Interview Rocknet: The Shadow Interview
Reprinted from:
February 9, 2005


Rocknetwebzine By Angela Monger
Shadow, with the help of a couple of Molson's, really lets go in this freewheeling interview with rocknetwebzine.

Monger: I listened to your CD and I thought it was pretty cool. The thing that caught my attention about you was your remark about the alarming plunge in American readership.

Shadow: Yes. I had read about that, and I think it's all the more reason to feel that things that are literate be brought to the forefront as much as possible. This relates to the kind of work I do in "King Kong Serenade" and I'll be doing on my next album. Basically, my whole style has developed as a marriage of myself as a poet and a musician. The two things come together. I write stuff that has a lot of vivid imagery in it, and some people say it's cinematic. Hopefully, there's an audience for material. So far my work's been pretty well received and it encourages me to go on. And seeing other people doing it, keeps me going.

Monger: Do you feel that this plunge in readership has anything to do with the high illiteracy rate in this country?

Shadow: I think there are a number of factors from that to some of the obvious culprits. It's a double-edged thing with our technology. The Internet is great, but I think people spend a lot more of their time on activities on the Internet, between getting their news and downloads and chatting with friends. I don't think it's a bad thing. As a result, we have less time to spend on other things. Actually, I'm guilty of it myself. I feel I would like to spend more time reading books than I do. We're all fighting for time.

Monger: Well at least if people are reading news on the Internet, then at least they're reading. Maybe this is a good thing.

Shadow: I've read articles that it's a good thing, too, that people are writing more because of e-mails and instant messaging.

Monger: And blogs.

Shadow: It's hard to know how all of it is going to play out, but I think you also have to be adventurous and open. Not just declare it's not a good thing. It's interesting. Things are changing. I think we're also much more of a visual society. We have perhaps a little bit shorter attention span or patience for things. That's why we've seen the rise of the comic book novel. Things that are more visual. Some of those trends may be a good thing. Technology has spawned many new trends, including the possible demise of the record album, as we know it. Obviously, you're very aware of this in your field. As a performance artist who makes albums, I've had to confront this myself. A bit more so for somebody like myself who makes albums like "King Kong Serenade" that are thematic, where the whole of the album is important. So it's not just a collection of songs that are loosely related. They actually are closely related. It's an interesting situation, and I don't look at it as entirely negative. I just think it's something I have to adapt to. We had to adapt out of the horse and buggy era, adapt to automobiles. It's not necessarily a bad thing. It just challenges me to think differently, and I believe all artists are thinking about different ways to release their material, and we've seen a lot of novel things go on here, too. Look, iTunes is a huge smash and it's a good thing because it's also a great equalizer. U2 is on iTunes and Green Day and Allen Shadow is on iTunes, so hey. We have the opposite end of the scales now and that's a good thing. There are opportunities for artists to reach a wider audience even when they're an independent like myself. You have a lot of opportunity. Speaking of technology, this whole thing with Google and their Ad Words program, the little text ads that are on the side of Google searches. That's a really incredible phenomenon. That has enabled businesses, artists, and people of all stripes, at all levels, to actually reach a national and international audience. It's another one of those leveling-of-the-field parts of technology that's exciting. I digress.

Monger: Digressing is a good thing. You started out as a poet. You wrote a couple of books. Some of your stuff was published in literary magazines. When did you decide to marry music with poetry as it were?

Shadow: It's something that happened over a couple of decades for me because my chops as a writer and a poet developed much more quickly than my chops as a musician. I was working as a poet for the earlier part of my life and having success developing a strong sense of my voice. It took a long time, like it does for a lot of poets, but I felt a strong sense of what my voice was about. I knew what my identity was as a poet, and I was also always interested in music. I played in cover bands and I wanted to write songs. I would try to write songs when I was younger, in my 20's, but I wanted to write songs that were much more complex than I had the ability to do at that time. I just didn't have the musical abilities at that time to match what I wanted to do. At a certain point, I said to myself, what don't you just try writing a simple song? I had wanted to run before I could walk, but now I said okay. So, I just started writing a simple three-chord song, and it was working. I got real turned on to it. I said, "wow this is great. I love this." It got me serious about writing songs, and I opened myself to that. My poetry career went a little bit more on the backburner, not completely. I devoted myself. I tend to be like a lot of artists, kind of obsessive about what I'm doing, and I just got into it full tilt. I kept writing and writing and writing. I'm pretty good at the discipline of doing my work. I write just about every day. I worked, and I got a little better, and at that time, in the mid to late '80s, people said that Nashville was the place for songwriters. I had played in string bands, and we played eclectic music, everything from Dylan and Neil Young to bluegrass, and I started opening myself up to country music more. I decided to take a plunge. I was writing songs that I thought were country music. I grew up in the Bronx, and to me my country influences were more like the Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones and Dylan songs that had a country element to them. "Nashville Skyline," and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. There were a lot of steel pedal guitars in those songs during that period.

Monger: Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Shadow: Lynyrd Skynyrd and all of that. Southern rock. I figured I had a handle on it, and I started writing some stuff and I figured I'm going to put a little bit more of my offbeat side to it and I'm going to show these guys in Nashville a thing or two. I put together what I felt was a pretty good demo. I lived near the Woodstock, NY, and I put together some pretty talented players there. Then, I went down to Nashville. I had an old beat up Ford at the time and I had a grand old time on my way down thinking that I'm going to show these cats something. I'm from New York and I've got attitude. I went down and wow, did I get my ass kicked. I didn't know what a mainstream country tune was, and I spent about a decade in Nashville overall, maybe a bit more, playing the commercial songwriting trade. It took me two years to get the drift of what it was really all about. I used to go around to publishers' offices the first couple of years, and, man, they were brutal. Telling me what made a good song and why these weren't and blah blah blah. The Band was a big influence for me, and my lyrics were kind of on the dark side, and actually I did have people who were very interested in me. Significant people like Bob Doyle who was Garth Brook's manager and head of his publishing company, too. He had a place down there. He used to entertain me. I'd come in, and he'd listen to my stuff, and he liked it. He'd say "too dark. It's too dark." He let me come back, and he was helpful and encouraging. What happened is I started learning what was going on. I started getting better demos. I started getting people down there to play the music, because there's nothing like those Nashville cats. They "play clean as country water." The talent in Nashville is just phenomenal. These guys can whip anybody with one hand behind their backs and I got some of the regulars, studio guys, guys that go on the road with the bands, to play on my demos and I started getting some pretty good ones together. Started learning about it. Next thing I know, after a couple of years, I'm sitting in the office of this guy, Russ Zavitson, from PolyGram, and he's going bonkers over this one song. I'm turning around thinking "you talking to me?" I had been hearing a lot of hard stuff about myself for a couple of years. He said, "where did you come from? You wrote this by yourself? This is one of the best things I've ever heard." It was a song called "Is It Love Yet?," and the demo was actually done by Trisha Yearwood just before she had her first album out. Her name was Trisha Latham at the time, and she was just tremendous. Not to denigrate her as a huge star but she was a tremendous demo singer. Not everybody was real good at getting inside the songs, and she had that ability. She doesn't like to be reminded of that. I can understand that she hates that period in her life. It was a real good demo and she was great. It just went over so well. Russ signed that song and pitched it for many years. He still does. Then I started getting other songs signed to a lot of the big companies: Sony, PolyGram, Mel Tillis' Tillis Tunes. I became a staff writer for a while at Mel Tillis' company and I was kind of bubbling under. It's a little tough when you're coming from out of town. I never actually moved there. I'd go down three times a year for a couple of weeks at a time and developed contacts. After a while, I realized that it was just so long, and to me Nashville was always meant to be a stop along the way. I wanted to establish myself as a songwriter, and then I wanted to go on to write material for me as an artist. It wasn't happening fast enough. Ten years. It was like hey, you know what? I guess if I start doing the political thing and hooking up and write with more people, two or three guys, because I wrote solo mostly, and it's tougher that way. The industry started to change, too. It started to get less innovative, which was from about the late '80s when Garth was first coming in. This was before alternative radio had been invented and there was almost no place else to go for a lot of talent in country, and Nashville needed young blood. Young listeners. It was interesting because they were actually taking on more folk type material and more rock influences and it was a cool period. It was an innovative period, then alternative radio came along and it took away some of the need for the new music that was coming out of Nashville. So, Nashville started going more towards what we started calling "hat" acts. Young guys with tight butts and cute faces and Stetson hats. Not to sully their reputations, but they started doing more party ditties and it was just like rubberstamping after a while. People in the industry, songwriters, used to make fun of it because you had to. The industry wasn't going the way we wanted it to and the opportunities were shrinking, and I said, "I'm getting tired of this." I could probably do this another five or 10 years and maybe get one or two hit songs here and there, but that wasn't my ultimate goal. My ultimate goal was to do my own stuff, so I said why don't I just go ahead and do it? It was around that time that I finally really sat down with myself and said why don't I just start writing the stuff that I always wanted to write, that I hadn't had the ability to write before as a musician. It was all scary to me, but I applied myself and it was like the Nike thing. Just do it. So I worked hard and harder and it was working. It took a while. I'm a slow developer, but I never quit. I spent four years developing the material for "King Kong Serenade." The whole style started to coalesce for me, because the poetic voice and the music were finally getting married the way I had always envisioned. So for me, it was an exciting period and I had a lot of fun doing it, and I ended up recording it in Nashville with some cats that were actually on the alternative scene down there. I was in with that group for a while so it worked out perfectly. The lead guitar player was John Jackson. He had played with Dylan on the road and in the studio for six years, and he was just coming off of the road with him. He was doing shows with Lucinda Williams when she came out with her "Car Wheels" album, but he stuck with me and the project, despite having to play a ton of Williams' gigs. My drummer was playing with John Prine and no one else. I had some pretty cool people. They got what I was doing, which was great. I all just really clicked with what I was doing. That was real satisfying, and we spent four years recording the album. I was writing and I'd go down, and we'd do a couple tunes each time, working them out. I'd go back down and redo tracks and so forth. That's how the album came together. That was the long, what I like to say, circuitous path that I followed to become a rock poet. What I do is just what it is. It's authentic. It's not like I was trying to sound like something or somebody. It's just something that developed and evolved over a long period of time. That's me.

Monger: You toured college campuses in the '80s with a staged version of "Harlem River Baby." What exactly was that?

Shadow: That was part of my development. I was doing my poetry, like I said, and the music was just developing slowly, played in bands. I started to incorporate music in my readings, and I had a pretty dynamic style as a reader. I had good audiences, and my reading usually went over pretty well. I wrote this chapbook as they call it in the poetry trade. It's a thin volume. The history of that actually goes back hundreds of years. The book had just been put out by Quick Books in Colorado and I was out one night in the Woodstock area and saw a group that I had seen before who did a cappella. Their name was the Phantoms, and I'm standing there watching them. All of a sudden, I have this vision, because the poetry I was writing was kind of street wise with attitude, maybe a little bit punkish poetry about the city. When I saw these guys, I knew I had to get together with them and have them do back up to my poems, a whole theatrical performance thing. I talked to them and they were into it. We started to rehearse and I started to integrate them into what became more of a performance poetry piece and we took it around to colleges. I would read a couple of poems. They were mostly short and punchy and then they would come out and do a doo-wop number and we'd integrate that into the show. Sometimes I would read over a doo-wop number and it was developing very nicely. We had very good reactions to the shows. I did it at colleges and universities mostly in the Northeast. I had an agent who picked it up. It took on a life of its own and went for a while. Then, it was during that period that I got bitten with the songwriting bug. I had started to write simple songs, as I described before, and it led me to throwing most of my energies into the songwriting. I knew I needed to follow that at the time. I did still do quite a bit of performance poetry in the '80s and that contributed significantly to my ultimate development as a rock poet, which came to fruition later. It helped develop my whole style. It was just a normal part of the evolution for me.

Monger: King Kong Serenade is basically about pre-9/11 New York. Tell me a little bit about the CD and why you decided to try to basically introduce people to what I consider one of the most fascinating cities in the country.

Shadow: I grew up there. It was my city, and in my poetry I had written about it from the vantage point of the street up. It wasn't from the boardroom in the skyscraper looking down. It was street-wise poetry. After my long stint in Nashville, I returned to my urban poetic voice with a vengeance. I felt like I had played the outsider a real long time in Nashville. I had the feeling of the outsider and I still do. That's how I got onto the image of King Kong as symbolic of New York and as an under dog in a way or maybe an under ape. A figure that is symbolic of nature or the beast in us, the wild side in us, versus the structured society, the city. That's how that came about. I knew I was going to use King Kong and I came up with the title and I started working on different songs. It takes me a while to develop the material because I don't force it. I write every day, but I can take four to six months to complete a song. I might be working on a couple of songs at a time. Two or three or more and I don't use all of them like a lot of songwriters. Springsteen sometimes would use a third or less of the material he developed for an album. I would wait until subjects spoke to me. I wanted to get a sense of the personality, a portrait so to speak. I wanted to capture the essence of the city over time, pretty much through the 20th century. I wanted to develop stories. Some of them might have seemed obvious. A song about Times Square. Others came from all different parts of the city: Coney Island, the Bronx, the five points section, which was on the Lower East Side, a very rough, gang and crime-ridden section, a squalid section of New York in the late 19th century and early 20th century that later became popularized by Scorsese's "Gangs Of New York." That's kind of where I was at. Of course I didn't know he was going to come out with the movie when I was writing it and, actually, he had had that in his mind for 25 years. He always wanted to do it. I wanted to capture the dark side of immigration, because we were brought up in the classrooms as kids to believe in this Horatio Algiers version of America. You came over on the boat to the land of opportunity, of milk and honey, like it was just going to be a Hollywood ending all the way. In actuality it wasn't. I did a lot of research. There were books, one of them by a muckraker called Jacob Reese who wrote a famous book called How The Other Half Lives. He was a former journalist who had great photographs and wrote about the squalid environment. People lived in awful conditions, and they died in them.

Monger: My mother is from Europe and she told me that the suicide rate among immigrants from Germany and other countries like that was tremendously high. We like to say, "give us your poor and your needy and everything is going to be wonderful." Nine times out of ten, it doesn't turn out that way.

Shadow: Exactly, and I'm glad that Scorsese did the movie. You just want to see the truth of it told - the real story. Not just the Pollyanna-ish tale that you got in school - the easy story. Yeah, it wasn't so great. I love this country. I'm not meaning to put it down in any sense. It's just a matter of telling the truth, just the way we want to tell the truth about slavery or the American Indians.

Monger: I see that side, too, because my father is Choctaw and people talk about how we've always had freedom and democracy. How do you equate slavery and the slaughter of the indigenous people with freedom and democracy? Or not allowing women to have any rights? People see things the way they want to see them. I feel that people need to acknowledge the truth and see that things were not always that wonderful for everybody.

Shadow: Yes, and I think we've done a lot more of that now. I love some of the Ken Burns' documentaries on PBS. Fortunately we've had more storytellers in this country in recent decades who are telling more of the truth. Whether it be the civil war, or he did that long series on New York which was tremendous. I learned so much from watching it. You learn about the slavery in New York and the way they were treated and you learn about draft riots and you learn about gangs. It's sort of jaw dropping.

Monger: A lot of people think slavery was just in the South but it wasn't. It was all over the country and if these slaves escaped up North, the folks up there would send them back to their slave owners and get their bounty money.

Shadow: I think it's really interesting to go back and look at history and try to get the context of a time. Try to put yourself in a position and say, "what was it actually like at this particular time?" A lot of it is pretty raw. It's not like Hollywood portrayed it 30 years ago in some cowboys and Indians movies, where everything was neatly done. Fortunately, we've had more come out from the books, movies, and documentaries that show the rawness of things.

Monger: Like Ellis Island. It was a really horrible place.

Shadow: Absolutely. I developed a greater interest in history as I've gotten older, and sometimes I'll go to a library and look at the old back stories and newspaper articles they have on microfiche. You can go back and see what's going on at a particular time. It's always interesting. I'll go back to the old New York Times and look. One time I wanted to know in the mid 1930's, what was it like in America? What was happening in Europe with the Nazis and so forth? What was the perception here? What was going on? I went and I looked for a certain period, from maybe '36 to '38. I jumped around and I looked at different coverage of what was happening overseas. Get the story at that time. Try to picture what people in this country knew. We didn't have the Internet, obviously. You couldn't get unfiltered news. How did people get it? How did they see it? What was being told, and it's even interesting looking at life at that moment. That particular photograph of time. That slice of life looking at the ads juxtaposed with the news. It's a little bit surreal, a little bit interesting to go back and submit to that and get the feel of the time. The full pallet, the full texture, what it was like is interesting, and that's what I think some storytellers have gotten better about doing, like Ken Burns or like Clint Eastwood did in "Unforgiven." A movie about the West that was raw and brutal. Thirty or forty years ago you didn't get the sense when you went to a cowboy movie that they stunk.

Monger: All those movies were always neatly done, and the cowboys were the good guys and the Indians were the bad guys.

Shadow: The white hats and all. I know.

Monger: I never could watch those because they would infuriate me so badly because that was me those cowboys were killing. I couldn't handle it.

Shadow: That's right, it was you. That had to be hard. It's like, wait a second, how could you make light of this? That's me and my ancestors. This isn't just fun. This isn't a joke. This isn't a sport.

Monger: This is stuff that actually happened. I think it was Andrew Jackson who said, "a good Indian is a dead Indian." I don't think people quite realize just how harsh and brutal some of our past presidents have been.

Shadow: That's right. And how things were ignored. To go back and see. A lot of people that we feel were, and maybe still, are great men from the past, were very complicated people. There were conundrums to them. There are things that didn't square with them, and they had their own internal battles, like Jefferson did with slavery, and he kept slaves. What's always interesting about some great people is that they have brutality in their backgrounds, too.

Monger: You always get these neat little pictures of "oh yeah, George Washington was the father of the country," and what they neglect to tell you is he also did some crooked real estate deals and, yeah, he literally may have been the father of the country, because he screwed around a lot and rumor has it that he died from syphilis. That's the stuff they don't teach you about in history class at school.

Shadow: Exactly. If you want to get an unfiltered view of people in history and events, it's you have to dig for it, and when you see it, you have to find some way to square it with yourself. People are complex. There aren't too many saints walking around.

Monger: These people were human beings and they had bad sides and maybe not so bad sides.

Shadow: Right. Martin Luther King was a womanizer, so you have to square with these different parts of people. Obviously Bill Clinton. We know about him, and his compartmentalizing became a catch term for our times. What can you say?

Monger: I think folks put some of these past people on a pedestal and they don't actually give them the luxury of having been living, breathing human beings who made some good decisions and some bad decisions. Some people are just outright assholes and maybe some people aren't such assholes. I don't think people give these figures in history a humanity of their own.

Shadow: It's a funny thing when you try to get a different perspective on things. It occurred to me a couple of years ago. The sound of birds chirping in the spring and the summer. What a sound. We meditate to it. It's soothing and sweet. What about the damn crickets? They're terrified by it.

Monger: Especially in my house, because that's what I feed my lizards.

Shadow: They see you coming. They hear your footfalls. Oh my God. I'm not going to go out and picket for crickets' rights but it's interesting to note that it's all a matter of perspective. One man's serenity is another woman's terror.

Monger: You want to talk about history. I actually read about what women went through to help push the right to vote for women. Some of them actually put their lives on the line. I always exercise my right to vote because I owe it to the women who fought for that.

Shadow: You do! Look at the women in Iraq. It was kind of moving, no matter what side of the whole thing you come down on. That thing with the purple ink on their finger. You couldn't help getting choked up seeing some of the pictures and realizing what these women have been through.

Monger: What is frightening is that a lot of them are still going through things that are just as bad. Unfortunately we only get a certain perspective of what's going on there. I read some of these Iraqi women's blogs to get an idea of what they're going through over there. They had the choice before of wearing the hajib or western clothing. Now they are afraid of leaving their homes without covering their heads for fear they'll be kidnapped and killed. This is not something they had to deal with before. Now it is.

Shadow: That's kind of a slip backwards.

Monger: It's such a complicated situation. We see wars as neat little packages. We go over there, we get the bad guys, we conquer, and everything is wonderful and great. Not really. It's a horrifying experience for those people.

Shadow: Yes, war is hell. There's no question about that.

Monger: When you're on the outside looking in, you don't always get all the details of what's going on. That's one of the reasons I like the Internet. It gives me the opportunity to try and see what is actually going on. Not having to depend on one source. Seeing what the people have to say themselves.

Shadow: Absolutely. You're getting that unfiltered and you can make your own mind up about that. That really is revolutionary. The sense of rawness in terms of a vantage point. You're looking at something straight on.

Monger: You have to have a stomach for it. You have to look at stuff head on and accept it for what it is. I know some people have a hard time with that.

Shadow: Definitely. Maybe that's the spirit of what I've been doing with my work. Head on. It's just what I do.

Monger: You basically gave this image of New York as the way it is for the people who live there. These people in the high rises, they don't really know what the nitty gritty is of the city. They see a nice clean office and this is where they're at. The heart of the city, because I've been there once, is on the streets with the people, looking at the garbage, and the beautiful things that you see there. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Shadow: Right, exactly. That's the vantage point that I wanted to take. I wanted to do it through time because New York City was, probably like a lot of places, changing constantly. Building, tearing down, building. You look through time and get context. So many ghosts. So many interesting stories.

Monger: What's so cool is you have so many contemporary stores but you still have folks out in the streets hawking their goods. Street vendors. Amazing. To me that city is so electric and so energized and the people always look like they're in a hurry to get somewhere even when they're not. I wonder if that electricity just carries them along and they can't help but scurry along.

Shadow: I think there's something to that.

Monger: Somehow they're being pulled or pushed or something.

Shadow: I think you're right. It's like the magnetic levitation trains that hover above a track and go along that way. That's true. There's a tremendous vibrancy in the city, but some people felt like, in the last decade or so, New York's been cleaned up a lot. The crime's gone down, and that's a good thing. But Times Square, 42d Street, now look like a mall. The Mouse came in from Disney. There are good things to it, but the city lost its edge.

Monger: It looks more corporate and a number of people are starting to get uncomfortable with the over corporatization of this country, where money is more important than the human element. To me that is totally foreign. People are more important than material wealth.

Shadow: And it used to be that way in New York not so long ago. It had more neighborhoods in sections of Manhattan. There was still housing that was affordable enough for lower middle class families. They had ma and pa delis and groceries. You had personality neighborhood to neighborhood: German neighborhoods, Jewish, and Italian and Chinese. There's still quite a bit of that with new immigrants coming in, from the Pacific Rim and other areas, and that's very exciting. But they have to live in fringe areas of the city.

Monger: That always means good new restaurants too.

Shadow: Good new restaurants. A lot of those people have moved to Queens, New York, which is across the river because they can't afford Manhattan, which is okay. In Manhattan, the real estate values have pushed out the lower and middle stratum of society and most art as well. Many arts organizations and operations have gone the last couple of decades, moved out of town. Dance companies. Lofts have become unaffordable to artists. I'm not saying that New York is not still a great place for development for artists. It is. It's just a shame to see that there isn't more opportunity there for people who aren't making a fortune. Much has been written it in the press, including editorials in The New York Times. It's controversial, because who can argue with New York being safer. Come on. On the other hand, artists are kind of dark people, part of them and part of what inspires them. That's why when I did "King Kong Serenade," I took my inspiration from the beat writers, jazz musicians, and their kind of edge and vibrancy. Some of that included sleazy, beat places in Times Squares and so forth. Now I can't argue that's a good thing for everybody. No, but for artists, that's where you draw a lot of your inspiration from, and that what became the lament in the piece about Times Square - the ghosts of Kerouac and Monk dancing amongst the wrecker ball. The lament of the city losing its dark side, losing its edge. In "Serenade," I took on New York from different aspects to create a portrait of the city over time. In my next album I'm taking on America.

Monger: I took on New York and conquered it. Now I want it all.

Shadow: Taking America on, yes. Not that I'm the first that's ever done that, but that's my latest project. I've been working on material for that album. Hopefully, I'll have something out in the next year or two. I'm on Blue City Records. It's a small privately owned independent. I'm working with them to get a deal with a larger boutique label to take care of distribution for the next album. That's the business side of things.

Monger: You need to get your shit out there. Ever since I was 16 years old, I've always been a huge Springsteen fan because he sings about every day people and his lyrics are always thought provoking. He always nails things and I love stuff like that. That's one of the things I loved about your album. It just made you think and see things in a different light.

Shadow: Thank you. The Born To Run album is up there on my list with the greatest albums of all time. I'm a huge Bruce fan. I always look to him for inspiration. Of course, like a lot of artists, inspiration is mixed with intimidation sometimes. He's such a master. I remember, it was around 1976, I believe, when that album came out, and that was the period where I was really struggling. I hadn't yet formed the ability to write material like that, songs like that. I was writing poems like that, but that was not a problem for me. I shouldn't say like that. I would never put myself in the same breath as the Boss. In any case, in terms of music, when that album came out, I listened to that album and I thought, "oh my God, that's just everything I would love to be able to do." Of course, I'm sure I'm not the only artist around the country who felt that way. I felt crushed. I felt so strongly inside that there was something in me that could do something like that. I'm don't mean exactly that, but something in that vein, and yet I couldn't do it. It was a difficult thing for me to realize, but at the same time I absolutely loved what he was doing and it just took a lot of years for me to be able to develop where I could write more complicated music. As I said before, eventually I was able to integrate or marry my poetic voice with what I was doing as a songwriter. It was satisfying for me to achieve that.

Monger: Both of you have that raw honesty that comes across. You're not getting any bullshit. This is the way it is.

Shadow: Thank you. That's certainly satisfying to hear, because, again, like I said -and I would never compare myself with him - I have my voice. It's developed in it's own way. I've certainly had influences - people I loved, including Bruce, but I never sat there, certainly at the point that I was writing this material, and tried to be something or sound like this or that. I just fell back to who I was. I just took all of my experience as a songwriter, all of my experience as a poet, and actually just collapsed into myself. During the four-year period when I was writing the material for "Serenade," I didn't listen to a lot of music. For the express purpose of not trying to listen for anything, not being influenced. I said, you know what, I've spent at least 15 years as a songwriter. I've been a poet for decades. I know what my voice is as a poet. As a songwriter, learning about the craft of songwriting, I've looked at song structure up and down, left to right. Parts of songs. I've understood what's going on. I've developed to be a pretty decent writer structure wise. I said it's time for it to all come together now. I don't want to listen to anything anymore. I don't want to be influenced by anything. I said if I don't have it in me now, I'm never going to have it. I had read about a couple of other writers and artists who had done similar things. Just gone inside, which is where I wanted to look. It certainly is a collective fabric, the things we pick up from here and there. I was just being who I was and that's what I continue to do with the work and that's satisfying to me. At least, whatever ends up happening with what I do, I know that it's simply just what I do. I think it might have been Bruce who actually said something like this because he has that great working person's ethic. That's something that I've always had. I've always emulated people like that. I work. I'm like a shoemaker, and I think it was Bruce who said something along those lines. I'm like a shoemaker and I just work everyday. That's what I do. Unglamorize what you do. This is just what I do. It's that simple and I work hard at it. I don't mind working hard at it. Naturally you would like to make a living at it ultimately, but it's what I do and I'm happy with the work. The work actually satisfies me and the fact that I'm getting at least some recognition at this stage is satisfying. Like you said, definitely get the work out there, and that's something I'm doing. I do have a day job, and I'm in public relations so it helps. I'm a former journalist and I'm in public relations. I can do some good stuff for myself, too, but knowing that, I still realize that I need, as every artist does in this profession, to get to the next level, and that's why I'm looking to cut a deal with a little bit larger company, to put a little bit more into the promotion side of it. We've done a post mortem on the release of this album and there are some things we would do differently.

Monger: You have to live and learn.

Shadow: Absolutely. Actually, we hired a publicist whose name I will not mention who works with a lot of indies. I'm a PR guy and a former journalist so I know this stuff, but I don't know the music industry PR per se, and I respect that. If you're a professional, you know there are specialties. I work for a college. I know what I specialize in and what I can and can't do. Now, I can reinvent the wheel. I can look up people and contacts in the music industry. There's one problem, though. I don't call them every day so they don't return my calls. So I hired somebody who does talk to these people regularly. I was very clear up front. I said we're releasing this album. We've launched it at CBGB's. I had everything set up and we had everything ready to go. The press kits were supposed to have gone out to a long list of music journalists. Just about a week or two before the show, however, this person was avoiding me, so I said, "what's going on here? Did you get this stuff to The New York Post? Did you call them up?" I knew all the names. I said, "did you call so and so up? Did you call John at The Times like I told you to? Did you call this person? Did you call that person?" Then she got annoyed with me. I said excuse me? I only release my debut album one time in my life. It's like the airport, baby. You've got to be there when the plane takes off or you ain't on the plane. This launch gets old pretty quick. She just didn't perform, unfortunately, so I learned a hard lesson. So, I start calling these people, myself. I knew who they all were.

Monger: You can save yourself a lot of money.

Shadow: It wasn't a fortune but it was enough. It was the principal of the thing. She worked for a record label. She's got a track record but it turned out she was just an undependable, unreliable, unprofessional kind of person.

Monger: I wonder how she manages to secure her job there.

Shadow: I don't know. Maybe it was chemistry. I think that what happens with some companies is that they have these package situations and they have some track records. They have some stuff to show you and its like okay, let's go with it. Then they're doing so many things, and they don't have huge staffs themselves, and they're with the next thing of the moment, and all of a sudden you're a couple of steps down on their radar screen, which any of us in the music profession who are coming up know, because that happens with A&R people at record companies. They love you one minute and then it's hard to get their attention the next. That even happens with established artists. That's just part of the game, so I'm not complaining really. It's just one of those things. Next time, I want to get things put together a bit differently so we get the groundwork better prepared. I had a whole marketing plan but they just weren't really interested in following it that closely. That's it. Nevertheless, we forged ahead on our own and I've been fortunate enough to get, yours included, a fair number of generous reviews and have sold a number of albums.

Monger: You never know what will grab someone's attention. The part about people not reading enough is what got mine.

Shadow: Yeah, that's interesting. That's what I've done. As any artist is going to do, I look for something that ties in with what I'm doing, and it was a thing of the moment. Here's a national story. The media loves trend stories, and the literacy thing was a perfect tie in to what I'm doing. You picked up on it, as did a couple of other journalists. That stuff can work, and sometimes you hit it. That's the kind of thing I keep doing. Little by little you create some momentum, and, hopefully, it will continue. You just move up another rung. Maybe you find a champion or two here and there - everybody needs that - but you move along. It's great having the Web and sites like yours and people like you and iTunes and Google. They really enable small companies to be able to move around, position themselves and promote their artists and get to that next level.

Monger: We can't wait to hear the next album you release. I'm sure it'll be just as intriguing as this one was.

Shadow: Thank you. I hope so. I will certainly get you a copy when it comes out. It's been a real pleasure talking to you.

Monger: Any other thoughts or comments?

Shadow: I think that's pretty much it.


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