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INTERVIEW: Frank Shiner

From all the songs out there, why did you choose to pay your own rendition to “Rainy Night in Georgia”?

I worked with Mitchell Cohen who was my Artist and Repertoire person on this as well as my first album. He was head of AR for Columbia records, Verve Records, and Arista Records. I refer to him as “the walking encyclopedia of music” because of his vast knowledge of every song and every artist in every genre. We went through over 100 songs and I picked 11. Then, Jay Newland, the producer of my album and 12 time Grammy winner said to me “Frank, I really want to hear you do Rainy Night in Georgia… I have a feeling that you would nail that song”… I immediately knew it was the right choice…so we decided to add a 12th song to the album.

How was the film experience?

Filming was an incredible experience. We were at a really cool studio in Brooklyn and the film crew flew here from California. Their name was “who ate my teeth” productions. They were a real cool bunch and we had some great extras/actors and a wonderful make-up person… It was an all-around great experience and I made some new friends.

The single comes off your new album Lonely Town, Lonely Street – what’s the story behind the title?

Lonely town lonely street is the title of one of the tracks on the album. It was written and performed by Bill Withers… It just had a real cool sound to the title and, because all of the songs on the album deal with love in all it’s permutations… Lost love, found love, lonely people etc. it really lended  itself to the overall vibe of the album as well as the album cover which has a lonely feel… Or a sense of wandering.

How was the recording and re-writing process?

Jay Newland was wonderful to work with and he brought in a spectacular arranger and keyboard player, Glenn Patscha.. we had our first meeting at a rehearsal studio in New York City and the first listened to my concept. I explained to them the feeling that I wanted to bring across with the music… I explained to them my personal interpretation of all 12 songs. They listened very carefully to what I wanted to do with tempo and instrumentation. They took that as their base and then made recommendations. We were able really make a statement with the songs but, at the same time, we still honored the original pieces. We recorded at the Carriagehouse studio in Stamford Connecticut. It was a wonderful and relaxing working atmosphere and we all got along so well… Producers and musicians alike… Again, I made a great new friends!

Based on what did you choose which songs to cover?

This is a very good question… First of all, the lyrics have to touch me. That is the most important thing of all to me. Secondly, the music has to give me enough room to be able to play with the rhythm and melody. Even if I like the lyrics of a song… If the arrangement is too rigid and there is no room to change it, enhance it, or put my own personal flavor into it, I have to abandon the song.  I will not “cover” a song because when you “cover” a song you are doing it like the original. If I’m only going to do a song exactly like the original… Well, people can go listen to the original CD and they don’t need me to sing it. If I can’t do something different with the song I don’t do it. To be clear, I’m not trying to do a song “better” than the original… Just “different” than the original. That’s why I call what I do a “reinterpretation” rather than a “cover.”

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are covering someone else music than when you are writing your own original material?

Not really…When I write my own it comes from the heart… When I sing somebody else’s song I approach it fresh and new in exactly the same way… As if I wrote it. I write out the lyrics and read them without singing them. I decide what they mean to me… I decide what correlation they have to my life… I let the lyrics speak to me and remind me of my actual experiences in life. Only then, do I decide if I should do the song and then I decide what approach I’m going to take to it. So whether I wrote the piece or somebody else wrote it, it still comes from the exact same place inside of me.    A number of critics have said “Frank sings songs as if they were his own and they came from his own personal life experiences.” The reason they hear that is because that is exactly my approach. The best compliment I ever get is when somebody says to me “I really never understood the lyrics of that song” or “I never really got the meaning of that song until I heard your version.”

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I’m not sure I understand this question but perhaps I answered it with the question immediately preceding this one? I simply decide how a song relates to my life. If I don’t relate to it then I don’t do it.

Any plans to hit the road?

ABSOLUTELY!  We are working out a schedule right now! And I couldn’t be more excited about it… We are even talking about a cross country tour!

What else is happening next in Frank Shiner’s world?

I am having so much fun and I am looking forward to hitting the road and meeting interesting people from all over the world. There is nothing like the experience of live performances and meeting people before and after the show. It is just such an intimate interaction and once you have experienced that you almost can’t live without it. I also want to get back to my original acting roots and perform in everything from musicals to Shakespearean productions… including TV and movies.  I don’t want to close the door on anything because it is all so exciting.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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