Sketches of Love & Fury
Shawn Brock was born in the Appalachian mountains of Harlan, Kentucky. While Harlan County may never earn the title of being a hot spot for Classical and Flamenco music some of the most world renowned musicians and vocalists have made a pilgrimage from the surrounding coal fields to stardom. He received his first formal guitar instruction at the age of nine. 'I wanted to start playing when I was five, but my parents wouldn't relent. I don't remember the reason why. Maybe they thought my hands were to small or that I was to little to really stick with it.' Growing up Shawn had the pleasure of being exposed to various musical formats and styles that laid the foundation for his life as a musician. He gives credit to his first guitar teacher Frank Farley for opening his ears to all the complexities music had to offer. Shawn dove deep into the sounds of Tony Rice, Doc Watson, Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young, Carlos Santana and many more. To describe Shawn Brock as a person and a musician you would have to call him diverse. This is a man who has traveled all over the world, performed on stage or in the studio with some of the biggest talent in the music industry. Oh, and did we disclose that he is blind? 'It's been a blessing to me in a lot of ways. When I was a kid I could never walk away from trouble. The blindness and focusing on music helped me mature as a person. If I had been with site, or if I hadn't been so rapped up in music I probably would have picked a fight with the wrong fellow eventually. That's just how I was growing up.' Shawn credits his lack of vision to his ability to play music from the heart, not just from the page. When you hear his performances you will feel each and every note of the composition. 'Unlike most kids in the middle school band I had never learned to read music. I was fifteen when I learned Braille music. That was the first and only year I spent at the Kentucky State School for the Blind. I was able to play the trumpet and saxophone parts in the middleschool band with ease. I would hear them once and I had it from that day forward. I could still see enough to make out print music, but I never needed it for those easy pieces. Learning Braille music helped me a lot, I still struggle with it though. Braille music is a lot harder to master than print music. The folks at the School for the Blind taught me a lot and for the first time I was in a city with lots of good musicians whom I could play with and learn from. A lot changed for me that year. I was about 250 miles away from home, I released a solo record, got exposed to lots of Classical and Jazz and started playing on a lot of recording sessions.' Shawn has performed on over 1200 sessions to date for independent artists and acts on such record labels as Sony, DreamWorks, Universal, Lonesome Day and many more. Sessions were part of the reason Shawn left Harlan. 'It's funny, I got to the School for the Blind in Louisville and I thought I was going to die of home sickness. It took me a few months to adjust to being away from home. People would tell me that once I got use to the conveniences of the city I would never be satisfied with living in the country. I resisted but in the end they were right. After I went back to public school all I could think of was turning eighteen and moving to some city to play music.' Shawn has indeed moved around both physically and musically. From being an award winning Flattop guitarist and mandolin player to growing out his fingernails and picking up the nylon string guitar. ' the fingernails were the hard part in the switch for me. When you have played most of your life with a pick it's hard to convert. I always kept my nails as short as I could get them and now I have to file and shape them all the time. Everything I do I worry about how it will affect the fingernails on my right hand. It's kind of funny, I almost feel a little prissy. If I damage a nail I don't act normal for days!' He might be the only person alive who has delivered an album that focuses on the nylon string guitar, but still showcases his talent as a mandolin player and acoustic guitar flat picker. 'I didn't want people to think that I had forgotten my roots. I had always played Bluegrass, Country and Rock. Some how people understood my playing Bluegrass one night and Alternative Rock the next, but my switch to Classical, Flamenco and Easy Listening left people in wonderment. It's simple really, I got sick of the same old thing and I wanted to express myself in a new way. I still love other genres of music as much as ever. I just wanted to continue to grow musically. When I lived in New York City I had this obsession with wanting to play Smooth Jazz. Now I can do that and no one will think it odd. After all I'm a Easy Listening player now, smooth Jazz is not a far reach from that is it?' He has also taken the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities as an electric guitarist on his version of the old Bluegrass instrumental Reuben's Train which also incorporates the use of the talkbox. 'I love the Talkbox, and after all the sessions I have played on this is the first time I got to use it. It's just one more layer of color in the beauty and madness my music has become.' Some would say a record that has classical selections from Carcassi has no room for a screaming electric guitar and talkbox but Shawn strongly disagrees. 'That's why I'm such a fan of Andrew York. He plays original material and arranges songs from other genres of music for the classical guitar. I love all the old Baroque music but I want to give way to my own ideas as well. I don't think anyone can perform the Bach Lute Suite in E better than David Russell so I'm not going to try.' Others would say that drums and electric guitar on a Bluegrass instrumental is sabotage, but he pays no mind to those statements either. 'It's my music, and I will do what I want with it. No one is making you listen to or buy it, so say what you want and move on! I made a promise to myself that if I were to keep performing and recording it would be on my terms, and it would make me happy. My music is not for everyone and I understand that. So many people are pigeonholed into musical categories and I'm not going to be one of them. People would be shocked if they saw the collection on my iPod. I have every thing from Classical to Death Medal and all that's in-between. For me music is like food, I can't eat just one thing all the time. I chose to record Reuben just to show people that I still play every type of music that I played in the past. It's the only song on this project that's way out there and perhaps that is why I chose to record and arrange it the way it is. In all fairness it's not a good representation of the record in it's entirety. I'm not finished with taking some of these old songs and putting my signature on them. After finishing Sketches of Love & Fury I arranged a version of the old Dire Straits tune Sultans of Swing. My plan is to record it with full band backup with Nylon String Guitar playing all of the lead lines. Another arrangement that I'm pleased with is the old Jimi Hendrix song Voodoo Child. I arranged it to be a solo work for Classical Guitar. It will also be recorded in the future.' Shawn has held the position of a hired gun in rode bands, as well as a full member of 4, 5 and 6 peace outfits, a Recording Engineer and a concert level piano technician. 'What can I say? I've been around the block a few times. I started doing piano work when I was burned out on performing and recording. It's not that I was burned out on music exactly, I was just sick of parts of the business. I was tired of making others rich by using my labor, and I was sick of the so called democracy that allegedly existed in bands. I made the choice to go on my own. If something goes wrong I just have myself to blame. This record is my return to my love of recording and performing.' A few of the other non Classical/Flamenco works that appear on Sketches of Love & Fury are My Old Kentucky Home arranged for 2 classical guitars and mandolin, Fields of Gold and Little Brown Church in the Vale. He also has eight original Classical and Flamenco works as well as a performance of Canon in D with full Orchestra. Sketches of Love & Fury is a collection that will be cherished and respected by all genres of music lovers.