C. SHIROCK is Chuck Shirock - founder, frontman and primary writer for the band SHIROCK. His music as C. SHIROCK is an evolution and a distillation of his previous work, now as a solo artist. We caught up with Chuck to find out more about the transition and new single ‘Stand With Me Tonight’.
The songs I’m most proud of always seem to be the most honest and vulnerable. Where I’ve laid it on the line… they’re the most liberating to sing and perform live, and people tend to respond to those the most.
First up, tell us a bit about yourself - what first got you into music?
My Mom was a ballerina, and grew up playlist piano from the time she was a little girl growing up in England. On my Dad’s side, his father (my Grandfather) was a professional Jazz pianist. I remember going to visit him the few times I met him, and watching as he’d sit at his piano pounding away jazz with his huge hands…
My parents forced me and my three siblings to all start taking piano when we were really young - maybe three or four-years-old. I think I started writing songs on piano before I even knew what ‘writing a song’ meant. I moved to the US when I was about 13, and shortly after my Dad got me my first electric guitar. I started a punk band in a suburb of Detroit, and I was hooked… I never wanted to do anything else in my life after that moment.
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from?
So many… and I’m constantly finding new inspiration in artists. I think the biggest influences on my work have been Peter Gabriel, U2, Radiohead, New Order, Prince, The Cure, Jeff Buckley, Smashing Pumpkins… When I moved to Detroit I was exposed to so much new music I didn’t grow up with. I think my first record I bought was Green Day - hence my first band being a punk band!
Later I moved to Nashville for College - I studied music and voice, and was introduced to so much more…including jazz, classical, and many local artists dong really inspiring things.
You’re the founder, frontman and primary writer for the band, SHIROCK. How does your solo material differ, stylistically?
SHIROCK was largely focused on five individuals creating the sound you heard live and on the recordings. I used the five instruments (guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, vocals), like they were my colors to paint with. For what we were doing at the time it worked, and made sense. As I’ve grown and evolved individually, and as I’ve continued uncovering my own voice and the sounds that inspire me, those five ‘colours’ started to feel too limiting.
In my new work as C. SHIROCK, I still use those elements (keyboards, bass, guitars, drums), but I’m also incorporating other instruments, innovative sounds and textures, a lot of programming, layering of voices, etc. As a solo artist it feels like there is endless freedom to chase whatever gets me excited. I’m not limited by the five people on stage. It feels like I can do whatever I want, and as a result it feels more unique to ‘me’ than anything else I’ve ever done.
Why the shift from a band set up to a solo artist?
Not sure I’ve talked it about it as candidly as this before… The honest reason is because as much as I wanted SHIROCK to be a real ‘band,’ it never really was. I grew up looking at bands - the idea of four or five people in the trenches together building from the ground up, sharing in the weight and glory of the whole thing, and that’s what I always hoped for.
Before I even had any actual members I remember doing a photoshoot with four silhouettes against a red backdrop… my brother was there, a friend and my partner at the time. I wanted to have a band so badly! When I really started touring, that was the closest thing to a ‘band’ that I’ve ever experienced. My partner at the time was singing background vocals with me and playing keyboards, and my long time drummer and bass player joined, then later the first guitarist. But as life does, it took people in different directions. We had alternating members, and soon we admitted that what we were doing wasn’t actually a band.
We transitioned SHIROCK to being ‘duo,’ then after a few years, life again took some major turns, and my partner and I separated and later divorced. Even though SHIROCK had always been mostly my project, as I started writing and recording new music I didn’t know if I would release it under SHIROCK, or make shift. I always signed songs I wrote as C. SHIROCK, and after much of consideration I decided I wanted to move forward under a new identity as a solo artist.
All of that said, I view my work as SHIROCK and it’s various iterations, and my continued solo work as C. SHIROCK as one evolution - it’s all my body of work, and I love so much of what I did in the context of SHIROCK. Some of those songs will continue to be performed live, and hold such a special place in my heart.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I find inspiration in all kinds of places - sometimes in things I read, poetry, art or a photograph…but most of my writing comes from my own experiences. The songs I’m most proud of always seem to be the most honest and vulnerable. Where I’ve laid it on the line… they’re the most liberating to sing and perform live, and people tend to respond to those the most. I think that’s my work as an artist - to continue peeling back the layers of emotion and experience, and to say it in the most emotionally compelling way.
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
My favorite producers are still creating incredible work today. Daniel Lanois - I think Daniel Lanoi’s work with Peter Gabriel are the most inspiring records I’ve ever heard. I would love to work with him and see the artist I’d become with his direction. If I could have two, I’d also choose Jack Antonoff - he’s one of my favorite writers and producers right now. He seems to have one foot in the modern pop world, and one foot in a deep rooted craft of song writing - and that might be the best place to be.
Tell us about your single ‘Stand With Me Tonight’. What’s it about?
I wrote this song to my fiancé…. about our meeting and falling in love, and all of the hope and uncertainty held in those first moments. I think it’s my favorite song I’ve ever written… it so perfectly captures the feeling of what life is like for us right now - the lines in the second verse are some I connect with the most.
“Be still sweet heart
It will bend and can break away
And I don’t know
What tomorrow will give or take
But now I recognise
All this could be in time
Give us eyes to see
Will you stand with me tonight”
When did you write it and where did you record it?
I had some of the lyric ideas about a year ago…I was in Nashville mid 2018 writing and recording with my producer Thomas Doeve, and he suggested I stop by this music store to check out some keyboards. I walked in to Vintage King in Berry Hill, and started messing with a few synths. I walked over to a Prophet and started playing - the first thing I played was the keyboard part that starts “Stand With Me Tonight.” I didn’t even change a single setting on the keyboard, it was perfect. I recorded it on my phone, and rushed back to my studio and met Thomas there.
We wrote the majority of ‘Stand With Me Tonight’ that day. I bought a Prophet keyboard about a week later, and we recreated that exact sound. I labored over the lyrics for a week or two wanted to make sure everything I was saying felt true and honest, and then we recorded it. It was a fast one… it was almost too easy. I remember at the end of one session we looked at each other sort of confused. He asked me, “are we done?” I said, “I think so.” And that was it.
How does ‘Stand With Me Tonight’ represent your style?
This song captures some elements that I hope my work continues to embody. The vulnerability in the vocal and the lyric, the power and driving rhythms… I also love how minimal it is. We didn’t overdo it, and every element in the recording belongs and adds to it.
What are you hopes for ‘Stand With Me Tonight’?
I am so proud of this song… I hope this song finds it’s way into the stories of couples and lives over the years. When I first was writing this song I tentatively called it ‘The Prom Song’ (which inspired the music video). I hope that it becomes the backdrop for couples falling in love, having their first moments together, dancing, etc… But if none of this were to happen, at the end of the day it’s for my fiancé and me, and that’s enough for me.
What are your plans for releasing further music in 2019?
‘Stand With Me Tonight’ and ‘Confess Your Love’ are the first two singles from my upcoming full length album / compilation, Evidence of Things Unseen. Music and the means to get it out, are constantly changing, and I want to evolve with times. So for this release, instead of the typical strategy of a few singles, then and album, I wanted to release a constant stream of new content.
The ‘album’ is more of a compilation - with every song released we’re adding it to the official Evidence of Things Unseen Spotify Playlist, leading up to the release mid 2019. Songs will be released every four-to-six weeks, with some music videos and live performances, along the way.
You can follow the playlist here
Can we see you live anywhere?
Yes! We’re working on select live shows over the next few months, and then we’ll be announcing proper tours later this year. I can’t wait to perform - there’s a feeling performing live that brings me to life in ways nothing else can. I can’t wait to take this new music out on the road.
Finally, if you could wish for one thing to happen for you this year, what would it be?
Now you’ve got me thinking about touring! I hope this new music finds a home with people and connects…I hope these songs give me the opportunity to tour.
Watch the video for ‘Stand With Me Tonight’ on YouTube below. For news and tour dates go to cshirock.com.