Name: Aaron Shanley
Similar to: Neil Young | Donavon | Damien Rice
What They Say: “Mellow, honest, acoustic based pop-music”
What We Say: Stunningly beautiful, haunting acoustic ballads, delivered with raw passion and emotion.
◀ Q & A ▶
▶ Firstly Aaron, could you tell us a bit about your musical background? What first inspired you to pick up a guitar and what sort of music you grew up with?
I’ve been into music since I can remember. My dad occasionally played guitar around the house when I was really young and I always thought it was cool. He was always listening to really good music too so I heard a lot of great stuff growing up, from Black Sabbath to The Smiths. I remember being five and being obsessed with a lot of music I heard on the radio and used to wait for songs I loved to come on so I could record them onto cassette (oh my god I’m old) and loved watching TOTP and stuff.
I was about eleven or twelve when I started getting into guitar and friends I skateboarded with introduced me to bands like Korn and I started forming bands with friends. I initially just wanted to play guitar and had no real interest in singing but no one else would do it and I always liked writing so I ended up being the frontman and songwriter but got into it really fast. It was shortly after that I heard Minor Threat through a friends’ brother and I was hooked on hardcore music throughout my teens. Eventually everyone I jammed with started talking about university, so I bought an acoustic guitar and that’s lead to here I guess.
▶ For anyone who hasn’t heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
It’s always changing in ways. Most of what I’ve done over the last couple of years has been acoustic guitar-based but I’ve started writing a lot on piano and playing electric guitar more again. I guess what I do is about the writing and the stories more than anything else, but melody is important to me and always has been. I guess in a nutshell my music is usually mellow, honest-as-fuck acoustic-based pop music.
▶ Your relaxed and amicable stage persona, coupled with your haunting vocals, have drawn comparisons from Noah and the Whale to Neil Young. Who do you site as inspirations to your sound?
There isn’t really anyone in particular to be honest. I’ve been performing live solo with an acoustic guitar for the most part for lots of reasons. It’s a lot less complicated and is much easier to tour, you know? But there’s really no specific reason why I do it that way otherwise. I do enjoy it though, I have a lot of fun playing and travelling by myself.
▶ To date you’ve released two mini albums, ‘Let The Sun In’ and the stunning ‘Please Tell Me The Clocks Are Lying’ ~ What was the writing process like for each album and what were the overriding themes involved?
I was nineteen when I wrote most of the stuff on ‘Let The Sun In’ and looking back I guess it’s basically about everything that was going on in my life up to that point, being a teenager, girls, about to get into my twenties and not knowing what the fuck I’m doing. I released a couple of EPs in between too, but ‘Please Tell Me The Clocks Are Lying’ is pretty much the next part of ‘Let The Sun In’ in many ways now that I think about it. That was being twenty-one/twenty-two and being on the road a lot, ex girlfriends, drugs, strange encounters in bars and much like before, being confused and not knowing what the fuck I’m doing now that I’m in my twenties. The cool thing about that record though was that it was never planned. I recorded it one afternoon with my friends Logan and Cameron in Nashville. It was just hanging out, doing demos of new songs. We listened back and thought it was cool and released it on American Cadence Records. It was a very natural and cool way to do things.
▶ You’ve already had the chance to tour America and play to packed out venues up and down the country – But is there any live gigs that have stood out for you/been memorable to date?
Touring in America is always amazing. I used to daydream about it as a teenager, you know? Growing up in Lisburn you imagine that shit’s impossible and then suddenly you’re in places like New York City or LA and you’re playing, it’s awesome. They’re probably my favourites. There have been so many gigs I’ve loved, a couple of favourites outside of the US have been at No Alibis in Belfast, Ruby Sessions in Dublin and The Regal Room in London.
▶ Do you have a favorite song in your ever growing set? Or one that perhaps means a lot to you?
‘Sometimes People Just Fall Out Of Love’ is probably the one. I’ve just always dug it and have never gotten bored of it.
▶ Despite your young age, the lyrical depth and emotion expressed in your tracks are at times, heartbreaking and inspiring. Do you have a favorite lyric you’ve penned? (We love ‘You know we could be friends, but we never make it real, we keep talking all so briefly, just enough to make us feel..’)
Thanks, man. Seriously I really appreciate that. There’s a new song, ‘Trigger Scarecrows’, and it’s got this lyric, “tragic careless whispers still trigger scarecrows in my heart” – I like that one because it says exactly what I needed to say and without it being totally obvious.
▶ If you went on a World Tour and could have any three bands/artists (past or present) supporting, who would they be?
Well firstly I would switch it around so that I’d be the support. Probably Nirvana, The Beatles and Black Flag. Which would be a fucking odd show, but totally amazing. I don’t think I’d do it solo either. I’ve got this side project I do for a laugh called Startled Space Moth…I’d find some other band members and do that.
▶ What’s next for you Aaron? Any plans to release another album or tours planned?
I’ve been working mainly on other projects over this last year or so as a songwriter. I’ve done a lot of co-writing and writing for other artists. Madeleine Slate and I wrote a song in Nashville last year that’s gonna be on her new record and got a placement in Hart of Dixie, that’s been really fun so I’m gonna do a lot more of that.
I’ve got two new solo albums written now and I’m having such a blast with the new material. I’m demoing in the studio at the moment with Michael Mormecha and it’s sounding really cool. Hopefully I’ll get one of the albums out in the new year. I’m touring in the UK and Ireland in February too with Alex Hulme. We’re booking that at the moment, I’m really excited for it.
▶ Finally, what does success mean to you?
I know this sounds really wanky, but being happy. I think it’s really important to love and enjoy what you do and to love and enjoy the company of the people around you, both professionally and personally. I think everything is a success, even if it’s small. Like writing a song you dig is a success, making a record you love is a success. Whether I play in front of 20 people or 200 people, if I can at least make sense to one person in the crowd and they get something from it, that’s a success, too.
Any artist who’s being honest will admit that making a living from what they do is the dream, the success, etc. And it’s true. I’ve been fortunate to make some money doing this and it’s a truly awesome to do so. I do think however think that it’s even more meaningful and gratifying when you do if all of the above are in place too – enjoying it, meaning it, loving and trusting the people you work with, etc. Overall, being happy and enjoying yourself is the ultimate success, for me anyway.
◀ LISTEN ▶