“Music is ecstasy to me. That place I can escape to and forget the world; forget my pain,
my problems, that place where everything is possible. When I write a song, I guess that’s
where I’m trying to take you on this new album.”
ShaManic – August 2014
Born and raised in the heart of American musical culture, ShaManic’s Nashville, Tennessee upbringing provided him with the diverse influences and inspiration that would eventually give birth to his rich, poetic alternative hip hop sound. “Growing up in Nashville, it’s kind of impossible to not fall in love with music and to not want to be involved in it. It was sure true for me,” ShaManic explains. “My music is more hip hop than anything else, but growing up I listened to everything: country, rock, R&B…you can definitely hear that influence in my songs, I’m always trying to incorporate something new. If you’re not doing something new, what’s the point?”
Lend your ear to the lively beats, diverse melodies and vibrant vocals of songs on his debut album THE ARTIST, such as Badadada, My Soul or Drunk Love, and you will feel these expansive influences converging into a truly fresh and original voice. A voice that grows and evolves throughout the course of the album.
In addition to his early exposure to the Nashville music scene, ShaManic began performing music at a young age, as well. “My first time singing was in the school choir, so I started performing pretty young. My dad was a song leader in the church and was definitely a huge influence on my life, musically and just in general. Both of my parents were an influence, really, and the music they listened to included classic rock, country, bluegrass, Christian music and R&B. I was exposed to all of those genres and more throughout my childhood. Of course, living in Nashville there was always some kind of live music going on – local musicians coming up, bigger names coming through, festivals…I got to see Victor Wooten play when I was a kid, which was pretty amazing. There was so much here to be inspired by.”
Building on this rich tapestry of sonic experiences, ShaManic’s style would take its clearest shape upon his introduction to the world of hip hop and rap. “When I was in high school I heard Man on the Moon by Kid Cudi for the first time and it completely blew me away. That’s the album that got me into hip hop. The College Dropout by Kanye West was another big influence…both of those albums, the music, the storytelling…it definitely felt like something I wanted to do.”
Having digested the work of these influential artists, ShaManic knew he had found the ideal vehicle to express himself musically. A lifelong fan of poetry, he discovered not only a rapport with the rhythms and beats of hip hop, but a musical genre that emphasized words, giving him adequate creative real estate to satisfy his love affair with language. “One of the things that really drew me to hip hop and rap is that it’s so focused on the words. I’ve been into poetry my whole life and this allowed me to combine poetry, music and storytelling into a single art form.”
More than just a passion, however, music has served as ShaManic’s guiding light during the dark periods he has struggled through. For ShaManic, forging a relationship to his work has become a way of life.
Battling health issues his entire life, a case of Whooping Cough kept him out of school and isolated for an extended period at a very young age. In the ninth grade he suffered through similar discomfort and estrangement from his peers due to an ongoing, long undiagnosed case of Mononucleosis, complicated by a variety of debilitating allergies. “It was hard to be a kid and be alone so much during those times. Aside from the physical pain, the loneliness was definitely hard to deal with.”
Plagued by fainting spells later in high school, resulting in a series of dangerous falls and ensuing concussions, ShaManic’s health struggles would follow him from childhood into early adulthood, culminating in a digestive disorder that made proper nutrition and even basic nourishment a challenge. His body weight plummeting and frequently left in a debilitated and exhausted state, he passed through a variety of hospitals and clinics throughout the South East United States seeking an effective treatment for his ailments.
Throughout these long periods of suffering and isolation ShaManic turned to music, often finding it to be his only companion. “I wasn’t really able to be around other kids a lot of the time, which was one of the hardest things. I spent a lot of time alone, which was tough, but it also gave me time to listen to, write and make music. Those times were really lonely and music was definitely there for me, a way to escape from the pain into a different perspective and mindset. That’s when I discovered the real power of music, how it can transform you and let you explore your own mind, explore different perspectives, find solutions you didn’t know were there.
Sun Drop & Cigarettes, my first recording with Ben Flanders, is really about all of that. It’s the pain, the dark side of life, but also that desire to keep going, that hope and the joy it carries with it. As I say in the song “It could drag you down to the depths of hell if you let it, so keep your chin up and your spirits lifted to the sky.” That’s what music taught me.”
However, ShaManic’s greatest struggle and turmoil was yet to come, with the loss of his father in early adulthood. A powerful influence in his life both personally and musically, ShaManic sought to mourn for and honor his father with the deeply personal track Mr. Anderson, an exploration of grief and a moving message of love.
“It was actually just a few weeks after my dad passed when we recorded Mr. Anderson. It was hard to get through, I was crying a lot when we recorded it, but I really wanted to send this message, to get out how I was feeling in music. It always helps me to express myself and understand myself better. I remember I had these voicemails that my dad had left me right before he passed saved on my phone, the last words I ever heard him say to me. I decided to include those messages in the song too, so if you listen to it you can actually hear his voice and final words to me. We had our fair share of misunderstandings and had been through some times where we didn’t see eye to eye on stuff, but in the message he wanted to let me know that despite all that he loved me and that I would always be his son. I guess the song was my way of responding, of letting him know I feel the same way and how much I miss him.”
Perhaps to be viewed as a companion influence to his deep musical background, these challenging experiences launched the central themes of perseverance and creative escape that govern ShaManic’s lyrics and sounds. “Music for me is an escape, not a way of avoiding life, like how some people think of it, but a way to escape into a different perspective on your situation. A way to see things differently, in a way that actually can help. I’m definitely a big advocate of exploring different perspectives and mind states. I think it can free you. If I had to pick a hook from one of my songs to explain, I would probably go with Let it Go:
In my mind right now, I’m more than a million miles away
It sounds farfetched but it’s no stretch, I’m too close to the edge for you to save
Lost cause I never knew when to stop but the view I’ve got’s incredible
Not a care in the world running through my head as I take a breath and just let it go.
An avid reader and natural raconteur, all of ShaManic’s songs and albums seek to tell a story. Influenced by concept albums like Man on The Moon, by Kid Cudi, as well as the literature of Hunter S. Thompson, ShaManic’s debut album, THE ARTIST, tells the tale of his life as a teenager and young adult, taking us on a roller-coaster journey through those years of pain, joy, excitement, sorrow and experimentation of those years.
In THE ARTIST, ShaManic is determined to spread his message of hope, perseverance and creativity. He is relentlessly driven to explore new musical paths and to keep telling his story in the hopes that it will reach and affect others who find themselves struggling through dark times similar to the ones that have fueled his brightly burning artistic fire.