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Aaron Shanley Interview

Nichola Eastwood


Having recently released his debut album, Aaron Shanley offers us a great insight into his music, his writing and his future plans.

MTTM: You launched your debut album, ‘Let The Sun In’, in September. Are you happy with people’s reaction so far?

Aaron: I’m delighted so far. I really had no idea how people would react to it when I put it out. In fact, I didn’t even really think about it much.  It’s been really cool that people have enjoyed it. It’s nice to know that other people dig what I’m doing, it makes this journey much more meaningful.

MTTM: At your launch party you described yourself as ‘full of sad songs’.  What do your songs mean to you personally? Do you feel ‘Let The Sun In’ is a ‘sad’ record or is there a positive element?

Aaron: I think it’s kind of a sad record overall, yeah. It was never a deliberate thing though, I sort of just sit down at a guitar or piano and whatever comes out comes out, it’s kind of emotional response as opposed to sitting down to pen a song with a particular mood. I think there’s also a positive element to it with the title of the record I suppose.
I mean, for me personally I can’t sit down and write in a specific style or mood at any given time. Being able to do that is a true talent in itself, actually. But the songs mean a lot to me – I think records are like musical diaries.

MTTM: You also released a separate EP entitled ‘The Nashville Sessions’.  What inspired this record? How do you feel your sound here differs from ‘Let The Sun In’?

Aaron: That record was inspired by a trip to Nashville in March of this year with the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival. It was my first time in the US and I’d always wanted to go so it was truly inspiring for me. I spent a lot of time writing in the hotel room so after a few days of being there I had a bunch of songs and I took them into a studio with some friends and demoed them one night.  Only a few of those songs actually made it to the recording of the EP but I recorded them live like I had done with the demos to keep the same sort of vibe. I believe the songs differ a little bit from those on ‘Let The Sun In’, they’re maybe a little more story-telling. I think the stripped down production gives it its own thing too.

MTTM: 2010 has been a really successful year for you with a US tour, winning the Katherine Brick Song Writer of the year award and a slot at Glasgowbury.  How was touring the US?  And what do you feel you’ve taken from all the experiences you’ve had this year?

Aaron: Yeah this year has been crazy, I didn’t quite see it coming to be honest!  Touring the US was unbelievable: I had a wonderful time, met a lot of great people and saw a lot of amazing places. Like I said, this year back in March was the first time I’d ever been and I was fortunate enough to make two more trips out there within a few months so it was really special.  I’ve definitely learned a lot from experiences this year. I think I’ve grown a little braver maybe. I hadn’t done much travelling before in comparison to this year. I was also a lot more awkward, I barely left my house or talked to people. I think this year opened up my mind a lot, helped me overcome a lot of stuff. As well as it being an incredible year for my career it was also genuinely a break-through and a milestone for me as a person.

MTTM: You’ve launched your own record label, Love Gum Records. What inspired you to do this?

Aaron: There are a few reasons I suppose. Firstly it’s simply a way for me to release my own music.  It also means that I can do licensing deals with other labels for particular records so that I can keep my creative control. I also love the idea of being able to put out records for other artists. My friend Allie Bradley is now releasing her stuff on our label which is really cool. Also, I take a lot of influence from people like Henry Rollins. I love how he runs his own companies and built his career in a really cool way that meant he was always able to have freedom as an artist.

MTTM: You’re also set to publish a book of short stories. Can you tell us a bit about it? What drew you to this idea?

Aaron: It’s honestly something I do when I’m not writing music. I’m aware of how cliché it might sound but I was actually writing stories and poetry before I was writing songs. I think that’s kind of how I ended up being a songwriter actually. I was playing guitar in punk bands as a teen and just sort of combined music and writing somehow along the way. As for the book, it’s a collection of writing from this last year or so. I’ve discovered that being a musician, especially on tour, there’s sometimes a whole ton of waiting around so I thought I’d make the most of that time and stay creative. I have plenty of new short stories in the works that I’d rather finish and add to the others before putting them out. I don’t want to rush it for the sake of it. I was actually considering putting the book out under another name to avoid any of the obvious criticisms that often come with doing it but I’ve decided to just go ahead because I’m proud of a lot of that work.

MTTM: With so many different projects do you ever feel like you’ve put too much pressure on yourself?

Aaron: Not really, I have the odd day where I feel a bit burned out from lack of sleep or an intense workload but I actually really enjoy what I do.  From I was about 15 I really took music and song writing very seriously, spent all of my time bettering myself and just really applying myself. I’ve never really had much a social life or anything so I don’t really have anything else to keep me busy if I’m honest. For me writing or being in the studio is probably how it is for someone else when they’re at a house party or a club.

MTTM: Asides from touring with your album and the release of your book, what plans do you have for the future?

Aaron: I’ve just finished recording a bunch of new songs for a new release in the New Year; I’m pretty excited about them already. They’re in the mixing stages at the moment. I’ve been putting my band together over the last few months too so we’ll be spending a lot of time rehearsing and learning new material.  I’ve got some brand new sketches of songs lately as well so we’ve planned to do some pre-production together as a band to see how that goes as it’s something I haven’t done so far. Mainly touring throughout next year though in the US, UK and Ireland. I’m planning on getting some reading/spoken word dates booked too where I find any gaps.  I’ve done a few reading dates before and it’s something I’d love to do more of and I think having the book out will encourage me to go for it.