BY JAMES MOORE
Aaron Shier is recording with i3 Records in LA.
Aaron Shier is heading for the Left Coast. Mostly a well-keptmusical secret, this ergonomic Fairfield native has been signed by independentLos Angeles music production company i3. He’s scheduled to record thisfall and start touring nationally in 2006.
Don’t mean to be all I told-you-so, but I knew this kid was going places,man, the first time I laid eyes on him. Talent is as talent does and Shieris a singer/songwriter/producer/engineer/freestyle rapper/multi-instrumentalistwith talent coming out the wazoo, as it were. The first time I heard him sing,something in the warble, the effortless conviction, the physical and emotionalrange, knocked my socks off. And I was wearing sandals at the time! I mean,come on, when was the last time you heard someone who could do Kurt Cobain,span the gamut from growl to yowl, without batting an eye?
Even with a mostly so-so band at a poorly attended outdoor venue, thepolish, grit, and melodic toehold of Shier’s original material kickedmy third eye skyward. He’s got an unmistakably Eddie Vedder-esquevocal thing (though he shrugs at the comparison), a sort of mellifluoussquiggly bagpipe power that can turn from a whisper to a scream on a dime,and a hip, transcendent cool that you could run air conditioners with.The lanky (6’4", 150 pounds), dread-locked, smoky-eyed, 20-year-oldPerry Farrell chassis (slight sidies and hint of chin-beard) is a perfectcomplement to Shier’s 48-hour-a-day genie-in-a-bottle demeanor.Dude lives, breathes, eats, drinks, and sleeps music, has guitars forfingernails, and a mind that oozes art because it doesn’t know whatelse to do.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
He’s also a gifted producer. The work he did on the Jefferson CountyGreen Band’s debut CD is first-rate. He’s currently workingon their follow-up. His own homespun demo recordings—the latestis called Inside Anomaly, an acoustic recording featuring Daniel Sperryon cello—are really good.
He recorded my old band, the Apocalypso Tantric Boys Choir, and nailedthe whole thing with a scant two hours of set up time, masterfully freestylingon the fly into his PC. Suffice it to say, this Americanadian (his term—parentsare both Canadian, but he was born here) has the friggin’ Midastouch when it comes to capturing sound.
When I heard he was being flown out to L.A. for a possible record/productiondeal, it didn’t surprise me. Nor when he came back signed.
How it all turns out, we’ll see. As Cat Stevens once said, “Oo,baby, baby, it’s a wild world and it’s hard to get by justupon a smile, girl.” Of course, Cat is now a Muslim who wasn’tallowed into the U.S. recently for political reasons, but that’sneither the point nor beside it. Shier, who has a nice smile, has a lotmore than that to get by on. He’s a creative font, a gentle, gifted,explosive, grounded, spiritual cartwheel of kaleidoscopic talent and cansing anywhere at the drop of a hat.
I watch him do just that on a local radio show. Here are my notes:
I’m watching Aaron through the radio station glass door as he singshis heart out with an acoustic guitar, his spindled dreads covered byheadphones. Three radio jocks look down at their consoles waiting to interview.Aaron’s falsetto is warbling as fearless as a saint’s embrace.
At the end of the piece, the three jocks are blown away. “We’reglad to be at the ground floor of where you’re going to go,” saysone. “Great things are ahead for you. We can say we knew you when.”
This kid shines best as close up as possible. It comes across in wavesof intimacy—his recording style, production style, singing style.He may be green under the gills in terms of fronting bands—thoughyou wouldn’t know it judging from the previous weekend’s killerthree-piece show complete with screaming Marshall amp—but up closeand personal it’s just mesmerizing.
After the show, I ask Aaron a few questions on a hot summer’s afternoonon the lawn of the town square.
Do you read Rolling Stone?
Any music mags?
What do you think of pop music?
I don’t know what pop music is.
The state of the recording industry, then?
It’s half-f—ed, half-reality. Actually, I don’t reallyknow. I haven’t been in it. I don’t read about it. I don’treally know anything about it.
What’s your favorite color?
I don’t have a favorite color. But my favorite combo is brightblue, almost baby blue but deeper, next to a high contrast of grass green.
When did you write your first song?
I was 12. I got my first guitar at 10.
Do you remember it?
Sure. It’s called “Lost in Confusion.” I still rememberit.
Can you play it?
[He launches into it on his acoustic. I’m amazed he can rememberhis first song, but even more amazed at what I hear. It is mind-bogglinglygood, not just for a first song.]
You ought to record a version of that. It’s really gota great feel. I can hear heavy guitar slamming in on the chorus.
I may do that.
Why do you do music?
’Cuz the world needs good music and needs a lot of love and sodo I.
What do you think of when your mind is blank?
When did you realize you had great pipes?
I’ve been on and off with it. Sometimes liked my voice; sometimesdidn’t. But now I realize how much the mind gets in the way of things,keeps me from excelling. I get stuck on things I’m not comfortablewith. When I thought it sounded bad, I felt I should do something else.But now I appreciate the fumbles. A little bit of dissonance can add alot of flavor. A little bit of flaw. Can I change that? A little bit offlaw can add a lot of flavor.
Who are your influences?
Nirvana, yeah. The Beatles a little. Aphex Twin. Gandharva Ved.
No. Didn’t listen to them much. Love their music but they werenot an influence when I was developing my style. I get that all the timebut it’s just a coincidence.
Tell me about your production team.
i3 is the record label, a subdivision of Ajna Music. A husband and wiferun the company, Jeremy and Fabienne Toback. Very cool people. Herb Graham,Jr., is the producer. Herb plays drums and bass. Jeremy also plays bass.
I guess it’ll be a team effort with all your wherewithal?
A collective. But I’ll find my own band, my own place. I’lltake care of myself and keep an eye on the details.
What don’t you like to talk about?
I don’t want to talk about it.
Any last words?
Music is easy. Anyone who wants to do it, should do it. It takes effortbut it can become an effortless effort. Train your mind to recognize thatit’s easy. Some effort doesn’t have to be strenuous or everexerting.
May the same apply to your success, Aaron.