A few weeks ago, I had the honor of sitting down with Shawn Byrne and getting to know him better. Shawn’s charisma and passion for music is infectious and I believe is exactly what the music industry needs more of.
Shawn Byrne grew up in Boston and eventually made the move to Nashville. He grew up listening to his dad play polka music with his band, “Happy Travelers”, and knew from an early age that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps in music. With accolades such as: performing at the Grand Ole Opry, The CMA Awards, George Bush’s homecoming in Midland, TX, and sharing the stage with Rodney Atkins, James Otto, and Kelleigh Bannen, Shawn has had the opportunity to see what it takes to make it in the music industry. Shawn is currently on tour, and recently produced his own album, “Slow Bullet” (which was released in March). His ultimate goal, however, is “Anything I can do that I love”.
During our time together, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him and watching him light up as we discussed the music industry and everything that he has been working on. In this interview, Shawn’s passion shines through even more.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years. What are your goals for the future in music?
In 10 years I hope to be healthy and happy foremost. I’d like to have a kid with my beautiful wife Amy. I’d love to still be playing, writing and performing. I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing that. I’d love to have grown as an artist and as a human being making a difference in the world. For my future music career? I’d love to have connected with a large fan base that appreciates and supports what I do. I want more than anything to be successful enough to go on the road with a full band and even a crew. That’s the ultimate goal for me. There’s no greater feeling than being on stage with 4 or five of your best friends making music right there in front of an attentive and appreciative audience. I’d don’t care about being famous, it’s more about being able to just simply do it and do it well to the degree that lots of people want to see how great the music is. The music is what it’s all about.
If you could perform with one artist or band, who would it be?
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom Petty is one of my heroes. The man has carved an incredible career for himself and he has done it without selling out. He plays the music he wants to play and he does it with integrity. Tom has cultivated an incredibly loyal and appreciative fan base which again, is my ultimate goal.As a guitar player I’ve always admired Mike Campbell’s style. He loves old guitars and amps like me. He plays exactly what is needed for the song and his guitar parts, aside from Tom’s vocals, are one the most crucial elements in the Heartbeakers sound. My dream would be to stand onstage with Tom and Mike and the rest of the band and just play all the classics.
What are your hopes for the future of the music industry?
Well right now the internet is the iceberg that put a giant hole the Titanic know as “the music business”. It’s been sinking for a long time now and I think right now we’re seeing the tail end of the behemoth sticking out of the water and pretty soon the gurgling bubbles will be all that is left. Yeah, that’s pretty dramatic I know. Right now only the top artists are making any money on the commercial level and sadly popular music has been distilled down this one goal: How can we make as much money as fast as we can. The major labels and the corporate radio stations are all “in bed together” and are pumping out music that is the equivalent to high fat, high sugar fast food. I call it “McSongalds”. It’s working for them right now, but the industry has boxed out any artist who want’s to do their own thing. Who wants to create music that sounds original and actually says something. The current model for commercial success is one that encourages a homogeneous sound. Notice how on country radio you hear basically the same words over and over again. The same chord progressions and vocal phrasing. The same production. “McSongalds”. I must say it has been getting better. The trend is leaning towards songs with better lyrics and interesting musical ideas which is encouraging. Streaming is a huge problem right now and has completely decimated album sales. Why purchase a song when you can stream it. The problem is is that streaming music barely pays the songwriters. So there’s a lot of really depressing things going on in the music business and there’s some exciting things going on as well. As an independent artist, the internet is an incredible way to reach people who would never have known about me before. It’s an incredible marketing tool but sadly that doesn’t always amount to record downloads.
For the future of the music business, I want to see a world where artists and songwriters can get paid fairly for their work. Right now you can have millions of streams on Pandora and not make enough to pay rent. That is just simply not right. I’d like to see a model that exists that simply is fair.
With a desire to produce honest and real country music (and a family background deeply rooted in music), Shawn has a true understanding of the music industry and the importance of doing what you love.
(Photo credit: Stacie Huckeba)