Chill Out Island

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Archive for August, 2008

Caldwell Shine shines with blend of folk, jazz, and blues

An Interview with Caldwell Shine

By Carson James

Caldwell Shine isn’t just a singer/songwriter; he is also the leader of the band named after him. Oddly enough, the music they make together has the intimate feel and personal vision of a solo project but also the wide-screen scope of a rock group. However, classifying Caldwell Shine as a rock & roll artist only reveals a small part of the Big Picture. On Which Way Is Mine, Shine’s consciousness-expanding sentiments are fed through jazz, folk, and also the blues, seamlessly stitching themselves together for an enigmatic and spiritually elevating experience.

Carson James: Which Way Is Mine is credited to Caldwell Shine. Do your consider this project as a solo effort or a band achievement named after you?
 
Caldwell Shine: I think WWIM represents both a solo and a band achievement.  I wrote much of the music on this record several years ago  Over the years, we as a band have worked on this music, and it has thus received touches of hues from all of the kindred spirits in this circle of positive energy that we work within.
While Caldwell Shine is both my name and the name of the band, I think both represent what my life philosophy is: be positive, give positive energy to the world, and be mindful of the energy that is around us so that we can understand how that energy should be worked with.  The band is another means to express this philosophy through the magic of music and I’m honored that Silas, Clem, and Alan enjoy working in this setting.

James: The songs seem to be open to interpretation, but I’m hearing a positive outlook throughout the record. Do you possess an optimistic view of life?
 
Shine: Yes, I do.  I really do try to find a positive side to all situations in life.  Negative energy clouds my mind and when it is prevalent, I have to work harder to achieve the goals that I wish to attain.  For me, it’s just simply easier to embrace something positive because doing so clears my mind. I have learned through experience that life cannot always be positive.  I actually have to seek out non-positive energy sometimes and fully accept it.  This process allows me to stay balanced.  I believe too much of anything is not harmonious.  So, for example, if I see an angry person I might allow their anger to consume me and then attempt to slowly offer my positive energy to the person in order to offer a balance that both of us can be happy with.  I will also practice this by watching scary movies (laughs) to feel fear or really sad films so I can cry.  As an artist, I feel that it’s important to understand many different emotions although there are some that I just plain don’t like to experience unless I have to.  This overall process helps keep me balanced and open. 
 
James: There are elements of jazz and folk strewn into the mix on the CD, especially on “Today.” Are those musical genres close to your heart or was their inclusion brought upon a member or members of the group?

Shine: I was originally trained in jazz and classical music via my trumpet.  I was also raised in the ’70s by a mom who practiced Middle Eastern dance which means that I spent a lot of time listening to a wide variety of music such as fusion, disco, jazz, and Middle Eastern. I suppose I’m a renaissance musician meaning that I love old school music that uses the theories of music such as key changes, modes, altered chord progressions, odd time signatures, codas, grand pauses etc., in order to express emotions.  I love music that is thought out using these old time techniques.  I like to think of myself an an emissary of the art of music.  These old theories are something that I want to help keep alive by continuing to write music that embraces these techniques.

James: “These Wired Times” reminded me of Steely Dan with its pointedly funny observations about the online world. What was the inspiration behind it?

Shine: Well, the band Steely Dan is one of my heroes because I think they are keeping the old musical ways alive.  “These Wired Times” is about one of my many adventures on the bus system in Austin.  I use the bus nearly every day.  On a side note, since I don’t drive much anymore I’ve noticed that my driving skills are deteriorating, which I find amusing. The song is about an evening bus ride in which nearly all of the passengers had their heads down and were looking at some sort of plastic screen.  The song was originally just a story song.  It wasn’t meant to have a vocal hook; over time, the idea of looking to the stars was added as a means to explain that we should remember to look away from our plastic screens.  I think this idea took on the responsibility of a short vocal hook in the outro.  I’m guilty of using plastic screens since I write most of my music on some sort of electronic device.  I still use paper and pencil from time to time, too; hence, I’m always striving for balance.  My wife purchased a special cheese cutter for the kitchen.  I still use a chef’s knife to cut cheese because I don’t want to loose the old ways.  She thinks this is hilarious.  I’m just glad that I can give her something to laugh at. 

James: “Sweet Mother Earth” – and the declaration on the sleeve stating that a paper album package was chosen for the product announces your environmentalist stance. Is it difficult to send these messages across without being preachy?

Shine: I’m glad you mentioned this.  I attended a singer/songwriter school many years ago and an instructor warned us not to sound preachy.  Rather, find a way to get your message across in a subtle yet concise manner.  I don’t like to be preachy, and I don’t think it’s in my nature yet I think having been raised by a dad who was a college professor rubbed off on me so I am very conscious about trying to come across as something warm and positive to the folks whose lives my music touches. I think the statement about the environment which you mentioned is bold – especially since it says there’s still no insert.  That’s a little out of character for me.  I am passionate about trying to live responsibly.  I hope that for those who know me, I lead by example and not through words.

http://www.caldwellshine.com

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