Interview with Shy Blakeman
Lamitschka: Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time.
How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?
Shy Blakeman: I personally call it Blue Eyed Soul but most people my age don’t quite understand that concept. So to put it in terms they can, I say Country Soul. It has a strong Country foundation, with a heavy Blues, Soul, Gospel and Motown/Stax R&B influence. Basically I take all the different parts that made me fall in love with music and I put them together in the same puzzle.
Lamitschka: How was the last year for you? What were your highlights?
Shy Blakeman: The last year has been a pretty intense one. I had to take an honest look at what I was doing and how I could do it better. With the help of my artist development team, Fame Wizard, I’ve re-vamped my entire philosophy on business, marketing and music. It’s been a long journey, but a welcome one. In the last year I have completely turned my career around for the better. Some of the highlights include watching my fan base grow by over 2000%, achieving airplay on Pandora Radio as a completely independent artist, opening for Bob Seger in front of 15,000 people and recording my very own Live at Billy Bob’s Texas album. Some other who have recorded their own Billy Bob’s albums were Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, Gary Stewart and Michael Martin Murphey.
Lamitschka: What is your latest CD and how's it doing?
Shy Blakeman: My latest project before my Billy Bob’s album was „Long Distance Man“. What I feel is my truly definitive album. It was produced by my mentor Ted Russell Kamp. It was the album I’ve wanted to make all my life. The first time I stopped worrying about what people wanted and started worrying about what I wanted to communicate musically. While making this album I also had the pleasure of working with the most extraordinary musicians. Marc Ford, Audley Freed, Doug Pettibone, Kenny Vaughn, Jason Sutter, Gia Ciambotti, Michael Webb and Nick Nguyen all lent their talents to the project. We also made sure to make them all apart of the creative process. We ended up with what I feel is a very organic sound and something Ted and I could be proud of.
To be honest when I first released the Long Distance Man, it received very little radio play and got even less exposure. A whole year went buy and I had sold less than 100 copies. But I believed in the album so much that I was not willing to let it die. So I started giving it away for free. And as of to date over 15,000 people have heard the project. And that’s just the number that I know of. No telling who’s heard it on Pandora and who has passed the music to their friends.
Lamitschka: How did you choose the title for the CD? Is there a story behind the name?
Shy Blakeman: The title obviously came from the track Long Distance Man, but for me it meant much more. Many people in the music industry had counted me out as I took a 5 year break from performing and recording. It was my statement to them, that they couldn’t get rid of me that easy and that I was hear to stay whether they liked it or not.
Lamitschka: Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?
Shy Blakeman: I’ve recorded 3 albums and 2 out of 3 I wrote myself. But after a long period of self reflection I realized that maybe my writing style did not match my performance style. When I perform I love to be energetic, I love to groove and have fun. My writing style is a bit more introspective and really more of an emotional outlet. I made the conscious decision to start looking for songs by other songwriters that matched the type of performer I wanted to be. I always look for songs that I can relate to and that may articulate my thoughts and feelings more eloquently than I could myself. I also search out unknown or forgotten songs from the past. Our music is an oral history of who we are as people and a culture. Part of our responsibility as musicians is to keep that history alive. To re-introduce songs and songwriters who have been lost to time and modern fads. A great song lasts forever, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is heard forever. Some people may consider covering songs like these a „Lower art form“. But I consider myself as sort of a musical historian.
Lamitschka: Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences, etc).
Shy Blakeman: Long Distance Man is a very conceptual album. As I said before I wanted to create something that included all the reasons I fell in love with music. It’s a journey through American music itself. We included every influence that had a hand in forming what we today consider the Western musical legacy. From the Celtic folk that traveled across the sea which transformed itself into the indigenous sound of the Appalachians, later traveling to the low lands of Kentucky evolving into Bluegrass and Gospel, which inevitably gave rise to the Country & Western styles of Nashville and the Blues of Memphis. All culminating into Rock & Roll, Soul, R&B and Funk. Each song has a specific undertone and overtone that melds all these styles seamlessly together in the project. Not only do the words of each song tell a story, so does the music.
Lamitschka: What is the difference between your last CD and your current one?
Shy Blakeman: Maturity and confidence. I’ve spent too long trying to make music for the people and what I thought they wanted to hear, rather than making it for myself.
Lamitschka: Your current single is being played by radio. What do you feel is special about this song that makes people want to hear it?
Shy Blakeman: Dragonfly (written by Matt Powell) is actually not being played on radio. It has been completely ignored. But my fans and listeners on social media absolutely LOVE the song. I feel everyone connects to this songs for the same reasons I do. The subject character of the song, the dragonfly, has found love with someone who has seen the beauty inside him. The dragonfly is a metaphor for us all. To be honest, the dragonfly is a very physically ugly looking creature. There is absolutely no reason why we should consider them beautiful. But we do, infact there is something intrinsically beautiful about the dragonfly. We as human beings are all the same way. We are very insecure about ourselves, both physically and emotionally. But we all know there is something deeply beautiful inside ourselves just waiting to be discovered. And we live our entire lives hoping that someday, someone will see that beauty.
Lamitschka: What will your next single be?
Shy Blakeman: As we are getting ready to release our new live album I won’t be releasing another song off of Long Distance Man. We also haven’t gotten far enough point in the process of the new album to decide on what will be the next single. So who is to say what the next single will be. I just hope people connect to it.
Lamitschka: What kind of songs do you like to record the most?
Shy Blakeman: Ones that make you tap your toe and deliver something a bit unexpected to the listener. Music is, was and always will be an experiment in sound, thought and emotion. I will never stop experimenting.
Lamitschka: You did a duet with Miranda Lambert on your first album „Downtown Women“. How did that happen to come about?
Shy Blakeman: We grew up close to each other and her family showed me the ropes of the independent music scene in Texas. I came along the words to this old Hank Williams tune „Last Night I Heard You Crying In Your Sleep“. At the time, there was no such thing as youtube and I searched for the music and the chords, but to no avail. So I wrote my own music to the lyrics and showed it to the Lamberts and they absolutely loved my rendition. So I asked Miranda if she would care to make it a duet. She agreed and the rest is history.
Lamitschka: What is your favorite song among all the songs you have recorded and what's the story behind it?
Shy Blakeman: Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance? By Rusty Wier. I have never heard anything in my entire life that has so completely encapsulated my hopes and dreams like his song did. If you listen to that song you’ll understand why I am in love with music.
Lamitschka: How much creative control do you have over your music?
Shy Blakeman: As of right now and hopefully forever, I retain 100% creative control. But that doesn’t mean I am not open to suggestions from much wiser musicians and artist than I.
Lamitschka: Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?
Shy Blakeman: My father, Rusty Wier, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Delbert McClinton, Bonnie Raitt, Billy Preston, Johnny Cash, George Clinton and The Parlimental Funkadelics, Curtis Mayfield, Tony Joe White, The Rolling Stones, Hoyt Axton, Mac Davis, anything Motown & Stax.
My musical roots run fairly deep. At least 3 generations as far as I know. My grandmother played the dobro and my father and his brother are both vocalists.
Lamitschka: What do you think about today's music scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?
Shy Blakeman: I look at today’s music scene as I look at the Renaissance. It a brave new world of enlightenment, experimentation and re-discovery. And just like the Catholic church of the dark ages, the modern powers that be don’t know what to do with it as they cannot not control it. It’s a very good time to be a musician and artist.
Lamitschka: If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
Shy Blakeman: The pretentiousness of the music contisure. It’s music. Get over it.
Lamitschka: As an artist, you so many tasks such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what's your favorite activity?
Shy Blakeman: The business of it all. The deals, the relationships, the networking. Watching a concept sprout out of your mind and into reality. The performing, but most of all... The dreaming.
Lamitschka: When you're on tour, do you have time to play tourist?
Shy Blakeman: I wish. Not at this point. We travel long and far between gigs. We barely have the time to eat and catch a quick shower.
Lamitschka: Many music fans today get their information about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will fans find there?
Shy Blakeman: www.shyblakeman.com... Free music
Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de )