Featured Artist: Shelby Baldock

Posted on August 1, 2014

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shelBy Michelle Quina

My favorite part about writing for the music section of theGRIND is the incredibly creative people I get the opportunity to speak with. Shelby Baldock is no exception. Not only has he fully immersed himself in the Memphis music culture, he is also an extremely talented filmmaker. Even after being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, Baldock continued to follow his dreams with the support of his friends, family and the Memphis community.

Baldock shares his creative experiences, love for Memphis, and the release of his new album, Butch Americana:

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? How did you become interested in film and music?

I grew up in a highly creative home. My parents have always been interested in music and my dad’s a graphic designer. The summer before third grade my dad signed me up for one free drum lesson. I thought I’d get to play the drums at the lesson, but instead it was 15 people crammed in a basement talking about what a drum lesson would be like. I would have been bummed, but I misread the title of the lesson book, which was “A Funky Primer for the Rock Drummer” and I thought it said “Rotten” instead of “Rock.” I burst out laughing. I decided to say “yes” to a second lesson, and that’s how my interest in the drums began.

Film was much different. In high school, I began watching anything and everything. I saw Million Dollar Baby, and that was the first time I was moved by melodrama, but I was only 15 and couldn’t explain it. I watched it every day for two weeks. From there, I sought movies that really made me think yet. I have always taken film very seriously, whereas music has been far easier to impart humor or nostalgia into. I’ve heard you can’t serve two masters, but I haven’t found that to be the case.

How did your kidney transplant influence your music and your love for Memphis?

Kidney problems have been a fact of life for me since birth, but it wasn’t until the summer before college that I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. I was on a new medication that didn’t allow me to drive my first semester at college. At the end of the year, I was advised to move back to Memphis to see a nephrologist. Kidney disease became the sort of the thing that I complained about in my head. It was an invisible disease that seemed sort of psychological more than physical. It made me question every little thing, which made the year back in Memphis so poignant. It was the Memphis community that stood by me. It had been “Butch” the whole time, but my friends’ incredible creative spirits and gusto were the reason I made it through such a mess.

What was it like touring with the North Mississippi Allstars?

What a crazy bit of luck it was to work for these people who I can now call my friends and collaborators. I shot an interview with them in Biloxi with my camera on a makeshift wooden shoulder mount. Two weeks later I got a call from Cody saying “You’re the guy with the wooden mount? That’s our style. Shoot our video and come on tour.” There was no hesitation. My friends and I shot the video “Rollin N Tumblin”. Eventually that grew into multiple videos and online content. I would test the drums before sound check, and then one night, Luther asked if I wanted to do a drum solo. I said yes and it was crazy. From there, I sat in on a song almost every night and it was incredible. The film element was happening and so was the music.

shel2What are some of your biggest music related accomplishments?

I think it’s honestly the people I’ve been honored to play with and that have helped shape me. Many are on “Butch”, but not all. Growing up playing in church, it was bassist Roger Smith, who kept me in line and was sort of my funk country cheerleader. Playing with Hope Clayburn led me to meet countless musicians. Michael Joyner allowed me to play the different styles of drumming that I grew up loving, and his music was so wonderfully personal and soulful. The list goes on with Khari Wynn, Stan Head, etc. Sometimes I wonder how on earth I got the opportunity to play with these people, and it is simply because of where I live.

How did Butch Americana begin?

I wrote the song “Butch Americana” on a Zendrum, which is an organic-feeling sensitive drum-guitar. After a while I had a couple of songs that I just flat-out wanted to finally record. Michael Joyner built a great home studio and became the producer/engineer. We started with “Fat Head,” a comedic song about harboring terrible thoughts about the tall people who sit in front of you at movie theaters. We got through five songs and I thought it was done.

Then, I moved away again, experiencing that great divide between friends, family, and chasing after dreams. The room I was renting had an old piano in it, and I found myself writing more dramatic songs, the most obvious being “Friends Over There.” When I came back, the thematic elements became clearer and the album was designed around that. We placed microphones all around and invited all my friends, musical, creative, and beyond, to come overand enjoy the company. We took that recording and placed it within the song, and that sealed the deal as far as I’m concerned.

What are you trying to accomplish with this endeavor and what does the project mean to you?

It’s the first project I’ve ever done that I feel is for other people. It is for my friends, my family and my hometown. I can in no way express the feelings I have for the people in my life, but this is about as good as I can do with music.

Who are your biggest influences?

Hands-down Bruce Hornsby. His music has not only made long-distance driving tolerable, it’s become a way of life. There is something enchanting in his style and dynamics. He’s a folk singer, with jazz chops, writing poignant pop-rock, while telling moving stories and jokes. It’s a familiar mystery, I guess. Other seminal influences include Dave Matthews Band, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and Pat Metheny.

Do you pride yourself on being a Memphis musician?

Without a doubt. There’s a beautiful thing happening right now in Memphis with the creative community. My experiences in Memphis will forever have an impact on me. My opportunities began there, my dreams started there, my friends are all from there, my greatest ups and greatest downs have been there.

What do you think is special about the Memphis music scene?

Not only are the musicians immensely talented, but the shows can be downright intense. Playing shows with Hope Clayburn definitely showed me that. I haven’t met a single person who has given up. I think it has something to do with talent, but mainly it’s the community. It’s like everyone’s in a moon-bounce. Even if you’re tired, remember how hard the ground felt when you got out? The moon-bounce is much, much better

You can learn more about Shelby Baldock and his new Album, Butch Americana here.

Listen to Shelby Baldock via Soundcloud.

Also, you can help support the American Kidney Fund by sharing and ordering Butch Americana through Fandistro. The link is located on the “buy” page on the website listed above.

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Posted in: Music