Frank Shiner is an indie artist whose latest single, Feels Like Home, is currently sitting at No. 6 on the AC40 radio charts, ahead of such industry stalwarts as Daughtry, Katy Perry, John Legend and One Direction.
Where did he come from and how did he get to this place of acceptance? To find out, I interviewed Shiner via telephone last week. Here's part one of our interview:
Examiner: So, Where did you grow up?
Shiner: I was born in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania before moving to Mountain Top, Pennsylvania. Since it was a short commute, my father traveled back and forth to Wilkes Barre for work. I lived right down the road from a chicken farm and a gas station with one pinball machine and 100’s of acres of forest.
Examiner: Who were your musical influences?
Shiner: As a young boy, I didn’t always know who the artist was. Around the house, my family always played Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. We wore out the records. I also enjoyed classic rock (Frampton Comes Alive). In fact, Frampton at one point lived nearby in Chappaqua. At the local historical society, my picture is up on the wall next to Frampton as Notable Residents of Chappaqua.
Examiner: When did you start to sing?
Shiner: I don’t remember starting, seems like I was always singing. I did voice overs and created sound effects. When you’re kinda bored you find great ways to entertain yourself. Sang throughout school years, choirs, school performances.
Examiner: Do you like to perform?
Shiner: Sammy Davis Jr. said it best "I’m such a ham that I get up in the middle of the night, open the refrigerator, and when that little light comes on, I do a 40 minute set to the leftovers." Performing is a great way to express yourself. When I sing, my heart opens up. My wife told me "I've seen you happy and sad but when you're singing, you're totally elated." It means something to me and I take it very seriously and research the song before I perform it. It’s personal and I won’t do it if it doesn’t move me.
Examiner: Any special performances?
Shiner: They all mean something to me but being asked to sing at special events in people's lives is truly an honor. Being asked says to me that my music is something more than entertainment.
Examiner: Tell me about your new album.
Shiner: Nobody expected this to happen. I met my manager because he came to my performance expecting someone else. He told me "There’s a story there – let’s work together to bring it out." Next thing I know I'm in the studio with Gary Katz (Steely Dan) and suddenly it’s really happening. Mitchell Cohen (Artist & Repertoire for Columbia, Verve and Arista) sent me 50 songs to choose from. Now, I’m emotional but not melodramatic. I listened to every song, but I chose the beautiful songs that I felt didn’t get enough exposure. I've always been impressed by artists that take lesser known songs and give them new life.
Examiner: So why did you leave music?
Shiner: Well, I was married with a baby and travelling around doing music. We were living in Massachusetts and my wife stayed home with the baby and a mortgage due. I was making $145 a week union wages in a musical production that was “Broadway bound” after a great review by Time Magazine.
Garth Brooks was writing the music for the show. At the time, Brooks was a down and out country singer. Brooks gets the CMA Horizon Award and overnight his schedule changed. We lost him from the production and found out that we had another child on the way. With Brooks out of the production, I found I could not discount the sacrifice so I quit and took a job as a salesman, putting my music on the back burner to take care of my family. I thought my musical career was all over.
I spent at least 15 years out of the music industry. Then my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, and went through 12 operations and chemo over a four 1/2 year period. My wife and I went to an open mic at a local restaurant and my wife begged me to get up and sing. I got up and sang a song and was asked him to sing another and then another. The owner of the restaurant sought me for three months. Once we finally caught up, he told me "Music heals the soul." I finally said yes to owner. Ironically, my album came within two years of that night.
Check out Part Two here.