Chris Shefflet played just about every party imaginable.
The Chicago club soaked in beer? examines. Halloween in Riemann? why not. Title Lollapalooza? Of course. In front of exit / in almost empty? naturally.
As for playing The Grand Ole Opry…? Longtime Foo Fighters guitarist, one-time punk musician and part-time rock solo songwriter said nothing beats getting on that stage.
“You go out on that stage, your mind is flying,” Shiflett said of his debut on The Opry in 2019. “I’m looking around the room singing the song. It’s a room full of people who don’t know who [I am]. I don’t know who the Fu fighters are. I scan the room and finally see a lady in a Foo Fighters shirt. I’m like, “I have one!”
Shiflett returned to the legendary Nashville radio broadcast earlier this month to release new music and applied a little bluegrass (the latter described as a “modest” hobby he shared with some balcony collectors during the height of the COVID lockdowns). His most recent trip inside the Opry’s so-called “unbroken circuit” came in support of a pair of singles – a mandolin-soaked mid-tempo ballad “A Long and Long Year” and the autobiographical roots of the rock melody “Born & Raised”.
Hours before hitting the Opry stage, Chifflet spoke with The Tennessean about cutting songs at Music City, Foo Fighters concerts honoring late drummer Taylor Hawkins and what’s next in his solo career.
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Back to Nashville
Shivlet, a Southern California native with a penchant for rural ancestry, flew to Nashville in 2021 for a weekend session with Vance Powell, a Berry Hill producer known for his work with Chris Stapleton and Jack White.
He put together an ace band before hitting the ground with a stride playing two songs at Paul Sputnik Studios. The group included a handful of musicians working with Shivlet for the first time: raccoon bassist Jack Lawrence, right-wing drummer Julian Doriot, steel guitarist Luke Schneider, and joined by keyboardist Mike Webb, who played in the former Nashville-released versions of the singer-songwriter .
“I’m kind of spoiled, come in here and make records, man,” said Shivlet. “If you’re going to create country-based music, this is the place to do it. There is a huge pool of talent.”
They cut most of the “Long, Long Year” and “Born & Raised” movies right on the studio floor, embracing a familiar space between country storytelling and the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.
“[Powell] A group of players who also knew both worlds rallied,” Shivlet said. It was convenient. I think you can hear that in the recording we made. It’s not super slick.”
In “Born & Raised,” Shiflett takes listeners to his California home, singing: “Well, he was brought up by the devil in golden sands / Cigarette butts and bottle caps.” He planted the seed of the song after his surfing trip went wrong in part due to the crowded beaches in his hometown, Santa Barbara.
Listeners in Nashville may not be able to sympathize with the crowded West Coast beaches, but the natives of the fast-changing Tennessee city will probably understand Shivlet’s frustration when tourists throttled his trip to a beloved local place.
“It was a really busy day and I was kind of pissed about it,” said Shevlett with a laugh. “I was thinking to myself, I was born (expletive) and grew up here. I’ll surf any wave (expletive) I want.”
From there, he penned a realistic tune that tells listeners, “I may change but I stay the same/Where I was born and raised.”
As for writing autobiographical stories? Shivlet said he’s comfortable in this space, even when bending facts a bit in order to tell stories.
He said, “I love it.” “It’s harder for me to write things that are just imaginary things.”
Taylor Hawkins Tribute
Shivlet debuted “Born & Raised” days after he walked off the stage at a tribute concert in London for late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.
Outside, join a never-before-seen musical celebration of a pre-Hawkins drummer. Tears and honors filled Wembley Stadium for the concert, which featured members from Queen, Rush, AC/DC, Metallica…the list goes on. Oliver Shane Hawkins, son of Hawkins, finished the night by hitting the drums to deliver the key foo piece “My Hero.”
For Shivlet, the band’s world “turned upside down” after Hawkins’ death last March. Entering the band’s so-called “club” for rehearsals? He said it was heavy.
“The rehearsals that led to it at home were strange,” he said. “You go into this place – our club, our studio – and you expect Taylor to walk in the door still. Going out on stage without him has taken this to a whole new level. I’ve lost a lot of friends. Over the years, but that’s something different.”
However, going up on stage gave the guitarist a sense of “how much he means to the world”.
“It’s not that you’re not aware of it because things are going well,” Shivlet said. “You know your band is popular and it connects with the audience in some way. … [but] It’s a completely different kind of feeling.”
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More singles coming soon
A pair of singles isn’t the last thing fans will expect from Shiflett in the coming months, of course.
He initially planned to cut a handful of singles with a rotating team of producers. That changed after a session with Garen Johnston—a native of Nashville and member of the country rock group Cadillac 3—doubled into another session and, in the end, an album worthy of the material.
Years after they met in Nashville at the Dierks Bentley release party (when the Foo Fighters visited town for the band’s “Sonic Highway” album and docu series in 2014), the two got together to work sporadically on songs to be released. They worked together for about a year, Shivlet said, and were largely tracking at Sound Emporium.
“Usually, when you make recordings, you’re bam bam bam,” Shivlet said. “I came up with 15 songs, he scored a top 10. Get it done fast. You can’t just sit there and live with it. … It was nice to live with, you know?”
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