I first met Mike Shackelford when he helped run sound for my band, The Underground, at Applejacks. (Yeah--that long ago!) I've been in and out of many bands since then and Applejacks has been gone for decades, yet Mike Shackelford still remains on the Jacksonville scene, playing music every week. He has one of the most consistent and longest lasting fanbases of anyone in North Florida.
Mike hosts a Songwriters Night once a month in Atlantic Beach. Up to twenty songwriters a night get up and play their songs in front of a very attentive audience. This could be a nerve-wracking experience for an amateur not used to playing in front of people, yet Mike goes out of his way to make it an easy, relaxed experience for all involved. Many a musician in this town considers Mike a friend as well as an inspiration.
Mike: My sound is built around the acoustic guitar.
harmonica to embellish the sound when I perform, also using
piano, organ, sax, electric and acoustic guitars when the
performance venue allows band format.
Roy: What is your songwriting process? Are you a words first kind of writer or does melody come first?
Mike: My process is what ever gets me going...
one time I pick up the guitar and something happens, other times
words flow and then the guitar comes into play--sometimes a
picture from my past, a scene in a movie, a song from someone
else will light a fire deep within and open a door... I just go
with whatever inspires me to write.
Roy: How much time do you generally spend on a song?
Mike: Never the same, from minutes to months and sometimes
years to piece several unfinished songs together into the song I
end up with.
Roy: Has your songwriting process changed in any way over the years? What have you learned from previous songs you've written?
Mike: Not really too much, although as a young songwriter
to try to force the issue too often. Sometimes successfully and sometimes not so much.
What I have learned is to listen to the
song and follow its voice.
Roy: Can a song change after you play it in front of people?
Mike: Yes, playing a song live will let me know what if my
instincts regarding structure are on target. In rehearsal
something may work and live be slightly off.
Roy: Can you name a few of your favorite songwriters and why they are important to you and tell us what you have learned from them.
Mike: Kris Kristofferson was huge for me when
I started playing guitar, writing, and performing. loved his
words and the raw approach to his style. Dylan, Neil Young, John
Prine, John Stewart, Springsteen, Van Morrison were influences
as well.... Beatles, Stones, Tom Petty... way too many to name
Roy: What are a few of your influences outside of songwriting--that is, who or what has inspired you to write songs that has nothing to do with music?
Mike: I have been inspired to write songs before due to
family, friends, rain, sadness, frustration with social
events... once again, too many to name.
Roy: You host the Songwriter's Night in Atlantic Beach every month. What have you learned from this experience?
Mike: I have learned more and more how important music is to
the soul. I am forever thankful that I am part of that process
for so many people. I am very fortunate!!
Roy: Can you tell me how “Krisha’s Song” came to be written?
Mike: Started out just a song about being
there for someone in need and really did take on a new life as I
watched my daughter Krisha go thru some hard and difficult
Roy: How about “Roll On”?
Mike: "Roll On" was my attempt to add a rock
song to my band's play list. Music first on this one and the
words flew as if someone was talking in my ear. The first verse
was directed at how we, as a society, judge too often the look
and status of someone before even speaking to them. Second verse
was a reflection of my youth and the death of my early political
ideals and dreams (the Kennedys, Martin Luther King) and was
written during the time when I was watching a dear and wonderful
friend fight for his life. The third verse was a reflection of
the birth of my children and the pure beauty of being there at
that moment. The bridge, I hope, ties it all together.
Roy: What’s your favorite song to play in front of a new crowd of listeners and why?
Mike: Whatever I'm feeling strong and emotional about.
Roy: How do you deal with criticism?
Mike: I hope, well :) After so many years of performing,
learned that you can't please everyone. I respect all types of
music and artists and I hope they will grant me the same
respect. In the end, I always put my heart and soul on the line
and go from there.
Roy: How do you deal with writer's block?
Mike: I don't let it rule my process... if a song is there it is, if not, re-work old songs, play a favorite cover, create a vibe, cup of coffee, watch baseball, hug a grandchild, whatever it takes... "some see the world in black and white, some see the colors true... some folks stand and watch and some folks dance"
Check out Mike's official website for information on his CD and gigs:
And as an added bonus: Mike's first promo shot, 1973, at Keeneland Racetrack, Lexington, KY!
Hey Mike, what ever happened to that guitar?