Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 13°C

min temp: 6°C

Search

Tony’s epic road trip to discover America’s musical soul

PUBLISHED: 12:27 21 August 2017

Tony James Shevlin on stage in Knuckleheads, Kansas City, during his three month roadtrip which lead to the recording of American Odyssey, his new album taking a fresh-look at life in the USA. Photo: Tony Shevlin

Tony James Shevlin on stage in Knuckleheads, Kansas City, during his three month roadtrip which lead to the recording of American Odyssey, his new album taking a fresh-look at life in the USA. Photo: Tony Shevlin

bwolski - Fotolia

Singer-songwriter Tony James Shevlin has just recorded a new album which details a three month tour of the back roads of the USA. Arts editor Andrew Clarke met up with the musician who has a taste for Americana

Tony James Shevlin, the Suffolk singer-songwriter who has just played in Nashville, the home of country music Tony James Shevlin, the Suffolk singer-songwriter who has just played in Nashville, the home of country music

Singer-songwriter Tony James Shevlin has always been bewitched by the names of iconic US towns and cities immortalised in classic American songs. In an attempt to visualise places like Kanas City, Phoenix and Amarillo, he devised a three-month road trip – just him, a car and a guitar. The result was enough new songs to fill an album, which he has just recorded called, appropriately enough, American Odyssey.

The road trip came in the wake of his previous album Songs From The Last Chance Saloon which had been picked by US Country radio and independent stations across America,

The Ipswich-native said: “One of the songs on Last Chance saloon was Run ‘Til We Drop which was hinting at what American Odyssey would become. It was about the freedom of life on the road and having the freedom to take a chance.

“American Odyssey was a huge gamble – sending me off to play America on a three month tour. The record company who put out Last Chance Saloon said we’re getting a lot of foot-fall from the States, lots of sales and downloads, we think you should go out there and try and sell it some more.

Tony James Shevlin outside Bluebird Cafe, Nashville, on his three month roadtrip which lead to the recording of American Odyssey, his new album taking a fresh-look at life in the USA. Photo: Tony Shevlin Tony James Shevlin outside Bluebird Cafe, Nashville, on his three month roadtrip which lead to the recording of American Odyssey, his new album taking a fresh-look at life in the USA. Photo: Tony Shevlin

“So we went to all the local independent radio stations that were playing the album and asked them to recommend somewhere to play. The first place we approached was a club called Reggie’s in Chicago and said: ‘Tony’s coming to the US, would you like him to play at your venue?’ and their response was: ‘Great when cane he come?’ And that was the response all over.

“When we had done all the suggestions from the radio stations then it was pretty much looking at the map and going: ‘We’ve got Chicago and Kanas City, what’s in-between? St Louis - okay let’s book something there.”

Out on the road, Tony found that songs came naturally to him as he was driving. “Every town that’s name-checked on the album I have actually been to. I had a portable voice recorder in the car which I used to compose and sing into while I was driving. I also found once I got back home and started to arrange the songs that virtually all the songs I composed on the road were in the key of D because I was clearly influenced by the background sound of the car wheels running on the tarmac.”

Tony, who had all ready made friends with musicians and songwriters in Nashville, on previous visits used the capital of country music as a base before heading out on the road.

Tony James Shevlin on stage in Colorado Springs during his three month roadtrip which lead to the recording of American Odyssey, his new album taking a fresh-look at life in the USA. Photo: Tony Shevlin Tony James Shevlin on stage in Colorado Springs during his three month roadtrip which lead to the recording of American Odyssey, his new album taking a fresh-look at life in the USA. Photo: Tony Shevlin

“I arrived with just the clothes on my back and suitcase. That was it. I hired a car and spent an entire day buying a new guitar when I got in. It was a Martin acoustic and spent the first week just playing and jamming with my friends in Nashville, finding the sweet spots, getting the feel of it before heading out on my great adventure.

“I made a decision very early on that I was doing this trip alone. It really was just going to be me, a car and a guitar because it would force me to meet people, speak to people and actually see the country. If you have someone with you, it is so easy to sit back and let them do the talking or decide on the route. If this was going to be an American Odyssey, it was going to be my American Odyssey.”

Another decision was that if time and geography permitted he would avoid the big inter-state highways and take the back roads through the small towns and where possible travel as much as he could on the fabled Route 66, the east-west road immortalised in the early rock’n’roll song.

“Also, you have no idea of the distances involved. I did one mad 12 hour drive from Kanas City to get to the next gig which I only just made and on another occasion I had been driving for two days and I was still in Texas.”

Tony James Shevlin going full Elvis at Sun Studios in Memphis, birthplace of rock'n'roll, during his three month roadtrip which lead to the recording of American Odyssey, his new album taking a fresh-look at life in the USA. Photo: Tony Shevlin Tony James Shevlin going full Elvis at Sun Studios in Memphis, birthplace of rock'n'roll, during his three month roadtrip which lead to the recording of American Odyssey, his new album taking a fresh-look at life in the USA. Photo: Tony Shevlin

Tony also paid some musical tributes along the way visiting the graves of blues pioneer Robert Johnson, country titan Hank Williams and soul legend Arthur Alexander as well as some famed recording studios including Sun Studios in Memphis where Elvis, BB King, Howling Wolf and Jerry Lee Lewis cut their early sides, along with the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

“But the people were so friendly. My accent was great at opening up doors, particularly in the south and in the small towns where they don’t see a lot of tourists or British people. I stayed with one couple in Alabama who I had met crossing the road in Miami. They loved my voice, I invited them to have a beer with me and they offered to put me up when I came through Alabama and that’s what they did.

“The album is a true reflection of my trip. It’s a musical diary, full of impressions and thoughts from my time on the road.”

American Odyssey by Tony James Shevlin is available to buy online from itunes or as a CD from www.tonyjamesshevlin.com

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Strictly Come Dancing champion and actress Joanne Clifton takes me behind the scenes of Flashdance - The Musical at the Ipswich Regent this week.

For an opening night, one might expect some hesitant performances as the cast get used to their new home; but right from the opening number, Steeltown Sky, the cast kept the energy high and Joanne Clifton showed her class with a cameo dance routine, the first of many.

Actor, writer, comedian and broadcaster Angus Deayton talks about resurrecting hit series Radio Active without his friend Geoffrey Perkins, modern comedy and life after Leveson.

The Encore Dance Company, featuring students about to graduate from the third year of their sixth form at the prestigious Tring Park School for the Performing Arts in Hertfordshire, are visiting Ipswich’s Jerwood DanceHouse.

A painting that threatens to wreck the friendship of three men is the subject of smash hit comedy Art. Stephen Tompkinson tells us how he is having a ball being reunited with Nigel Havers and Denis Lawson for its 20th anniversary tour.

In a week where news of war dominates and once again ordinary people just like you and me are being plunged into yet more suffering, Kinder Transport, a play about the evacuation of Jewish children from Nazi Germany feels desperately timely.

The Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds, has announced its line up for the autumn season with a raft of productions and entertainers set to visit the restored Regency venue.

Waveney Light Opera Group hopes audiences will get on their plates of meat for its production of My Fair Lady.

Katherine Ryan is best known for her caustic comedy style on panel shows such as Mock the Week and 8 Out of 10 Cats,

Most read

Show Job Lists

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24