By Brian F. Johnson
Boulder-based singer/songwriter Danny Shafer will release Wherever You Are this month — the troubadour’s first album in three years. Shafer took a year-and-a-half to work on this project in the studio, but the fact of the matter is that this particular album was two decades in the making.
“This is everything from me solo, to me with some strings, to a full-on sort of Darkness On The Edge of Town kind of thing with a full, big band,” Shafer said in a recent interview with The Marquee. “There are five new songs on the album, but some of this material goes all the way back. This is a collection of stuff I’ve done throughout the last 20 years.”
Shafer explained that about two years ago he had just finished playing a two-hour solo set when he was approached by producer Robert Tarantino. “He asked me why I played so long, and all I could say was, ‘Because that’s what I do,’” Shafer recalled. Tarantino invited Shafer up to his Jamestown studio and soon the producer was going through Shafer’s entire catalog looking for material to record. “Bob really helped to pick a lot of the songs for us to go back in and re-do. He helped with the arrangements. Honestly, there were times when he had more to do with what was happening in the studio than I did,” Shafer laughed. “He’s a great producer with great ears and he made the songs really stand up front.”
For some songwriters, revisiting old material can be unnerving, but Shafer’s simple and honest approach to his music, he said, kept him from having any doubts about the material. “I write my songs simply. I believe in simple songs and want everyone to know what the song is about. So the messages are clear. All of the words on these songs are the same, so if it was a good song 20 years ago, then it should be a good song now,” he said. “Bob helped me to step back and approach the music with a clearer head and make sure it was as clear as possible, all without getting in the way of the songs, you know? I mean, there’s 12 songs on this album and there is one guitar solo, and the solo is only 15 seconds long, played by Greg Schochet on an acoustic guitar. The goal was really to let the songs speak for themselves.”
Shafer is a Chicago native who moved to Colorado in the early 1990s after touring through the state with a bluegrass band. Recently he relocated to Lyons, and Shafer said that it’s big city living compared to where he’s been for the last 10 years. “I lived outside of Gold Hill for like 10 years in a little house with no running water — just me and my dog. That’s where a lot of these songs were written,” he said. “It was the best. It was awesome.”
But while the isolation of outer Gold Hill should have been enough to shake off his Midwestern upbringing, Shafer said that he’s held on to the values and ideals he learned growing up in Illinois. “There’s nothing like Midwesterners’ old school family values and work ethics. It’s one of the greatest things to write about,” he said.
In addition to writing about it, though, Shafer tends to live that way as well. He’s been playing music for decades and while he’s achieved some local notoriety he’s far from a star. But he also has a perspective on that which has allowed him to continue to grow as an artist each year. “My father always told me, ‘I don’t care what you do as long as you work hard at it.’ And I do work hard. I work my ass off and I’m grateful for every gig I have. Playing music, to me, is a whole lifestyle and I have a quality lifestyle because I’ve taken the time to build it and learn from what’s going on around me and seeing other people do it. A long slow career rather than a quick burn? I’d much rather have the long slow career. I’m lucky, you know? I get to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. It’s very satisfying. It’s the dream in perspective — the dream in control,” he said. “And, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be here in 10 more years.”
:: Danny Shafer ::
:: Wildflower Pavilion :: April 26 ::
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