By Kenneth Bremer.
One of the brightest new artists of the millenium. It’s about time!!. Unbelievable!. Does his dad & mom proud. What a Voice!. The Best, Can’t stop playing it!, Shem’s voice is awesome and so is each and every cut on the, Shem’s Son Of Arthur is simply one of the best CDs I’ve heard in a long, long time, Excellent CD. A top 10 in my book. Shem rocks my world! & Great display of talent.
All these words are from independent people at the webstore cdbaby.com. There is no doubt that Shem has done a terrific album. After touring with a lot of west coast music artists, Shem did get the time to record and release his first album “Son of Arthur. Here is an interview with Shem, where he is telling about the new album and more.
– First of all congratulations on the release of your new album. Is the title “Son of Arthur” related to your father Artie Schroeck?
Thank you. Yes. I called it that because of two things. First, I am a son of Arthur and my father has been a huge musical influence on my life. Secondly, I don’t use a last name so seeing as my name is one from the Old Testament, I thought I’d identify myself like they did back then. For example: Solomon, son of David.
– “Son of Arthur” is a very clever album. In my opinion it is an album that shows your talents as a musician and songwriter. It took a lot of years to be released. Was it because of all your touring with different bands or were the songs a long way to come?
Yes I have been busy touring but that wasn’t the reason for the long wait. When I spoke to you guys in Paris back in 1997, I had mentioned that I planned on recording a CD soon. But at that time I hadn’t felt comfortable with material and an over all motif for a record. With the birth of now playing acoustic guitar, which was something I hadn’t really tackled yet when I saw you last, I started writing the songs you now hear on “Son Of Arthur.” The only song that had been written back in ’97 was “Born To Take the Fall” and it was very piano oriented at the time. The over all recording process started in July of 1999 and was completed in April of this year. So while you guys thought I took forever to record this record, it really was only about a 2 year process.
– You have been touring with great artists and bands such as: Kenny Loggins, Ambrosia, Christopher Cross and many more. How would you describe these songs:
Ambrosia – You´re The Biggest Part of Me: A great, timeless classic.
Christopher Cross – Alright: A very commercial pop song.
Kenny Loggins – Heart To Heart: One of my favorite songs of all time and my favorite song of his to play live!
– Do you have a favorite song from these artists?
Kenny Loggins’ “Wait a Little While” and “Sweet Reunion” are two of the best songs ever written.
– How has it been for you musically to work so close with these artists.
It was great to play with Kenny. I got a lot out of that experience because of the caliber of musicians he surrounds himself with. Also, playing with Jimmy Messina really helped my guitar playing and fingerpicking technique. All very invaluable stuff.
– Cross, Loggins, Ambrosia, Messina – all very famous west coast musicians….. and there is a link between these in their background…. how does/did Shem connect here? West Coast Music must have a place in your musical heart.
Growing up on the east coast of America, I really found myself being drawn towards the sound that came out of Los Angeles. Gino Vannelli, Toto, Kenny, Pages, Mr. Mister, Christopher Cross, Steely Dan, The Doobies….. The bands I played in as a kid always had those songs in our set lists so I grew up playing a lot of the material I wound up playing with these artists years before I knew them. I saw Kenny play at Radio City Music Hall back in 1985, in New York and said to myself, “I want to play in that band someday.” Nine years later, I got my wish.
– Back in 1997 at the west coast festival in Paris, Ambrosia were the opening act. All were waiting for David Pack, but he couldn´t be there. But a big surprise that evening was your performance. You played percussion, bass and was the featured vocalist on all the classic “David Pack” songs. Nobody “missed” David that evening, you were a brilliant “stand-in” I think that this show was very special. How was it for you?
Actually, Ambrosia had done several shows without David prior to our show in Paris and now continue to do so perminently. It was a thrill however to play for a brand new audience on the other side of the world and see how familiar many of the fans were with the material. It was very special, indeed.
– You play almost every instrument. Was it learned during childhood, where you help you father in the studio, that gave you the opportunity to learn all the instruments?…. And is there some instruments you don´t play?
I started out on drums at 2 years old and then added piano by age 6. My father was always a drummer and a jazz piano player so I was exposed to his making of music growing up. Bass came at age 12 and there were the days in school playing clarinet and saxophone. Playing guitar was always pretty recreational and never serious until recently. I don’t play trombone or the bagpipes. (laughs) I did do a lot of work with my father in the recording studios growing up. Mostly bass and drums. I also sang a lot on jingles and recording sessions. I was very fortunate to be around that type of musical atmosphere at such a young age.
– With the release of the “Son Of Arthur” album, you are going to promote and play around live. Will it be with a band or more acoustic? Who will be the bandmates?
I’ve been playing solo, acoustic for about 2 years now and have been performing the material from “Son Of Arthur” before it was released. I am however forming a band to perform both this material and some of my new stuff that will be on my next record. I want to keep the acoustic sound but just rough it up a bit. I’m calling it a power trio with acoustic guitar. Myself on bass, Doug Jackson on acoustic guitar and Chris Ralles on drums and percussion. I will still play acoustic on some things.
– On the album your Ambrosia friends Tollak & Burleigh Drummond are on some of the tracks. Who are the others that play on the album? Some musical friends from “over the years” or is it a new team?
Guitarist, Doug Jackson has been a friend of mine since I moved to LA 12 years ago. It was only fitting that we play together again on some original material. He’s one of the most well-rounded guitar players you’ll find anywhere and he is now playing with us in Ambrosia Joelle Dunn is my sister and was a child prodigy violinist as a child. It was great to work with her again and have her as concert mistress. Hubert Pralitz is also a great violinist and he helped organize the other string players for the quartet. David Lancette is one of the finest singers you’ll find anywhere. He can do so much with his voice as is apparent on “Useful Place On This Earth” The orchestra members were players that assembled throughout the years of knowing them here in LA.
– You are selling the album at www.cdbaby.com/shem and you are working on your new website. All this to promote you as an artists, an to sell your cd What do you think about the Internet being the new music distribution network?
I think it’s a wonderful thing. The major record labels have enjoyed their oppression of modern art for way too long. Now with the Internet uniting the world, an artist can promote and release their own product and make 100% profit for their efforts. The record labels are terrified about this escape from their omnipotence. The general public is becoming more and more educated about their own individual freedoms to search for new music. I will do my best to help that cause. Most of my shemsite.com hits are from Scandinavia. Before the Internet, that would not have been possible.
– Do you think that the traditional recordlabels are going to fade out…. or just be a place where you can buy “best of the 60´s, 70´s, 80´s and 90´s collections?
I think there will always be a mainstream because there is just too much money to be made. But in the next 10 years you are going see so many changes in how an artist can be promoted. Who knows? Maybe the independent artist will someday be the mainstream.
– If you could describe your new album in words, what would it be?
It’s an album recorded acoustically and was written, produced and arranged from the heart and not someone else’s expectations. The music came first, not a formula. I’m proud of it and get such a joy when I see that something I did for myself is now touching the hearts of others. There is no better artistic feeling.
– What is the “next step” for you as a solo artists and also backing other artists?
As I mentioned, I have new material that will go on my next record.. I’ll hopefully start that project sometime next year. There is the possibility of a live album sometime before that, which will include songs from “Son Of Arthur” and also songs from the next CD. As a backing artist, I have been working with Hollywood Records artist Jennifer Paige. Her new CD is going to be released within the month. She has formed a new band with myself on bass and backing vocals, Steve Farris on guitar, Paul Taylor (Winger) on keyboards and Joey Heredia on drums. She’s an amazing vocalist and I love her new material. I think everyone else will too. I’ll still continue to work with Christopher Cross and Ambrosia and keep writing new stuff.
I thank the listeners and appreciators of West Coast music for the continued support and devotion. I hope to come over there and perform sometime soon.