By David McIntyre - Lyons Bluesologist
Leave it to Danny Shafer to come up with an idea like his Songbook. There is no plastic CD with this project, just a book and a download card for the music on Songbook. Not only is it innovative but it is free.
Those of you who have followed this column over the years, probably know my affection for solo performers, one person, one instrument, one heart, one soul, three chords and the truth. Songbook is the epitome of
simple songs filled with truth, love, and hope as only Danny Shafer could deliver. If Danny is anything he is humble, and speaks the simple truth and only he could deliver these songs properly.
I sat down with Danny to ask some of the questions that the music, and especially the book had me asking myself and wanting further explanations. Normally I would spend a lot of time trying to reflect on what the songs are about and how I feel about them. But these songs are all simple; full of love and reflections on Danny’s life, and how his love for music has propelled him through his life. The songs are about his grandparents, his parents, women, hobos, Americans, trusting, letting go, letting people in, reaching for the simple things and the differences in people.
Greg Schochet says in his foreword, “Danny, he lets you feel. He wants you to. He is the least full of B. S. person you will ever meet.” In conversations with Danny, I always feel he is looking for what’s inside people. He wants you to react, to feel, to let go, and be yourself. When asked why a folk record, and why free? Danny’s response was, “I always felt like I was a folksinger and related to folksingers; it is like a thank you for all my fans for supporting me over the years and making my life rich. It is like coming full circle and back to my folk roots. Songbook is what I hope these songs would sound like in the middle of the night on the front porch.”
He says he has, “chased life with his songs and only when the song is really visible do, I feel like I have done it justice.”
He loves to write songs about the little things, songs that help a moment stand still, and admits to being a very sentimental person. Playing music is like quicksand; it does tricks on the ego, puts fear, false expectations and reality very close together. Like having to be the loudest person in the bar room after not talking to anybody all day, day after day. Or having to learn to operate in a fight or flight way of living.
“There was a haunting feeling inside that I couldn’t live for just myself, and someday that change will come. It did and I am so grateful,” says Danny. At fifty years old, he is full of successes and failures. He is a husband first, a stepfather, and songwriter. He has been fortunate that the only plan he ever had was to stay close to the music. “My family asked me to stay home more. Now I know I need that and them. It’s been wonderful and strange. I am still getting the hang of family life. The last couple of years, I have been grateful to stay and have stable work booking venues. Work that fits my personality is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.”
This work has enabled Danny to see it was time to shake off the road and be still for a few. Through his amazing family he is able to step outside of the music for the first time in decades. “The music is more inside me now, it belongs more to myself and is one of the largest shifts in my life, and it has been frightening and healthy."