Shane Theriot has emerged as one of the world’s foremost guitarists. He’s been featured in magazines such as “Guitar Player”, “Gig”, and “On Stage”. In addition to his work with the world-renowned Neville Brothers, he’s busy in the recording scenes of both Nashville and New Orleans. Shane has also written several instructional books and columns published in Guitar Player magazine and Guitar Nine. Author of the successful instructional book/C.D. entitled “New Orleans Funk Guitar”. He’s performed with Joel Sonnier, Lee Greenwood, Sam Moore (Sam and Dave). Shane performs, writes, and produces.
Q. You produced your latest CD, “The Grease Factor”, yourself. There are eleven tracks on the CD. You also wrote ten of the songs yourself and the other one with two other writers. What was the decision process in selecting the material for the CD? How many didn’t make the final cut? How did you make those decisions? How do you say “No” to one of your own songs?
There were a few tunes that I decided not to include on the record for whatever reason. I think the trick to taking any bunch of tunes and making a “record” is that you have to make sure there is a “thread” running through it that connects the music. Some sort of theme or plot to it all. That’s the decision process that I use when screening out tunes. It was hard to do on “the Grease factor” because there are so many places you could go with it- with song order.
Q. When writing, do you have multiple songs going on at one time, or do you focus on a single song from its inception to completion?
At any given time I’ve probably got dozens of ideas going around. I keep track of them on my handheld cassette and try to develop parts at home in my studio. There are times when a song just seems to write itself though.
Q. Is there a particular time of day that you find more conducive to writing and creating than others?
Just before I go sleep- you know that time when you are just drifting off? Your mind and body are relaxed and I usually hear music in my head then. Sometimes the morning is good (if I’ve had a good night’s sleep), your subconscious has been working all night and the ideas are fresh.
Q. The performances on your CD tracks are very eclectic – rock, jazz, R&B, New Orleans Funk, international. The versatility is very impressive — the hard-driving, poly-rhythmic “Zodiac”, the emotional blues of “Slow”, and the complexities of the jazz-rock-fusion “The Apartment”. How would you describe your style/genre?
I would describe my style as a solo guitarist/artist as a player who has incorporated elements of rock, funk, and jazz and tried to marry them with great rhythm sections, especially the sounds from Louisiana. I’m a drummer at heart, just picked up guitar instead! But “The Grease Factor” will probably be the last instrumental record I do for a while. I want to move in a different direction working with artists and with my writing. There is enough guitar on that record to last for a while.
I wanted to walk the fence between something that the average person could really enjoy but maybe a person with ears a little more musically developed would also find interesting.
Q. You perform, produce, arrange, educate. At what point in your life did you realize that songwriting and composition were also in your arsenal?
I had an English teacher in school that was very supportive of my wanting to move into a music career. He was also a guitarist and was always telling me that I should write lyrics as well.
My Grandmother is also an amateur poet and has always been supportive of my writing.
Q. Who were your influences – guitarists, musicians, performers?
There are so many- Too many guitarists to list here. But if I had to pick a few -Eddie Van Halen, Wes Montgomery, Ry Cooder, Pat Metheny, etc – this world is full of great guitarists.
Now that I look back, I had pretty strange tastes in music for a kid- I always liked the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson and The Beatles. My dad always had Zydeco/Cajun music playing. My uncle used to give me trash bags full of 8-track cassettes- (you know- he had upgraded to the “cassette” by then!) so I had a really great collection of music from early on.
Q. It has been said many times that when the “Muse” speaks, you’d better be prepared to listen. As all writers know, sometimes it’s at a very inconvenient moment – when you’re in the shower or drifting off to sleep, or at the airport, etc. In situations like that, what do you do to capture that special melody, rhythm, progression, lyric, or thought?
I always carry around a handheld cassette recorder or at the very least some manuscript paper if I can write it out. I’ve lost so many ideas by not having something to put it down on. Or you can always use the old answering machine trick- call your phone and sing it into the phone.
Q. Some writers layout the chord sequences first. Some are inspired by a rhythm track. What is the sequence of events when you write?
Depends on who and what I’m writing for. For my own music, it will usually be a rhythm track, although a tune like “The Apartment” is an example of composing with chord changes exclusively.
When collaborating with another artist- it’s whatever goes. Anything that will get the creative juices flowing.
Q. Shane, we apologize if we sound like Barbara Walters here, but Is there any one song that you’ve heard in your life that made you say, “If I could write only one song, it would have been that one.?”
I’ll give you 2 off the top of my head- “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney and “God Only Knows” by Brian Wilson from “Pet Sounds”.
Q. What’s your “go-to” guitar? You know, the one you generally prefer when you have to take care of business?
I have a few Strat-style instruments (Melancon custom and Hamer guitars) and Fender-type instruments are my preference, but depending on the call or situation I have one of everything-I keep about 10 guitars or so in Nashville and about 6 or 7 in New Orleans.
Q. Finally, tell us more about your book? New Orleans Funk Guitar Styles? (Warner Brothers Publications). What does it cover? What’s the target audience?
The book basically covers the history of the guitar’s role in the music of South La., particularly New Orleans. The funky music that comes out of that area is so unique- it’s not really a James Brown or a Sly Stone funk- it’s a little more Cuban or Caribbean influenced almost. I just attempted to show some examples and how it came to be. I’m amazed that so many people have emailed me and thanked me for writing the book. I knew I was onto something when James Brown’s guitarist came up to me and said he had bought it and dug it! Wow.
(Shane’s Website: www.shanetheriot.com)
Discuss this article in our Music Forum.