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Shakey Graves Talks One-Man-Band Tricks, Musical Theater With Chris Shiflett

Special live episode of ‘Walking the Floor’ podcast breaks down the musical history of “Dearly Departed” singer

Shakey Graves 'Walking the Floor'

Shakey Graves is the guest on the latest episode of Chris Shifflet's 'Walking the Floor' podcast.

Ralph Arvesen/REX/Shutterstock

Walking the Floor goes live this week. Recorded onsite during the annual Luck Reunion festival, the podcast finds Chris Shiflett talking with Shakey Graves in front of an audience of SXSWers and roots-music fans. The result is a quick, spirited conversation between the two songwriters, both of whom cut their teeth on harder-edged music before embracing an Americana sound during their solo careers.

As always, we’ve combed through the interview and pulled out a handful of highlights. We are also premiering the full episode, which concludes with a solo performance of the West of Calgary deep cut “Tomorrow,” below.

During his time touring the country as a one-man band, Shakey Graves’ show relied as much on technology as dexterity.
“I would have all these techniques,” he tells Shiflett. “I would loop a guitar amp into a bass amp to make sure there was low end. I had a microKORG that I’d have a looping pedal on, so I could do real simple bass lines and then sometimes go over it, just to try and give peaks and valleys to [the set].”

That said, he prefers playing with others.
“I’ve done stuff by myself for a long time, kinda out of necessity, and sometime out of preference, but the goal was always to have other people,” he explains. The fleshed-out, multiple-member version of Shakey Graves did experience some growing pains, though. Once others joined the fold, Graves had to work on scaling back his own sound, leaving room for musicians like Patrick O’Connor and Christ Booshda to add their contributions without muddying up the sound.

He was raised onstage — not as a musician, but as an actor.
“I grew up doing theater,” says Graves, who starred in the TV show Friday Night Lights and the movie franchise Spy Kids before his music career took flight. “My dad is a set and light designer. I grew up doing regional theater stuff and high-school theater.” It was during his time as an adolescent actor that he began singing in public, even if he wasn’t immediately bitten by the music bug. “Theater always has a foray into musical theater at some point, especially if you’re a kid,” he adds, “so I sang. But I was also stubborn and didn’t consider myself musical at all.

Graves credits an ex-girlfriend’s infidelity with indirectly pushing him to learn the guitar.
Graves was 13 years old when his girlfriend took a trip to Mexico and, somewhere along the way, met another boy. He was crushed. . .but he was also inspired. “I had this plan, because she was really into guitar players,” he remembers, “where over the summer I was going to master the guitar and just shred face. I wanted her to feel real weird about it, like, ‘Oh, you never told me you were great at guitar.’ She came back and was like, ‘I don’t care,’ and I was like, ‘I guess I don’t either.’ He’d already pushed past the challenging beginner’s steps of guitar mastery, though, and he kept playing, eventually joining a local screamo band laying the groundwork for his own music career.

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