TT – Thanks for taking the time out for this interview Shannon. I was just wondering how you got started performing?
SM – The first thing I ever performed in was a story telling show in the 1st grade or Kindergarten, I think I did ‘Brare Rabbit and the tar baby’. I was always in the music program all through school. Then when I got to college I started doing open mics, coffee shops and I was also a DJ for several different radio stations.
TT – North American Ghost Songs is such a great album in terms of mood and composition, I was wondering where you got the inspiration from?
SM – It was basically just the sound of my live band but we were going for the The Grateful Dead.
TT – I was wondering what gear you use to get that kind of sound?
SM – I use Martin and L’arrivee acoustic guitars through a Fishman solo amp for small gigs and a Fender stratocaster through a Small Stone pedal through a Fender Deville Amplifier. Boss tuner. SM 58 mic.
TT – Do you think performing live is an integral part of your development?
SM – Oh absolutely. I love making records but I do way more playing live than making records. I take a lot of risks live and have basically learned how to be a musician on stage. I learned how to make records in the studio from other great musician but learned how to play guitar and sing on stage.
SM – My biggest influence at the end of the day is JJ Cale. When push comes to shove that’s where I go for sound and feel, where I’m most comfortable. I love the understated-ness and simplicity of everything he does. He’s really pure in that regard.
Dire Straits, Los Lobos, The Grateful Dead, Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young and Bob Dylan are other really big influences for me, lyrically as well as a for overall aesthetic. Vocally, Dinah Washington, Emmy Lou Harris, Nina Simone and Willie Nelson are my principal influences. Though they all fit under lyrical influences too of course. Idealistically, I look toward true visionaries such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Sun Ra for confidence and spiritual backup
TT – Would you like to let us in on your latest projects?
SM – Well there are a few! Most currently, I’m working on a band project with my live touring band- Hot Sauce. The albumn is called “Coldwater”. It’s my second project with Jim Dickinson. I wrote most the songs but we also did a couple of outlaw country trucker covers. It’s really super laid back.
I’m planning on self-releasing it so I’m reasonably sure it’ll be out by summer and available online and at my shows. I’m also collaborating with the great Mark Bingham in New Orleans on a record of original music. It is less traditional than my other work and I’m very excited about it.
Finally, I did a record of Bobby Charles songs produced by Mac Rebennack with his band the Lower 911 Band in 2008 called “Small Town Talk”. One day the seas will part and it will be released but it’s hard to say just when. It’s arguably my biggest musical accomplisment and the best record I’ve ever made. I’m awful proud of it.
TT – Thanks for taking the time again, Shannon. If there was just one advice you could give to aspiring musicians, what would it be?
SM – My advice to young musicians would be learn how to do everything yourself or at least have working knowledge of all aspects of your business and technical process.
©2009 Terence Tan.
Pictures courtesy of Shannon McNally & Team ©2009
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