I did not really know who Lou Shields was until Austin from Hangdog Hearts told us he was bringing him for his European tour. I had heard his name and I had a quick listen to his music in the past, and I thought it was difficult music. Lou’s music is chaotic at first, but once you really listen to it, it all comes together, puts a smile on your face and makes you stomp your feet. The moment I met Lou in Kurt’s living room (Kurt being the one who booked the tour with a little help from yours truly…) I instantly liked him. He’s an honest and caring person with no attitude whatsoever, and he’s very funny once you get to know him! Check out his website at the end of this interview for more music and his artwork. Happy reading!
1. Introduce yourself to our readers please.
My name is Lou Shields. I grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago and later in the country outside of a small town about an hour South of Chicago, Illinois. I am an artist, musician, skateboarder, rambler, adventurer and teacher… I live to do all of these things and do not make much of a living doing these things but the trade-off is a lifetime of great experiences and that is what is most important to me. Traveling, adventuring = inspiration, inspiration = art/music, then I can share this with folks and hopefully help them to feel, maybe feel better, maybe inspire them or give them a temporary escape and clarity. I ultimately hope to help them (audience, supporters, art lovers) feel good and feel better.
2. On what record would you have loved to play? (any style, artist, whatever)
I am not really into jamming or being in bands. I am a big fan of the early blues/country musicians that played solo – one microphone, one guitar, one guy and that is all. I think I would have loved to be in the room when Charlie Patton was recording. Just to have witnessed that man’s presence, his voice, his foot stomp, and of course, his guitar mastery. But I really do not dream about playing with someone I look up to because I just respect what they did so much. I think I would probably mess it all up and get smacked in the head by Howlin’ Wolf or something…
3. What is the first concert that made a real impression on you and made you want to play music?
My first experience seeing real music performed; I was a little kid and barely remember where this happened. It was either the old Maxwell Street in Chicago or the Taste of Chicago. There was a blues band playing. I remember being that little kid that stopped and was mesmerized. My parents probably lost me for a second as they were passing by. I vividly remember staring at what was happening and was completely hooked. I had no idea what was going on but I knew that I liked it. Then I could feel my arm getting dragged along with the rest of my body as my parents were probably moving along… But my eyes, ears and mind were forever locked into that sound, what I saw and what I immediately felt when hit with that amazing early experience.
4. Is there a musician/artist you really want to work with and why?
They are all dead. But I love and respect the work of my friends and always feel really honored to play a show/share a bill with them.
5. How did you end up in this “roots” scene?
I had been playing this stuff (what I play) in my living room for 15 years before I first started hearing about some of these bands. During the early 1990s I totally hated the post Nirvana influx of bands that were flowing in every direction. I reverted to pre-war blues, roots and early country music. I also kept my kinship with 80s punk alive that I loved growing up as a skateboarder. I felt a deep connection with the musicians of that time. That music was recorded in such an honest and simple way. I also identify with the subject matter of the songs. You can learn so much about life from these old blues tunes. I did not want to hear about how “he did it all for the nookie”… That stuff just completely turned me off.
I also had the worst stage fright. So I was too scared to even get into a performance space. I was perfectly happy learning how to play the many styles of old music from the old country that I loved so much. And I started writing my own tunes. Hundreds of them… But I put it all under the bed, kept it all away from anyone. I enjoyed playing by my self in front of no one…
I got to a point later in life that I absolutely couldn’t do that any more. I felt it was time to get out there, do what I truly loved and share this stuff. I was already traveling the United States, adventuring, skateboarding and experiencing as much as possible. I started to see bands like Devil in a Woodpile with a huge following in Chicago and beyond, then .357 String Band doing what they were up to.
And I was like, ok… let’s get it going. Maybe people would actually come out and have a listen. Maybe I could actually do something with this stuff, get out and play, have fun. I was playing a lot of open mics, parties, etc… Trying to get over the stage fright thing. I started to meet music lovers around my area like Jody Robbins. I got turned on to more and more bands that were doing great stuff like the Gallows, The Cubes and all these folks I was beginning to meet from all around the US that were up to the same musical mischief that I truly love. I met guys like LoneWolf OMB and Austin from The Hangdog Hearts who I hold in such high regard as brothers.
I have found in this community of musicians, music lovers and supporters to be so much my of my own blood… We somehow have all magnetically come together. It just all happened. It had to. I am so lucky to have this in my life.
6. Do you believe in aliens, and if so… What does their music sounds like?
Yep listen to “1983 (A I Merman Should Turn To Be…)” by Jimi Hendrix.
I have seen a lot of things on the road; late at night, in the middle of the day, you name it. There are lots of unexplained phenomena out there and magic, religion nor science do it justice… Might be aliens. Might not.
7. Who do you believe to be the most overrated band on the planet at this moment, and why?
I don’t really pay attention anymore. Right now? Taylor Swift? Only because I keep seeing her fake selfie self in the grocery store, at Starbucks, on the bus… blah and I mean not the real human being but the product that is Taylor Swift which really bugs me.
I am not one to rip on other musicians, artists as long as what they are doing is real (to them). As long as they are writing the music and recording/performing the songs with integrity I have nothing to say. But if they are in it for the wrong reasons or are causing other people harm then I am not down with that. You see a lot of celebrities in this music/art world, and people become intrigued by the celebrity. It doesn’t matter if their music is any good at that point. They could be singing completely off-key, forgetting their own lyrics (or the producer’s lyrics) and these “fans” will be screaming for them. They may not even be singing or playing the instrument they are holding.
At that point it is not about the music or the art for the audience, it is about celebrity. For me I like to think of folks who like what I do as supporters, not fans. They took time to come out and hear my tunes for the first time, they are there because they happen to be in the bar and like what is going on up on the stage or they are truly into my music. For that I am truly grateful.
But you’ll always have situations like that. For me personally, it is about getting out there, having experiences and then sharing those experiences with folks via my music and art. I hope I never become overrated. I feel sorry for those empty boxes that are overrated and for the “fans” that support them.
8. Just like any “scene” this one will explode in time, how do you see the future of this new “roots” movement?
I just hope that as more and more artists, promoters, booking agents, labels, etc. get involved that those who operate with integrity outweigh the others. I hope that the support continues to grow and venues become more involved in creating “concerts” more than “gigs”. Meaning that people are there to hear/listen to the music “concert” rather than the traveling band is there doing a “gig” so that they can hopefully get enough gas money to get to the next town. Meanwhile they are competing with 10 flat screen TVs and a bar full of sports fans that are screaming over the band and while they are playing, their van gets broken into or wrecked out on the street.
9. What band or record do you really like, but you are a little a shamed about?
I always liked the movie Xanadu and had the soundtrack record when I was a kid. I had no idea it was Disco and If I heard it now I would probably cringe lol… But Olivia Newton John, well she was a first love for me.
10.Eating dog shit or record with Toby Keith?
Who is Toby Keith?