Chris Shaffer looks about the same as ever. The hair. The stance and guitar in front of a microphone. And the voice. He still has that too; a raspy full-throated roar that makes his sound instantly recognizable. And Shaffer has a sorta new album, VIM, that he is proud of, produced by Rusty Anderson, Paul McCartney’s long time guitarist.
Through the golden age of The Why Store in the mid-90’s, they were the band that took Indianapolis (and Muncie) to the rest of the US. After two successful independent, regionally released albums, their self-titled major label debut on MCA Records included “Lack Of Water”, a big song at radio, and the album sold 200,000 copies. They performed “Surround Me” on Late Night with Conan O’ Brien and had videos on MTV and VH1.
Still, band broke up in 2000, only reforming briefly in 2005 before splintering again. Shaffer, after years touring on his own and with his band Shaffer Street, formed his version of The Why Store in 2007, and now fills his show calendar with club dates throughout Indiana. The gigs are Why Store shows, even as the band is a new cast of musicians. Chris enlisted former Ma Kelley guitar player Troy Seele, Jerome Rieskamp on drums, and Dan Hunt on bass to form the new band.
We tracked Chris down on his farm, and talked about music, lawyers and Why Store fans.
ROB: What are you working on or playing live that you really like?
CHRIS SHAFFER: I am currently living on a farm in Rush County, and writing and recording demos. I believe I am working on my best material to date. I am really proud of a song that just came to me one day called “Another One”. It is, in my opinion, the best song I have ever written. I can’t wait to record it, along with a few other gems I am currently working on. The song “Beautiful World” from VIM is taking on a life of it’s own when we play it live. People really seem to take a shine to it, and sing along with the band. It is definitely a highlight of our shows.
ROB: How does that most recent solo/Why Store album (“VIM”) feel now, a few years down the road? Was that recording experience in California ultimately a good one?
CS: VIM had to be shelved due to a legal battle with investors for almost two years. I won the case, and I am currently talking to a label about releasing it internationally. It has been a long three years since the album was finished. I am still very, very proud of what Rusty Anderson and I created. I believe it is a timeless record and the interest in it now from the record industry proves that we did something right. Rusty wanted to make an album that would stand the test of time. I think he accomplished that. My experience making VIM was a dream come true. I always wanted to work with the best of the best, and Rusty made that happen. It was an enlightening experience (and) I got to take a smoke breaks during the recording sessions on Venice Beach.
ROB: How’s the Indianapolis music scene these days for a rock/folk/Americana performer – kinda like yourself – from your perspective? Your base is really all of Indiana. What pockets of fans might we be surprised by?
CS: The Indianapolis music scene is ripe for a band like ours. We represent the truth in rock and roll, and offer nothing less. We play our songs, our way, from the heart.. There are not a lot of bands that can say they are making a living playing their music on their terms, on their own in the Midwest. So, I am proud of what we are accomplishing and continuing to do as musicians in this scene. Europe is a market that we are currently looking to explore. There is a buzz about us abroad, and we have yet to tour in Europe. We have pockets of fans throughout Germany, England, France, Switzerland, and Holland to name a few of the markets we hope to hit in the near future.
ROB: What have you been listening too recently? Any music that excites you? Performers you have recently seen?
CS: I have been listening to a lot older classic rock like John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and The Who. I have also been listening to my Bob Marley Legend CD, and a little bit of country. There are a lot of great songs coming out of Nashville these days. My newest song “Another One” has some twang to it and is definitely country inspired. Artists like Todd Snider, and Bob Schneider are the examples I wish to follow. They are true to themselves and write from the heart. People understand truth, and feel it when it’s real. I recently saw Paris Delane of Sonia Dada perform and he was incredible. What a great voice and talent.
ROB: When you record, how do you do it? Are you at home? Studio? What do you like best?
CS: I usually record ideas for songs on anything available at the time. I use my blackberry, digital recorder, and even my girlfriends phone if necessary. I always try to be prepared for when my muse strikes. I am currently recording demos at my home studio, and look forward to getting back into a real recording studio as soon as possible. I love the atmosphere,and energy of studios like Echo Park in Bloomington.
ROB: How’s the band?
CS: The band is sounding better than ever. I am very blessed to have these talented men join me on my crusade, and we are ready for the world.
ROB: Solo (or other) shows coming this spring and summer that you want to talk about?
CS: I have been doing some acoustic shows at the Slippery Noodle Inn that have been a lot of fun. I will be doing another show there April 25th. The show is a true reflection of the song in it’s most basic form. We are playing a lot of cool clubs, and festivals this spring and summer. On, May 27th, we return to the Cincinnati area to play The Mad Hatter’s, which is a very cool venue.
ROB: Anything else?
CS: I am sure to everyone’s surprise, I am still alive.
UPCOMING WHY STORE DATES
April 25 Slippery Noodle Inn Indy, IN 8:30p
April 29 Britton Tavern Noblesvillle, IN 9p
April 30 Casler’s Fishers, IN 9p
May 6 Heavy’s Camby, IN 9p
May 9 Slippery Noodle Inn Indy, IN 8:30p
May 13 Montrouse Room Chicago, IL 10p
May 14 DC’s Pub Zionsville, IN 10p
May 20 Indiana Live Casino on Highway 74 from 9p
May 21 Bertee’s Fortville, IN 9p
May 23 Slippery Noodle Inn Indy, IN 8:30p
May 27 The Mad Hatter’s Covington, KY 10p
May 28 Joe’s Grill 2 Fishers, IN 10p