Arizona Southern Rocker, Christopher Shayne recently released his highly anticipated debut EP, Ten High. As I’m sure you can imagine, Christopher is anxious to get the band together and hit the road to share his music. In the meantime, we were able to catch up with him to discuss the EP, what it’s like being a southern rocker in Arizona, and how he discovered his voice. I really enjoyed this Utah Concert Review interview with Christopher Shayne. Hope you enjoy our conversation!
–Kevin Rolfe (Interviewer)
UCR: So where am I speaking to you from today? Tonight?
Christopher: We are in my home studio because I’m not allowed to go anywhere else.
UCR: And whereabouts is that?
Christopher: That’s right in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona.
UCR: Nice and I wanted to ask you a little bit about that right off the bat. Because, truthfully, I’m just not familiar. I’ve been to Phoenix and Arizona a lot of times, but I’ve never jumped into the music scene there. What is the music scene like in Phoenix?
Christopher: It’s weird. It’s got its own little pockets and factions and everything like that. For us, we get a lot of the hodgepodge of both Texas and that kind of vibe, and then we also get the L.A. vibe on the other side. So, it’s got this rough and tumble area with a lot of drama mixed into it.
UCR: That’s interesting. Is there a scene for your style of music there? Or did you have to carve out your own path?
Christopher: We took the path less traveled. Trying to find musicians, just to want to pick up this kind of vibe, that was its own unique challenge. But yeah, there was nothing that was close to what we were doing and we just wanted to do it. It was all a happy accident that any of this came about as it was. So, the fact that we were able to do something with it was just icing on the cake?
UCR: Isn’t it kind of how that happens. You just start messing around, all of a sudden, oh, hey, we kind of think we have something here, let’s just see how long this rolls.
Christopher: That’s what it was. Literally, when we did our first album, it was just me and my writing partner, Dave, and our producer. Those are the only people who were on that and we had the album before we had the band, so we didn’t even know what we were until we got back with a full album going, like can we actually do something with this? We decided to try, and it actually worked out.
UCR: That’s awesome. So, how did you end up finding the other guys? Were they local Arizona guys? Or did you have to branch out?
Christopher: No, they were local Arizona guys. Dave was jamming with this blues-rock band and they were going in and out and everything like that. So, we just asked them, hey, you want to try this thing over here on the side? And then it ended up turning into everybody’s main gig. So, yeah, it all ended up working out. Because it’s blues-rock, it’s a tried-and-true language once you get the basis of it, and then there was a lot of fun over the years, seeing how everybody translates that internally. So, to the point where me and Dave know when the changes are coming. We know when the fills are coming, all of that stuff and we don’t even need to speak to feel out, okay, this is what this is, kind of thing.
UCR: What was it about this style of music that drew you to it? And where did you perform this stuff? Especially if it was just you and one other was a more stripped-down version? Or were you just recording this stuff, in hopes to put it out and tour with it?
Christopher: I learned to play guitar with blues music. So, a lot of that 1930s, 40s style blues music, and I still play an open tuning and everything to this day, just because it just has this kind of energy. But prior to that, I was also an angsty teenager, right? So, I was also listening to Megadeth and Slayer and all of those guys.
UCR: As you do.
Christopher: As you do, everybody has to go through it. So, I just had those two flavors in me and Dave came along, and it just translated, the back and forth, and just worked between us to have this interesting sound. We played before in another band here in town, so I already had some hard rock metal credibility in town. So, we got to play. There’s a lot of metal shows that we had no way to be on, there was no reason for us to be there and we just played acoustically for a handful of them. Then as we started to filter in the band, and like, what is this thing in a full band setting?
That’s when we started really playing around and started getting on the shows. But literally every time, we’ve had to either just make our own thing of the night and just fall on our sword. Or… that was it. That was our only option. It was our night, whatever it was, it was going to be our night. And we were just we’re just lucky that all things fell into place.
UCR: I’m glad you mentioned, some of these metal influences, because while your sound is under the umbrella of Southern rock and blues-rock, there are real elements of metal and hard rock throughout your especially the EP, and I don’t know if that’s intentional or subconscious or what but that’s why I was asking a lot about the band. I just feel your band sounds so good and strong and like there is a real hard bite to a southern rock sound.
Christopher: Yeah! That’s totally just because I like just edgy stuff. There’s something fun about being bitey and edgy with the music, just enough to pinch your ear. I like it when I’m listening to music and songs, and they attack me a little bit. Something exciting about that or maybe I need to go to a therapist for that. But yeah, it’s just, that’s some cool stuff to play around with those and to play with the dynamics and the drama and the attack and we want to really drive points home and yeah, that definitely comes from some of that metal background there for sure. Absolutely.
UCR: I love the way your EP starts off with “Pour the Bottle”. You start that song and album off with just you singing acapella. Then it all just comes in. Really, the way this interview happened is, I get emails for interview or concert review considerations. I listen through the artists and when I came across your EP I heard that first song. I was like, Alright, let’s schedule this, I gotta talk to this guy. It just sounded so cool and it just got me really fired up, which is a great feeling. You want that, especially in these times where there’s just not a lot to get excited about. It just got me really pumped up.
Christopher: That’s the thing and that’s how we landed on the “Bad Guy” cover. We wanted to cover a modern song and there’s a lot of trippy flowy pop music out there and there was nothing that I could sink my teeth into and that “Bad Guy” was the first song that I heard that it’s like, oh, yeah, no, that’s blues form.
UCR: Which is so cool. I’m just so curious about this kind of stuff. You’re out there, you’re putting out some stuff, putting a band together. It’s not the same, I guess anymore, where you perform, perform and then some older dude says, “Hey, I want to assign you to my label”. I don’t know if it really happens quite like that. Like we used to picture.
Christopher: I’m sure there’s some smoky room somewhere that happened. That was not our story. But yeah.
UCR: So, what is yours? How has it happened to where; we’re talking now and you’re releasing stuff throughout the world.
Christopher: It was a lot of Nos. Somebody told me a long time ago when dealing with music, you’re going to hear a lot of Nos before you hear one yes. But you always strive for that one Yes. So, we had dabbled around and that’s why with some of the earlier stuff, you can hear us going back and forth between way country stuff versus way harder edge stuff. Carry On(management company), came along and they were the first people that we didn’t have to change ourselves for.
I wouldn’t say that there’s a southern rock movement thing happening right now. So, trying to convince any of the big players that, this is a cool product help us make it, is hard to ask of anybody. But these guys came along, and it’s, it’s owned by Tom Lipski, who worked with Leonard Skinner’s and Allman Brothers and all that. So, we didn’t really need to explain much he already got it. He was just in the meetings like, just be you, man, just write the things that you want. We want you.
So, just do that and it was the instant sigh of relief finally, we don’t have to be overthinking. Because when you’re putting out your own music, and you’re handling touring, and you’re handling this, and you’re handling merch and all that other stuff. It gets really hard to be creative in that mode. Because you’re always thinking of the end person, you’re always thinking of, is anybody going to buy this and now we can sit here and just be creative and write and find the stuff that gets us really excited. So, that’s been the thing that’s just relieved us so much.
UCR: It’s just gotta be nice to have someone who gets what you’re trying to do. Because when it comes down to it as much as you want people to like what you’re putting out and to come see you and that gets to be a thing again, I’m sure it’s something you have to be happy with yourself, that you’re putting out.
Christopher: Or at least comfortable enough, right?
UCR: Yeah. Totally! I’m reminded of a friend who has since retired from the music business. He had a real push for a while and he finally landed with a really famous producer. They got together and released a three or four-song EP. For me as a friend and fan, it was hard to listen to because while it was very well produced, the songs were catchy, but they were not him at all. I just thought what if this is what you become famous for? You’re gonna have to sing these songs every night and you’re gonna be so unhappy. It’s such a weird situation because you want to make it. It’s what you want to do for a living. But at what cost? I think ultimately, it just never worked out for him and that’s how it works sometimes.
Christopher: That’s just music, man.
UCR: It just is nice to know that you have somebody pulling for you with your style and sound, right?
Christopher: Yeah, that’s the story. Even before all of this, that was the compromises we had to make with producers, we’ve had that. We’ve been in those conversations of just like, well, this isn’t the idea, but this is close enough. A lot of those compromises and especially with this EP, there were no compromises, it was 100% No, no, no, this is what we want to do.
UCR: That’s awesome. That’s so good. So, it’s you and one other that pretty much writes all the songs?
UCR: And what is that process? Are you coming in with a chord structure or the lyrics or the melody? What is the give and take there?
Christopher: It’s a little all over the place. What we’ve found works best is because especially when you’re recording a song, and you’re in the middle, and you’re in the middle of writing a song, we found it’s best to show up with, a minute. What is the meat and potatoes of this song? So, we will sit there, we both have Pro Tools at home. So, we will sit there hey, here’s an idea, Is this cool? Should I keep going? Do you have any thoughts? All that other stuff and then that way, we can just sit there, we can write a lot of songs that way go through the yeah, that ideas still hot and you’re not spending a week on it or something like that.
So, that’s been our process where we just make these, we call them “song seeds” and just enough to be like, here’s my basic thought, what do you think of it? And then we work on it from there if it’s anything cool or not. Some of those songs have been written in full jam style where you’re just in a room. Other songs have been where somebody shows up. That’s perfect. We don’t even need to touch it. Let me just throw some cool lyrics on it and we’ll be done. Yeah, it all depends on where it comes from and how good it is.
UCR: I’m sure that’s nice. Sometimes I know people prefer to write on their own, but I just always feel it’s so nice to at least have one person you can trust with the give and take of that. So, that’s cool.
Christopher: We’ve grown very thick skin between us.
UCR: Sure. I’m sure.
Christopher: Because, you got to sit there and go like, okay some parts of that is cool, we need to twist it. So, we’ve been brutal to each other. But it’s part of it. There’s nothing more brutal that’s between us two, than what somebody else is going to say. At least, if it’s between us, we trust each other, we know each other’s opinion and where each other are coming from. The outside can’t touch what we’re gonna sit there and do and break down our own songs so that we can get to the heart of what’s cool about it.
UCR: I think when the intention is always just to put out the best song possible to create the best song possible, being direct and sometimes brutal is better than tiptoeing around. Because then you put something out because you didn’t want to say something might hurt someone’s feelings and then it’s like, oh, my gosh, I can’t believe that’s what we put out.
Christopher: And nobody wants to listen to a bad song either. We don’t want to write a bad song. It’s across the board that everybody wants it to be good. So, we just throw it out at it and swallow our pride as much as possible and move. I mean, there’s an entire guitar part for, “Give a Damn”, that is not in the song whatsoever. There’s my guitar part and they’re like, yeah, I just watched the producer, turn it down in the mix.
UCR: Yeah, that’s probably hard. But that the song works and I guess it’s fine.
Christopher: It’s a great song now. So, I guess it’s fine.
UCR: So, the nice thing, and I suppose there’s a pro and con to this, but with Southern rock or whatever, I always hate labeling but for the sake of this point. Southern rock has a community, maybe if you don’t hit the mainstream or have huge charging hits, if that community accepts you, you’re always playing at those festivals, you’re always playing, those types of towns and have a real career. So, that’s an awesome part. The other part is because they’re that community, it’s up to them to do the gladiato thumbs up or thumbs down. So, you’re coming from a place again, that’s not traditionally the hub of Southern rock and presenting yourself, have you found it difficult to get your feet in that community? Or did you feel pretty accepted? Is that still a process in motion?
Christopher: I think for us, it’s been pretty easy, mainly because we’re not pretending. We’re not saying we’re a part of this community and born and bred. We’re not those people right now.
UCR: Which I think is a good thing.
Christopher: We’re honest, we are from Arizona. It’s kind of Southern rock, a desert, and all of that stuff. So, it’s got all of that baked into it and I find that as long as you’re honest with people, and we’re paying homage appropriately in the right ways while taking things and refreshing them and trying something new with these standard motifs, three-part harmonies, and guitar harmony and all that other stuff. We’re taking those and doing it in a way, it’s not pointing the finger, it’s not Ha-ha, look at this, it’s in a way that celebrates that in a very respectful and healthy way and we’ve never really had an issue of acceptance. And that’s just because we don’t act like we deserve to be accepted or anything. This is what we sound like.
UCR: That’s awesome. Like I said, it’s so smart because I think they would smell that from a mile away, that you’re trying too hard. It just seems so obvious.
Christopher: That’s how it always is that’s it. That’s any scene you know, you can always tell the people who are just putting on this suit because that’s what is making the money or whatever.
Christopher: And we’re not those people. We don’t dance that way, you know?
UCR: I’m fascinated with your style of voice. What I mean is, I can’t imagine you started out in a choir and then singing in some plays, and then thought, hey, I want to have a music career, right? It’s a raw, powerful, gritty voice. When did you know that you had this voice? Are you just singing one day and someone’s like, hey, your voice is rad? Where’s it come to the point of you knowing about it?
Christopher: I was really bored in high school and our theatre department decided to do Little Shop of Horrors and I didn’t know I could sing at the time. But I had nothing else to do. I was sitting there playing guitar all day and I was like, I’ll just go audition because I’m bored and I ended up getting the voice of Audrey II, the talking plant.
UCR: Oh my gosh, that’s awesome!
Christopher: I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell anybody. Nobody knew that I was actually in this play until opening night. And they thought I was just some background character, or something like that because I didn’t tell them. Then everybody freaked out and I was like, I guess this is just something I’m gonna do now. I’m gonna try this out. So, I kept going at it and that was my only stint in the theater.
UCR: Unless you’re saying that I was trying to think well, I can’t see him being Seymor, maybe the dentist.
Christopher: Yeah, there’s some rock energy.
UCR: But then as soon as you said, AudreyII, I was like, I could totally hear that. It would be so cool to see.
Christopher: Just that power. So, it just carried on from there and then a bunch of garage bands here and there until I finally found a place to call home that I made myself.
UCR: I’m sure like you said, with that voice, I think just one day people hear like, Whoa, that is in there. That’s awesome.
Christopher: That’s exactly it. Everybody was shocked. My mom. Everybody was just shocked. Had that moment after that, even my mom the opening night or whatever, because I had one walkout part. She’s like, Oh, that was great. I was like, No, no, no, I was doing the plant.
Christopher: She kinda had that “Holy Shit!” moment.
UCR: I love that. So, do you remember the first concert you ever went to?
Christopher: Yeah, it was Aerosmith. I was nine years old and I remember that because they were doing the Nine Lives tour. I love that record to this day and God as a kid, I was just obsessed with Aerosmith, still am. But its once again, drama, dynamics, you see that show, it’s a production, that is what they do and so, I was forever in love with all of that and then it started going to Metallica and System of a Down and Megadeth and all of those guys. Then I started going to the underground, thrashier ones, which was an interesting time in my life. But yeah and I love that stuff.
UCR: That’s cool and I think they are such an interesting band, because you know their stuff in the 90s, and even some of the 80s stuff. But then when you really deep dive, like their 70s, that stuff is nuts and you don’t really even hear that much of it.
Christopher: Yeah, it’s all over the place and some really weird ideas, like clearly the drugs but, there are just some great ideas here that we’re just like, yeah, we’re just gonna jam on this for four minutes. All right, cool. Let’s go.
UCR: Do you remember, aside from a Little Shop of Horrors, I guess the first time in a band situation, your first time, performing?
Christopher: No, and that’s only because that time all of a sudden, I wanted to be in eight bands, right? I was in three rotating bands, just playing guitar and then all of this other stuff. So, I was just all over the place with that and then I hosted karaoke for a while.
Christopher: Oh, yeah. If we had more time, I would tell you way deep stories.
UCR: Next time!
Christopher: Next time for sure. But yeah, it’s such a blur, being in high school plan industrial band that sounded like, Oh, God, that early Industrial stuff with like guitar over the top because,Industrial! I remember like taping, “need prom date” on my shirt. I didn’t have a date that year and I still didn’t have one after that show, nobody appreciated it.
UCR: Maybe they were a little too nervous.
Christopher: That’s right. They’re very intimidated by the rock star. That’s clearly what happened.
UCR: Now, do you remember? Or can you think of maybe the best concert you’ve ever been to? Whether it was a band or festival or just the first thing that came to your mind, the most impactful one you went to?
Christopher: They are called the and it’s gonna kill me now that I can’t remember their name off the top of my head. The Stone Foxes. They came through town and this was five years ago, four years ago and it was in a club downtown. It was just pure energy. They were on top of the amps. They were stage diving. At one point, the drummer came up front and the bass player went back to play drums so, he could sing a song. It was just cool. It was like the punk rock dream, I always wanted to do in like blues-rock form. I was like, Ah, there it is! That’s the best show I think I’ve ever been to by far.
UCR: Cool and finally, what would you say has been either your best or your favorite experience performing live?
Christopher: My favorite experience. We opened for ZZ TOP.
Christopher: And there were 21,000 people there. And because we thought it would be hilariouswe closed our set, right before ZZ Top was supposed to go on, we closed our set with Dancing Queen by ABBA and we thought it was hilarious. And it was a biker rally. Dyed in the wool leather vests the whole thing, and we got them all to scream ABBA.
UCR: I wish I would have seen that.
Christopher: If you go on our Instagram. I think it’s back in 2018. You could see it on there. You can see that exact part because there’s a part where we stopped playing just so we could catch the crowd singing.
UCR: Yeah, all of them?
Christopher: All of them are singing it and it was just amazing.
UCR: Well, as soon as I hang up here, I’m definitely looking at it. That sounds so cool.
Christopher: Do it, it’s awesome.
UCR: Christopher, thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed the EP.
Christopher: Thank you.
UCR: Do you think that you’ll be touring once this opens up? Or do you know what the plan is tentatively?
Christopher: We are. Once we can get everybody vaccinated and safe because we just hired a new drummer. We haven’t even had the opportunity to rehearse with him.
UCR: This thing is so lame.
Christopher: It’s so dumb. There was a time where we were skirting through it. Yeah, Arizona is the number one place in the world that has COVID, so we were locking down pretty tight.
Christopher: So, but once we can get everybody rehearsed up and everything like that, we’re sprinting. We’re just whole nonstop sprinting.
UCR: Well, Salt Lake City is not too far. So, please come up here.
Christopher: We’re doing it.
Christopher Shayne’s debut EP, Ten High is available now wherever you purchase or stream music. Click here to keep on all things Christopher Shayne and to follow him on social media.