itlay, France, China, Japan, Russia, on and on.

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

TS: Friends are supportive, some are very enthusiastic. Same with family. Though my Dad always seems borderline indifferent,at times interested. And a few I think just don't understand it, but don't convey harsh judgement either.

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

TS: Reading, playing tennis or hiking or swimming. Or watching a film. Or drinking a few pints. Or cookin, hanging out with my lovely wife. Or family or friends in NY or VT or California or Ireland. Maybe working on other kinds of writing or projects or going to see another friends work. Or listening to music. Or just enjoying NYC, walking around.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

TS: Nothing comes to mind, but I'll probably think of 3 or 4 tomorrow! I think that kid Neil Young has somethin'.

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

TS: Well I thought I'd be a visual artist when I was a kid, then a baseball player, then an actor. But who knows? Maybe I would have been an under water mime off the coast of County Cork performing slow motion stories for an audience of disinterested sea life. Or maybe i am already doing that.

PEV: So, what is next for Tom Shaner?

TS: More music, more recording,more gigs,more videos. I am workin' on getting a film made that I wrote and it has songs in it for a few of the characters. Also my luvely wife is due in August with our first baby. Wish us luck as we do you.

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)