Self-taught musician Shane Hall talks about getting signed, his current collaborations and making it in San Diego
**On Wednesday, April 1, Shane Hall kicks off #BANDTOGETHER, a live stream concert series and fundraiser hosted by Music Box. Shane’s virtual show begins at 8 p.m. and is available to watch on Twitch or at ssbdfest.com/bandtogether. #BANDTOGETHER, which benefits San Diego musicians monetarily affected by COVID-19, will continue throughout the month, featuring local acts like Band of Gringos, Vokab Kompany, Kimmi Bitter, Strawberry Moons, Low Volts and Mrs. Henry, among others.**
Shane Hall has always been looking west.
“It helped that my window was facing west,” Shane said, referencing his childhood home in Pennsylvania. “Everything I wanted to do was west too.”
Shane got a taste of the West Coast at age 20, when the military stationed him in San Diego. Though he spent his childhood on the East Coast, Shane said he “grew up here” — bought his first car, got his first apartment, and even wrote his first song in this city.
After San Diego, Shane lived everywhere from Italy to Japan. But when he left the military and decided to pursue music as a career, Shane knew he wanted to get back to this city.
“I knew that even if I fell on my face, at least it would be in the most beautiful place ever … fall on my face at the beach — fall on my face in the sunshine, by the palm trees,” he said, laughing.
So Shane moved to Oceanside and got to work. For years, he took every gig he could get; he played mostly in bars and restaurants, including a three-year residency at El Dorado Cocktail Lounge in East Village. It was at these small shows where Shane honed his craft as a singer-songwriter and guitarist.
Playing four to six shows a week in San Diego for six years wasn’t easy, he said, but that dedication worked out for him. It was at one of these small gigs where he received a major milestone: a record deal. Shane was playing at Masters Kitchen and Cocktail in Oceanside when a representative from LAW Records and his friend happened to stop by — and liked what they heard.
“They came in for a drink and stayed for three hours,” Shane said, adding that he was officially signed to the label in February 2019. “It’s been rolling kinda heavy ever since.”
That “rolling kinda heavy” includes releasing his EP West, hiring an agent and manager, booking larger venues and involving himself in two new projects outside of his solo work.
“I wanna collaborate, and I want to be able to do whatever I want and whatever is needed. And I feel like the way to make it happen is by being involved in weird things, new things.”
He recently joined Red Giant Project (RGP), a five-person ensemble headed by Napa-based producer and sound designer Matt Madonna. It’s a multigenre collaboration that pairs electronic production with live instrumentation.
“(RGP) is cool because I like not being the driving force behind the project all the time. It’s such a grand scale and we get to do fun things, and real things.”
And those fun and real things include Coachella Music and Arts Festival*, where RGP was supposed to perform on the Do LaB Stage during the first weekend. In addition to Coachella, the group also booked festivals including Lightning in a Bottle* (California) and Electric Forest (Michigan). (*Due to the new COVID-19 restrictions, Coachella — which was scheduled for April —is now postponed until October, and Lightning in a Bottle has been canceled for the time being.)
These festivals take Shane away from the city, but he hasn’t abandoned the San Diego music scene just yet. In fact, his latest project KINDRD (not to be confused with the South Park bar Kindred) is an acoustic duo with local singer and violinist Melissa Barrison.
Though the two musicians have jammed together for years — Melissa even recorded on two of Shane’s albums and briefly joined his band — they decided to form a duo in January during Shane’s gig at Rendezvous, the US Grant’s cocktail bar.
Shane initially called her up because he anticipated he’d be bored playing the show solo. But after performing a single song together, Shane looked at Melissa and said with absolute certainty, “Dude, we should do an EP.” And as luck would have it, one of the audience members came up to the duo at the end of the set and booked them for a music festival: Telluride Blues & Brews.
Though he’s typically the one in the spotlight, Shane is looking forward to sharing the stage and pairing their sounds, which he describes as “a recipe for magic.”
“(KINDRD) will be primarily the sound and style of Rainbow Kitten Surprise, but Lumineers-y kind of style too, plus Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds — the acoustic stuff, not the band.”
Shane and Melissa are hoping to release the EP this month, or at least before Telluride in June. That is, if Shane’s finger heals…
Broken bones won’t stop the beat: So yeah, Shane recently broke his finger. Right as he was recording his EP with Melissa, right before festival season — and right before a massive show with Pepper, the reggae rock band he shares a label with. But Shane took the setback like a champ. Instead of canceling, he played the One Love Cali Reggae Fest in front of 15,000 people, and even shredded a guitar solo with two fingers. (And it’s a good warmup, because Shane will also be performing with Pepper at Cali Roots Music and Arts Festival in October.)
Staying out of the box: The self-taught musician describes his sound as soul-forward, with blues, rock and Americana elements. But he’s quick not to tie himself down to a genre. “I don’t have any rules,” Shane said, adding that he’s working on new material featuring lo-fi, hip-hop beats. “It just depends what’s happening inside me or around me.” His style mantra is “Beauty and the Beast,” so he often incorporates contrasts in his music, pairing shimmery vocals with heavy or gritty sounds.
Making it up as he goes: Turns out Shane actually writes a lot of his songs on stage. A few years ago, he started trying out new riffs and improvising lyrics to entertain himself during three-hour gigs. Though freestyling was a little intimidating at first, it’s now an integral part of his process. “It’s kinda my writing style. You see what flows better, and it’s easier to remember if you do it naturally … you also see what works — you see what people are listening to; it’s like test marketing stuff.”
Video helped the radio star: Shane also stars in Sound Graffiti, a video series that experiments with music in different environments. It’s best to watch it for yourself — you can stream Season 1 on YouTube — but here’s the gist of it: Shane and his musician friend Dean Blake explore the nooks and crannies of San Diego (and beyond) with a camera and a guitar, playing pop-up shows in unexpected places. Sound Graffiti was picked up by KOCT (Oceanside’s cable TV station), which will air the series later this year; Shane and Dean have also started filming Season 2, which will also be formatted for IGTV.