Tom Shaner will be performing Live at the Landing this Thursday, July 11th from 6:00pm-8:00pm, so we decided to ask him some questions to get to know him a little better.
1. First off, quick background info! Tell us your name, where you’re from, and what you do.
My name is Tom Shaner. I write songs, record them, put them out on various platforms. My stuff is easy to find. I also direct and edit my own videos. I live in New York City. Though I usually perform playing with my dynamic band. I am lucky to work with so many soulful and talented New York City musicians. I do perform solo sometimes too. I’ve played all over America and a good bit in NYC. Also have done lot of solo shows in Ireland. My style varies, depending on what the song wants to be. I call my stuff “ghost songs, waltzes and rock & roll.” Sometimes it’s moody and slightly cinematic. Sometimes there’s a touch of American roots music, folk and blues. Occasionally a slightly humorous narrative song can happen. Sometimes an old time waltz feel might slip in, but often times a modern rock feel is called for. I enjoy all types of music, so who knows what flavor might find a way in. And the people I play with tend to be pretty versatile. That helps. We are just trying to serve up our kind of honest musical gumbo.
2. How’d you get into music? How long have you been performing?
My mother was very musical. She played piano and sang bit. My dad was a very literary-type fella. So I was fueled by music and words through them. And I always wrote a bit, words and poetry and during high school was making up a few songs. But got more into songwriting and learning guitar in college. Plus I had 4 older siblings and was always hearing their music. I always liked new stuff AND older stuff. Always enjoyed trying to learn who led to who. And I would be open to anything that had at least a bit of soul. From Elvis Presley to Hank Williams to Lightnin’ Hopkins to Bob Marley and of course, Bob Dylan. I’ve been performing in different ways since I was a child, school plays, etc. But when I was at NYU, I started trying my own songs at open mics and in the subway.
3. What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
I cannot pick one thing. I like trying to earn my place in the long tradition of music making and storytelling and thereby connect with an audience through writing or performance. Also, so many have inspired me in so many ways, I’d like to think, in some small, way I can filter those luminous waves of distinct creative energy, forge my take on it, and pass it on to others. Additionally, I am often amazed at who I get to play with and how much I learn from various players. Also, it is really nice when the band has a good show and the audience seems gratified or energized by our efforts. We try to make every show special. That’s why I never stick to a set list. I try to gage the uniqueness of each audience and see which way the music should go. Sometimes I fail, but not for lack of trying! Lastly, if someone tells me that anything I put forth moves them or they really enjoy it, that is a great feeling. Also, it was nice when the ABC drama “The Rookie” used a good bit of my song “The Tide of Love” this year, in episode 8.
4. How is performing in the park different than your typical venue?
It is always nice to play outside. Thats is, of course, if the weather is nice. To feel the expanse. And I live one block from where we will be playing, so that’s a fun feeling. We shall see what the atmosphere does to the music. I’m looking forward to it.
5. When you’re not performing, what is your favorite thing to do in the parks?
My lovely wife and I have two kids under the age of 8, so we love bringing them to the park. And we go there quite often. There are many options- playground, grassy meadow, giant sandbox, they love it all! But also sometimes I might get occasional alone time in the park to read or work on a song. It’s nice that you can watch the sun set over the Chrysler Building while sitting on a grassy meadow near the weeping willow trees.
6. Lastly, where do you find yourself drawing inspiration from?
There are so many “portals” from which inspiration can come. I’m fairly easily set in motion, being a fairly enthusiastic guy, so I rarely feel without inspiration. My god, if you only checked out films books and movies rom 1920 to 1950, or 1960-1980, or 1990-2015, you’d never feel a lack of things to take in and inspire you. Or if all you had was Stevie Wonder’s music, you find a way to always feel inspired. I ran with Jeff Buckley, a lovely guy, several years back and a few others who are not around. I do not want to take anything for granted and I look to be fully committed when I take the stage or attempt to produce new stuff. I do like to try thinking of the way Walt Whitman wanted us to - what I might call “The grand e pluribus uno of this life.” Out of many, one. But also the one is connected to many, one of the many. When he spoke of
“It avails not, neither time or place—distance avails not;
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence; .
I project myself—also I return—I am with you, and know how it is
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;
Just as you are refresh'd by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh'd;
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood, yet was hurried…”
He was, I believe, trying to offer a chime of empathy for his generation AND future generations in hopes of encouraging a certain degree of critical harmony. So, in honor of Whitman and his “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” poem, we are happy to get the chance to play music on that same East River that Whitman rode a Ferry across. With the new ferries crossing back and forth, and all around behind us.
For more information about Tom Shaner, his music, and his upcoming shows, please visit: http://blog.tomshaner.com/