Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is where it all began for 44-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist Shane Hall. His circuitous life’s journey has taken him to many corners of the world before settling in sunny Oceanside, in 2013, where he is currently visible to many, either busking by the pier, skateboarding on the boardwalk with guitar in hand, or holding court at the Beach Break Cafe.
“My mom, Lois, was a single mom for my first eight years before marrying my stepdad, Harry, who had a son and a daughter, although they didn’t live with us,” Hall recalled. “My mom was pretty strict and would drop the hammer if I messed up. She worked a lot, so I spent a lot of time in Daycare or on my own.” Hall attended Lower Dauphin High in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, where he was a star athlete. In junior year, his football team won their district championship in which Hall played both sides of the ball as a running back and defensive back. “Overall, it was a decent place to grow up,” Hall stated, “although getting out of there was the best decision I made in my young life.”
As far as his musical beginnings, Hall’s first instrument was the flute in third grade. “I hated it…I wanted to love it, but it didn’t love me,” he quipped. “Guitar was next for me. I always had an interest in guitars. I grew up in the early days of MTV, so I’d watch videos of everybody from the big-hair metal bands to the grunge guys and everything else in between,” he reminisced. “I always liked what guitars could do. My stepdad played guitar and was in a folk music group; he was stoked that I was learning guitar at the time.” At age 12, Hall took three months of guitar lessons at his school before abandoning the lessons. “I didn’t like the lessons, but I kept on at home messing around with the guitar,” he concluded. Fortunately for Hall, his mom and stepdad would have regular hootenannies at their house with many playing guitars and singing, which kept a musical vibe ongoing around him.
Speaking of singing, Hall never took formal voice lessons but credits being in his high school chorus group as a valuable step toward what would become a trademark to his future success as a singer/songwriter stylist par excellence. “My chorus teacher, Miss Hummel, was very professional. She taught us how to warm up, how to use our mouths and soft palate along with breathing techniques,” Hall fondly remembered. “Later on, as I tried singing different things, those techniques came in handy. In addition, I found that I could match pitch and hear tunes in which I could replicate the vocal lines.”
In 1997, at age 18, Hall enlisted in the Marines after he was heavily swayed by a Marine recruiter. “A hot shot recruiter talked me into it. He spoke of how the Marine Corps provides everything that I wanted,” Hall vividly recalled. “I spent three months at boot camp on Parris Island,” he recounted, “followed by combat training and combat logistics before I got assigned to a duty station that I figured would be close to home, possibly at Quantico.” Much to Hall’s surprise he was sent to Okinawa, Japan. “I was there for a year,” Hall stated, “It was actually good for me being away from the states and my small hometown. I gained new worldly experiences being overseas.”
After that initial deployment, Hall got to choose his next destination. His roommate talked him into going to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside. “He said ‘California is beautiful, the base is on the beach and Tijuana is close by,’ at which at that point I was sold. After a year and a half at Pendleton, Hall was nearing the obligatory four-year commitment, but he was persuaded to stay in. “They told me to stick around and emphasized that I was in good shape, with a corporal E-4 rank and no war going on at the time in 2000. They said that I could re-enlist and get stationed in Rome, Italy…that talked me into it.” That turned into a four-year stint there as Hall elevated his rank to staff sergeant.
After that Hall had dual deployments to Iraq, one of them to the city of Fellujah. “I was a senior person there running operational things for nearly nine months. I kicked ass there, took some names, and got all my people back that were directly under me,” he noted. After returning to Camp Pendleton for the next four months, he was then redeployed to Japan before he finished his service at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in 2013.
BRIGHT LIGHTS AND BIG STAGES
Hall’s journey as a singer/songwriter/guitarist began in 2001 as he recounted his first performances. “I jammed with a couple other of my military roommates on acoustic guitars back then,” he recalled. “I wrote my first song in 2001 and started doing solo acoustic shows when I was stationed in Italy, before I eventually hooked up with fellow Marine Josh Rubenstein, who played and sang a ton of cover tunes. He prompted me to start playing lead guitar behind him and told me to just figure it out. Our band name was “Spoonfed Cool.” After Josh moved back to New Jersey, I hooked up with another guy, Dave Loris, in a similar duo format before I left Italy and came home to form the Side Project, which was just me and a drummer. I like that format a lot,” he said.
Shane Hall, “Tomorrow.”
When back in Japan between 2010-2012 Hall stepped up his game. “I put together a trio and began incorporating electric guitar as well as acoustic guitar into my shows in addition to getting a solo guitar residency at an Okinawa bar called Shenanigans…those were key years in my development as a performing artist.”
Hall gradually made his presence known as a full time working musician in Southern California upon his return to civilian life in 2013. Local radio host and concert promoter Cathryn Beeks was one of the first contacts Hall made upon his return to begin his full-time musical sojourn: “I booked him at the House of Blues and he slayed,” Beeks recalled. “He instantly became a favorite on my Listen Local radio show. There are only good things to say about Shane…he’s talented, humble, and a cool guy.”
“It was a taxing campaign,” Hall surmised, “but it was exactly what I had to do. I had to infiltrate the scene. I attended shows to get my name around while simultaneously playing wineries, bars, and restaurants to make money,” he emphasized. “Eventually I was playing four to six nights a week in solo and trio formats as I was building my brand.”
Eventually his persistence and talent paid off as Hall became a popular performing artist on many high visibility venues across San Diego County, including the Belly Up, Java Joe’s, the Casbah, the Pour House, Tin Roof, and the Music Box, often expanding his band to include keyboardists, violinists, and backup singers, one being violinist Anna Zinova, who said, “He’s one of the hardest working musicians I’ve ever known and is always an absolute joy to spend time with.”
Local concert promoter Ken Rexrode took notice of Hall’s rising star and featured him in some of his varied show venues. “We met almost 10 years ago. I’ve watched him rise to where he is today. He’s a great combination of talent, heart, and drive, but most of all he’s just a really nice guy. I am proud to call him a friend.” Radio and concert host Claudia Russell also weighed in: “What I’ve always appreciated about Shane is the authenticity of his sound. The soulfulness he exudes is not an affectation for the stage, it’s a true expression of his spirit and connection to the music.”
Hall hit the jackpot in 2018 when he got an invitation to perform at the KAABOO Music Festival in Del Mar. “It was the first major festival I got booked for,” he said, beaming. Hall credits much of his musical ascension to festival stages through his playing experiences at the Prohibition Club in the Gaslamp district in downtown San Diego. “I played there four times a month for five years. My trio really ripped there. I got my stage presence together, learned how to play through distraction without fear, and learned how to troubleshoot stage issues on the fly.” Then there was also the 2019 Wonderfront Festival in San Diego, another major festival featuring national artists where Hall played with the three-piece reggae-rock band, Pepper. “That was an awesome show,” Hall recounted.
THE WRITING PROCESS
The often-asked question for every songwriter is what comes first, the words or the music? Hall was very concise in his response. “Basically, I write riffs and or chord progressions first, nine times out of ten, then I decide on a concept for my tune followed by writing the words. I then cement my style into a conversational vehicle, like singing, playing, and writing conversationally. Once I learned that, my writing became much easier. I also found that the words you cut leaves more room for the singing and leaves more room for inflections which makes the audience feel emotions.” As far as his songs having any main theme or messaging, Hall was clear on that point. “Somewhat. I find that the older I get, the more opinions I have, but usually I’m communicating through my words with myself, a person, or situation,” he explained.
Hall’s first album was titled Less Than Vintage in 2011, a full-length album that he looked back on in full disclosure. “I put out that album as a means to an end so I could have CDs to sell at shows. I really didn’t know much about recording techniques.” Thick Teeth, in 2013, was next up. “That was my first crack at a more electrified record. I went harder on the recording art of things, but my execution of it wasn’t great; I didn’t do my gear research and I didn’t have a set band,” Hall noted. In 2017, Human Condition became Hall’s first big accomplishment, recording wise. “It’s a really good record; I put a lot of work into it,” Hall stated enthusiastically. “There’s a lot of important songs to me on that album.”
In 2018, Hall got signed to LAW Records, which led up to his successful West, River, Queen album in 2019. “It was a huge step up from my previous records,” Hall said. “I had all these songs that were all over the place genre-wise, so I released them as three separate EPs, each genre specific, West being a heavy blues vibe, River was Americana-outlaw country, and Queen was an R&B-Soul vibe,” Hall concluded. The album won in the Best Blues Album category at the 2020 San Diego Music Awards ceremony.
His next album, in 2021, was Slow, a four-track EP released amid the Covid era. “It was the first record I played keys on,” Hall said. Additionally, in 2021, Hall released a cover version of Sublime’s “Under My Voodoo” as a single from a compilation album titled The House That Bradley Built. His current 2023 album, Howl & Sway on Pacific Records and produced by the esteemed Joe Marlett, was on the ballot for Grammy consideration. “Just getting on the ballot is a level up,” Hall beamed, “although we didn’t get in.” However, he remarked. “the album has hit #1 on the iTunes Blues charts.”
Two mainstream albums are in the hopper with his side project, Shane Hall/Coupe DVLLE, a guitar/drums duo, in addition to his next two full-length records titled Ships and True Blue, a tribute to the blues, one Hall is very much looking forward to. “I’ve always had an affinity for the blues,” Hall espoused. “What I like the most about the blues is the dark visceral side of that music. I want people to hear a different take that I have on the blues. Nowadays, the blues is so watered down… it’s not always supposed to be a happy and peppy groove that you hear so often.”
“Each year I try to find a way to elevate [my music] higher with my brand on stage and in the recording studio. Every year yields new opportunities and I feel that I have the ability to roll one opportunity into another. The business side of things is almost equally as fun as the music side of things. Most people don’t have both the artistic brain and the business brain, but I do,” he stated confidently.
Hall concluded with some instructive words to those out there within public earshot. “Stay tuned and commit to going to your favorite musicians’ shows. It doesn’t work unless you buy tickets and support their music. If you like what you hear, tell your friends…it’s all about a community bonding together.”