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Shayna Adler: “Build camp for the night”

“Gam zeh ya’avor.” This too shall pass. I’ve been through a lot: some of it my own making, some of it my family’s, some of it from people I’ve allowed into my life. But no matter how bad things have gotten, l always have been able to move forward. But the same saying goes for […]

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“Gam zeh ya’avor.” This too shall pass. I’ve been through a lot: some of it my own making, some of it my family’s, some of it from people I’ve allowed into my life. But no matter how bad things have gotten, l always have been able to move forward. But the same saying goes for the good things, which is why you have to count your blessings and be grateful for every moment.


As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Shayna Adler.

There are few things about Shayna Adler that walk outside the whimsical. Her aesthetics speak fiction-fantasy, and her music is a world in itself. Shayna’s marvelously illustrated songwriting is a Folk-Rock wonder of adventures and storytelling.

Heavily influenced by American Folk and Country music, Celtic music, and 1960’s-1970’s Psychedelic Folk Rock such as Jethro Tull or The Byrds, Shayna’s recordings are filled with layers and otherworldly dimensions; an acoustic orchestra traveling by caravan…Feminism and self-empowerment are a constant underlying theme in her songs.

Shayna’s self-produced LP Album, Wander, is 9-song labor of love that was created at Horse Latitudes Studios in Glendale, California. It’s been a project in the works since mid 2018. Wander features the talents of Mark Christian (Merle Jagger), Mario Calire (The Wallflowers), Alexis Sklarevski (Crosby, Stills & Nash), Greg Liesz (Bon Iver), and more. Every song is being produced like a painting, with Shayna developing the rhythm parts during pre-production, and the tracks being developed and recorded one part at a time, “It’s been a lengthy process, but what we’ve created could never have been cut live in a few days and still have the same depth.” Subliminally cinematic and orchestral in arrangement, these original songs pass between modern Americana and 1970’s Psychedelia: with unexpected chord changes, atmospheric synths, and strange twists and turns that follow the storylines instead of a chart.

A concept album, “It follows the fantastical story of one woman,” explains Shayna, “which became clear when I chose the songs, and I actually wrote a couple more just for this album — they were missing chapters.” Everything is detailed and deliberate when it comes to Shayna, and she is uncompromising when it comes to vision. “As I’ve been exploring this concept, it’s taken on a life in itself. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but it really is a journey — in both the whimsical sense and the philosophical. Discovering who you are and what you’re made of is not all sunshine and flowers. This album is the story about how one person figured out just what they were made of, at a time when they had thought they’d seen everything. And when they thought they had nothing left, there was so much more.” Wander will be released on October 30th, 2020.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I don’t consider my childhood to be how I grew up. Something most people don’t know about me is that I’ve spent over twenty-years riding horses.

I was born in Long Beach, California, and bounced back and forth between there and Orange County over the years; my parents were divorced. I went to Farrier school at seventeen, spending a hot summer hammering steel on anvils. I became a horse trainer and instructor. When I was eighteen, I lived in Ireland for a short while at an Irish Draught breeding farm. It was a rewarding, but a brutally-difficult time. I worked hard, I partied hard, I was sick and unhealthy, and upon returning to California in 2007, I began to slowly burn out from the horse world.

I was working every moment I wasn’t in school. My body was spent. I’d been kicked, dragged, bitten, thrown, sprained, and broken in every which way from my years in stables. I started working every terrible part-time job that could be found on Craigslist — coffee shops, bikini bars, grocery stores, restaurants, theme parks… I often worked two jobs. I had grown into an introverted, miserable adult, unable to see eye-to-eye with most people my own age, tired, and just really clueless. My divorce left me homeless and couch surfing for a short while, and by the time I was twenty-six, I had hit rock-bottom. I had never been more insecure, and I really didn’t know myself anymore.

I was probably always an artist, but never let that part of myself come to the surface in a way that was enriching and fulfilling. I’ve dabbled in dance, theater, crafts, sewing costumes, and music since I was a kid. Most of my family never saw value in it, and being any kind of artist wasn’t a “real job” unless you began as something of a child prodigy. When I would explore the possibility of becoming a professional anything, they would tell me I was already too old to get started. But here I am at thirty-two, and I’m a recording artist releasing my first album. And you know what, even if I was seventy-four years old writing this, it would still be the right thing.

And that’s the story of how I grew up. Because I wasn’t grown up at eighteen. I grew up when I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted a life I could be proud of: to be happy. Art is the only thing that ever made me happy.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

My marriage was failing, and I began to focus on what would improve my quality of life and make me happy. I knew I needed to reinvent myself. I had to sit down and think about all the things about me that I knew to be true — my loves and passions. Music was on the top of the list. I had some experience working live theater shows in school and even running the sound, so I began researching Audio Engineering schools in the area, and discovered Musicians Institute, Hollywood. I was confident that I could learn fast and do well. I enrolled and graduated in 2014. Being immersed in musicians and artists while I was in school, I was inspired and began to share my songs with others. I began to work as a recording engineer and touring technician, and eventually as a tour manager for a Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame guitarist. With some encouragement from my colleague, Michael Dumas, at the recording studio where I worked, I started to grow confidence in pursuing a life as an artist. I loved that I could record, produce, write, play, and sing my own songs.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

These past few years have been nothing but learning, but that’s a good thing. I hope I never stop learning things or growing. Being a performer is really fun, but it’s something that’s still evolving for me. When I first started playing live, I would sing while my friend played guitar. I wasn’t thinking about connecting with an audience, or how I looked while I was onstage. I was focused on how I sounded. My vision would blur and everything would melt away, like warm marshmallows in hot chocolate. Performing was the best feeling in the world. However, eventually I set up my phone to video record a performance at a coffee shop, and realized I looked like a Wall Street statue. My hands were glued to the microphone stand for dear life! And even though I looked comfortable and happy, I’m pretty sure I would have attracted crows at shows longer than 30 minutes. Whoops! In learning this, it made me more conscious of connecting with the people I was playing for while I was performing. It’s not just about the music, it’s about the connection.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Over the last, almost three years, I started producing my first album, which is called ‘Wander.’

As a musical artist, I’m definitely of the “Americana persuasion,” but things like wizards and goblins are typically not subjects you’ll hear in Americana, Country, or Bluegrass songs. I’m really into fiction-fantasy, renaissance fairies, RPG video games, myths and legends, etc., and I wanted to incorporate the things I love into my music, even if that meant I wasn’t going to be doing something mainstream. I’m just being myself.

‘Wander’ is my concept record that follows the fantastical journey of one woman. It blends orchestral, cinematic, synth-forward elements with acoustic and electric guitars, and of course, adventurous storytelling! Lyrically, it’s poetic and metaphoric, because I wanted the listener to discover their own journey in the songs. I wanted it to be an escape. The official release date is October 30th 2020. I can’t wait for you to hear it!

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

In most of my audio engineering classes at Musicians Institute, I was the only woman. In a few, there were maybe 1–2 others. It was all young men. I found it intimidating, and I would think other young women, without seeing much in the way of women working technical jobs in the entertainment industry, would think it was a career path that was out of reach, or that maybe they shouldn’t even try. Only about 2% of engineers and music producers in the industry are female. Women are absolutely undervalued and under-represented in the music industry.

I think diversity, especially in entertainment and film, opens up the world to new talent and takes us to new heights. It breaks down limitations and prejudices set against particular races, genders, cultures, or sexual orientations. It educates and exposes people to a broader, more open view of people different from themselves. It makes all of us better people, and makes the world a better place for everyone. There are a lot of undiscovered, talented people out there who have been denied opportunities in the arts because of their race, gender, or culture, and the whole world suffers for it.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I know that when I’m feeling burned out, my procrastination kicks in. I begin hiding from what I should be doing. I tend to bite off more work that I can chew, and my stress really gets to me, but I’ve learned to ask for help when I’m getting overwhelmed. Being open to help is the same as being open to opportunities, in my opinion.

I would say that the most important thing you can do is to recognize it and acknowledge it, because otherwise it just gets worse. It’s good to acknowledge that what we do is not easy. Working any job in entertainment tends to be a 24/7 endeavor, either from the hustle of self-employment or the simple fact that the entertainment industry doesn’t sleep. Touring, managing, producing, rehearsing…any of that can be really, really exhausting. Other people can be tiring, draining. Rejection and stress can suck the life out of you. So, making time for yourself is key, things as simple as going on a walk or watching a good movie might be enough to recharge. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Or, if you’re super nerdy like me… every epic journey tends to pause at night to camp by a roaring fire and tell stories under the stars, to recharge for the travels of the next day — think about the Hobbits in the Lord of the Rings series. I think it’s so easy to take the business side of the arts so personally that we forget to “build camp for the night” and watch the stars.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve already mentioned him in this interview, but most definitely, Michael Dumas. I could not be more grateful for his help and support, and believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. As an engineer and producer, his wealth of experience has been a privilege to learn from. He’s worked with artists like Dwight Yoakam and Lucinda Williams.

We’ve worked countless sessions together at the studio, and his work has become an exemplar for my own. Without Michael, my album wouldn’t exist. He really has helped change the course of my life, and I am one lucky duck.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Gam zeh ya’avor.” This too shall pass. I’ve been through a lot: some of it my own making, some of it my family’s, some of it from people I’ve allowed into my life. But no matter how bad things have gotten, l always have been able to move forward. But the same saying goes for the good things, which is why you have to count your blessings and be grateful for every moment.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

One of my musical heroes is absolutely Brandi Carlile. She is incredibly brave, perseverant, ahead of her time, and has the voice of a goddess! Her life and music have inspired me in so many ways. Her songs are honest, imaginative, and well-crafted. As a producer, she’s a force to be reckoned with. She has the most beautiful little family. Brandi would definitely be at the top of my list for a breakfast date! She gives me courage.

How can our readers follow you online?

Please follow my adventures! Thanks for having me.

http://shayna.world
http://facebook.com/shaynaadler
http://instagram.com/shaynaadler
http://shaynaadler.bandcamp.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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