I met Shannon Curfman and her band at a new venue in Fenton Illinois. Now Fenton is not your typical music town. When Randy puts on a show on a Friday or Saturday night the population of Fenton doubles or triples. The Old School Bar and Grill is a converted elementary school. The bar is set up in the gym, there are several class rooms that have been converted into sleeping rooms and the grounds around the building (several acres) are available for those who want to set up a tent or camper. Randy goes out of his way to give the people (both fans and artists) what they want. So if you are looking for an out of the way place to kick back and relax head to Fenton Illinois and enjoy some kick ass entertainment in very peaceful surroundings.
Shannon Curfman played Friday and Saturday night at Old School and ended up playing an afternoon show for a big group of bikers that rolled into the place early afternoon on Saturday. I sat down and talked with Shannon early in the evening and found her in good spirits and full of energy.
Billy Rose: Shannon it’s been a treat meeting you and I want to thank you for sitting down and talking to me.
Shannon Curfman: Absolutely!
Billy Rose: I’d like to start out talking about your early years. You made quite a splash about…what was it about ten years ago…
Shannon Curfman: Yeah, it was like ’99, 2000, 2001.
Billy Rose: You came out with a major label album. Fourteen years old. Pretty impressive to a lot of people. How was that whole experience for you?
Shannon Curfman: (laughs) I thought it was amazing! We had actually recorded that album before I got signed. It was done independently on the record label I had back then. For us when we did that album…we just thought we’d release it and play shows in the twin cities and sell the CD’s. Well we ended up selling about 5000 copies a week from like the first week. It was like Oh! Great! Now what do we do, we don’t have enough CD’s (laughs). Now we have to find money to print more CD’s. It was actually kind of a mess. But it ended up working out (laughs). That’s how the major labels found us. Through Sound Scan, seeing that there was this independent artist, who was selling a few thousand CD’s a week. So they were curious and a couple had started calling around and trying to figure out who we were. You know at that time I didn’t have a web site…nobody did in those days…nobody was doing the World Wide Web thing yet. Anyway they started calling around and found out I was this twelve year old girl and they thought everyone was lying (laughs). But we ended up signing with Arista Records.
Billy Rose: So did they release the exact same album that you had previously released?
Shannon Curfman: No, it wasn’t exactly the same. It was the same name, Loud Guitars Big Suspicions completely different art work. Three of the songs were replaced. So we went back in the studio and recorded three other songs. I Don’t Make Promises that song is a completely different version it went from being a country song to a pop rock song. And a bunch of different mixes for different songs. True Friends is really different…they changed a lot of stuff and made it more…so it would fit into the machine so to speak. (laughs)
Billy Rose: So are you still working with the same band.
Shannon Curfman: No, oh my gosh! This current line-up has only been together for about three weeks. Justin Kesterson is the new guitar player. With Justin we’ve played maybe ten shows together.
Billy Rose: Wow I never would have guessed he was that new. I think you work together really well. The vocals really gel.
Shannon Curfman: Ya know he was actually a front man before he joined me. He had never done the side kick thing. And sometimes you don’t really know how that will work out. Ya know some people are just better at doing the front man thing. But we have a blast.
Billy Rose: You can see that on stage, every once in a while you through your head back a laugh out load.
Shannon Curfman: (laughs) Yeah we do! (laughs). I figure if we’re having fun up there then it probably helps the whole place have fun. Hopefully the people who come out to hear the music are diggin’ it too. Having a good time. I don’t want it to just be music, I like knowing the people who are at me shows. I like getting to know people and I like hangin’ out. We hung out here all day long. Just hanging in the bar and outside. It was fun we ended up selling a bunch of CD’s (laughs). I posted a bulletin online and said hey if you don’t have plans this weekend and you’re in this area, come hang out and camp with us (laughs). But its fun for us to play together…we have a blast.
Billy Rose: You were twelve when you recorded your fist album, how did you get into the blues at such an early age? Or were you into blues?
Shannon Curfman: Well I got into blues through Jonny Lang. We’re both from Fargo North Dakota. We were both into guitar. Our families grew up together. He’s four years older than me so we never really hung out. At that age four years is a huge gap. You don’t see eighth graders hang with fourth graders (laughs). We both started playing guitar and then started hanging out. My parents would take me to his shows all over the Midwest, and we just started discovering music together. He discovered blues through his band. Before he was playing guitar he played saxophone in the band for a few months.
Billy Rose: So is there anyone else in your family that are musical?
Shannon Curfman: No (laughs). Well a couple people played guitar back in the day. My maternal grandpa played guitar in the service. Everyone in my family are huge music lovers and huge supporters of the art community. When Christmas comes around the whole family gets things, for each other that were locally made. My cousins and I all buy tickets to music events and theatre events things like that. Like for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I think that was a huge part of why I got into music. All of that exposure to the arts. My whole family is so supportive of the arts. So it’s not like you were the black sheep if you didn’t get a nine to five job. It’s alright if you want to paint (laughs). They didn’t look at you funny or anything. So that was a huge help.
Billy Rose: Besides Jonny Lang, who else did you listen to growing up?
Shannon Curfman: Actually the CD’s that got me going were Ani DeFranco’s Dialate, Rory Block When A Woman Get’s The Blues, Green Day Dookie, and Jonny Lang and The Big Bang. Those four CD’s, oh and John Prine Live. I listened to those front to back for years. Literally for years. Also everything Led Zeppelin (laughs).
Billy Rose: That kind of shows in your performance sometimes (laughs).
Shannon Curfman: (laughs) Yeah. I’ve been told I’m sometimes a little more Zeppliny than bluesy (laughs). My answer though is, isn’t Zeppelin blues? I mean that’s what they play.
Billy Rose: I argue with people about that too. The Blues hardcore people don’t consider Led Zeppelin to be blues. I argue that blues and music in general does and should expand their boundaries.
Shannon Curfman: That’s so bizarre…they do call themselves “Hardcore Blues” people. Which is hilarious to me, because those people are so close minded. They only listen to the same twelve bars of music in different keys, in like three or four different grooves. That’s it if you don’t do that you’re not blues. I think if you’re a hardcore fan of anything, Metal, Blues Rock or Country whatever the case may be. If you are really a hardcore fan then you would really listen to everything that’s going on out there. You would know the facts. You would be keeping up with the new releases and listening to everything happening in that entire genre. That’s a hardcore fan to me.
I got so much crap when I was thirteen, fourteen years old when the Arista record came out. Ya know, just another poser, she’s just a little kid, she doesn’t know anything about the Blues. I didn’t really know I was writing Blues. I was just writing what I knew. Whatever was in my head, I wrote it. It’s all pretty darn Blues inspired and so was everything that I listened to, across the board. All the old Country I listened to was rooted in Blues music. Same with the Folk stuff or Classic Rock. You can’t get away from blues. Even Rap, so much rap I hear, it is Blues. Its Blues based music, and they just kind jumble it all up.
Billy Rose: Were do you get your ideas from, for writing songs?
Shannon Curfman: I usually think of a line that I really like. Just little sayings or something pops in my head. I have little saying written down all over my house. I have two in my head that I need to work on pretty quick. I’ll go around for at least a good month with a line in my head… and just experience normal everyday life. With that line running through my head, different things happen and thinking about that one line because then you think of different things you can put in the song. Then once I sit down a write it, it happens real fast. In about twenty minute it’s done. I’m also guilty of writing one particular song over and over. I have one song that has like eighteen different versions. From Rock and ballad and everything in between. I’m getting better at looking at as a snapshot, ya know click there it’s done. It is what it is.
Billy Rose: Have you ever tried to write a song about a certain subject or something and had a lot of trouble doing it?
Shannon Curfman: Yeah, I can’t write happy songs. I’m better at writing songs that are more emotional or something. I guess my everyday life is pretty darn happy so it’s not something unusual. If I go through something that has heartache in it, it’s something I need to get out. Yeah, I can’t write a happy song, I started thinking, is there something wrong with me (laughs). I mean I have songs that are positive…like can we get through this or love of my life kinda thing. But I guess it all stems from the fact that there’s bad stuff happening anyway (laughs). I started going through my friends CD’s and listening and it turns out I’m not the only one (laughs).
Billy Rose: So tell me a little bit about the new album. You said it’s almost finished.
Shannon Curfman: The new album is called What You’re Getting Into. It’s Rockin’ Blues. It’s pretty much as simple as it gets. There are like three or four covers. We’re doing an Eric Clapton cover. The Clapton cover is gonna be a duet with Joe Bonamassa. And on the other side of the spectrum…we’re doing a cover song by Queen. On that song I have a guest artist. Stevie D the guitar player from Buckcherry. There are so many friends that I love playing with…and I’d love to work with. But I didn’t want to flood this album with a bunch of guest stars, so I just picked a couple. Those two just were the two I decided on. Joe to me is the whole new Eric Clapton like bluesish Guitar God. Then you go the other side of it you go to a Buckcherry show which is Rock. And they certainly have crossed over. I think he is the greatest Rock guitar player of our time. I just wanted to pick a couple from those genres. I also wanted to get Joe to sing (laughs). He’s more of a guitar player by nature. But I try to push him to sing.
Billy Rose: Is there anybody out there you would just love to play with?
Shannon Curfman: Jeff Beck! We used to hang out all the time in LA. He actually invited me to play with him one time and I about had a heart attack. I became a stammering idiot. I pretty much cowered and ran the other way. And at that point, he had been a friend of mine for a long time, but hanging out with someone and just chillin’ and talking about old cars and guitars and drinking (laughs). Hanging out in the sun in LA is a lot different that playing with your favorite guitar player EVER!
Billy Rose: So Jeff Beck is your favorite.
Shannon Curfman: Yeah!
Billy Rose: I’m sure he’d be glad to hear that.
Shannon Curfman: Oh, he knows.(laughs) After that night I think I kinda blew it. He had flown me out to New York, to see him at B B King’s blues club in Times Square and I just totally geeked out (laughs). I still to this day would love to get a Jeff Beck tattoo of like his autograph. There is nothing…nothing negative in my mind when I think of Jeff Beck. He’s such a great player; he’s not an idiot running around. He keeps his life private. And what’s so funny is he lives on Sunset, about the most public place there is. He manages the lifestyle he wants. He does every bit of music he wants. His last couple albums were like Techno-House music kind of a thing with him playing over it. Which I thought was brilliant. The basic tracks for those songs were so bare, it’s almost like looking at a blank canvas, and then Jeff could do whatever he wanted over that. I thought that was just beautiful. As opposed to having songs that are so structured that there are things that you just naturally play.
Billy Rose: Tell me something about yourself that very few people know. Something you would like to share with the world.
Shannon Curfman: I’m growing a huge organic veggie garden in my back yard.
Billy Rose: In Minnesota. How long is the growing season up there?(laughs)
Shannon Curfman: (laughs) about four days! We’ll have a good eighty days. That’s what I need, so I’m gonna say we’ll have a good eighty days (laughs). I’m gonna have about a thousand tomatoes or so that we’ll harvest this year. A bunch of cucumbers and a berry patch. I love domestic stuff.
Billy Rose: Well Shannon, I want to thank you for sitting down and talking with me and I wish you all the best with the new album and your tour.
Shannon Curfman: Yeah! Thank you for doing this.