SPOTLIGHT: Q&A with Singer/Songwriter, Michael Shynes

This sought-after acoustic performer is bringing his artistic talents to the events world. Get to know him and why you need to book him for your wedding!
Written by
Laura Cross

Michael Shynes, a Minnesota-based singer/songwriter, is one of the hardest working musicians in the Midwest. If you don't already know him, you'll soon fall in love with his music as this incredibly talented performer is bringing his acousting stylings to couple's weddings - and you need to know about him.

We recently sat down with Shynes to talk about how he got his start in music, his creative process, why he loves weddings and where you can find him when he's not playing to an audience. 

Tell us a little about yourself!
I am a married father of three living out in the country. We have about 5 acres with 13 chickens, 3 cats, and 2 dogs. Most of the time you can find me writing songs in my home studio, cheering on our hopelessly cursed Minnesota sports franchises, hanging with the family, or out performing at ticketed or private events.

What first got you into music?
We used to take trips to my grandparent’s farm growing up, and my uncle left behind this bag full of cassette tapes when he went to college. I remember putting them into the player one after another and feeling the way that a song could take me away from my current emotional and physical state. It was a vehicle or form of transportation. I was hooked and I wanted that superpower, to be able to do that to others.

Who or what are your biggest musical influences?
I remember hearing the open acoustic tunings of the Goo Goo Dolls and that was maybe the biggest one. But ultimately life brought the greatest inspiration. The needing to express certain things that I seemingly couldn’t in everyday conversation. I would say origami folded notes and middle school breakups, along with never really feeling like I belonged, that’s what led me to music and the magic of emotional transportation.

How would you describe the music you typically create?
It is in so many places generally. From pop to folk to R&B to a little bit of rock. But the ultimate intent is to create things that are authentic. So my hope would be that it is always genuine and from the heart of the moment. Technically, I would call it all vocal and melodically driven story music.

"Stylistically, he is difficult to pigeonhole because his sound amalgamates many different flavors, blending R&B, pop and blues into awesomely immediate melodies, evocative lyrics and contagious rhythms. Michael Shynes really has it going on." 
-The Huffington Post

What kind of singer would you classify yourself?

Definitely not a formally trained one. My process was recording myself over and over again until I could stand to listen to myself. I guess I would classify myself as a folk singer, simply because I still, romantically, believe that story matters and it should always be the most important thing. As musicians I think we are providing a service. We are helping people try to process the world in all of its good and bad. There are lots of both. I would love to be classified as a singer that tries to bring peace to a restless mind.

What does your creative process look like?
Generally I’m just looking for a point of inspiration. Whether it's a chord progression, a drum groove, a conversation with my dentist. It really doesn’t matter. Just need that spark to get going. And then from there I’m generally okay. Sometimes just the sound of a synth or an ambient texture will prompt an entire song.

What famous musicians do you most admire?
Folks like David Gray, Amos Lee, John Mayer. Artists that never had to sacrifice their artistic integrity in order to get where they wanted to go. That’s the dream. And also to be able to live somewhat anonymously when not performing. I’ve never been someone who enjoys the spotlight. Moreso I’d always love to be able to redirect the spotlight to the songs and the work. Those are the elements that mean the most to me.

Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?
Near a body of water. It has always been that way. It reminds me that I’m a small part of this whole world and life thing. I always say ‘if you think you’re really something go stand next to the ocean.’ I think the best music is made from a place of humbling yourself, being honest, and accepting that the possibilities are endless. Water reminds me of that. Probably why our house sits between a lake and a river.

When it comes to weddings specifically, tell us about your process.
Well the cool thing is you are booking with a couple. We are a family run operation here with my wife handling the booking process. Its as simple as going to and hitting contact. Everything goes to her from there. And that has been a gift because she knows me so well. She knows how seriously I take every gig and what my motivations are. Where a traditional agent is likely looking to leverage the best pay day for themselves, here we are more focused on delivering the best quality and working with people’s budgets and expectations.

Generally Madie gets all the logistic and paperwork side taken care of and then passes the clients on to me for specific song selections and ensuring my approach matches their vision for the day. I have so much experience in this arena now, that it has become a fast process. Nothing needs to be timed out as far as ceremony music since I can watch and feel the best way to intro and outro the music. That’s one of those 10,000 hours things, there is no substitute for experience when something doesn’t go as planned in a wedding situation. I’ve learned to remain calm and trust my instincts.

The other part would be surrounding myself with the best musicians on both a human and talent level. I feel like a very rich man in that regard.

How do you energize an audience?
I would say my intention is more to inspire and connect. And that creates energy. I am not trying to be the ‘hype’ guy. I am trying to turn your wedding into a movie where you are the main characters. Great music is timeless in nature. People know it when they hear it. That’s the goal. And if you need to pull them in more I have some moves to try, but that’s more the last resort. I want to go for your heart first, and if I can’t get that I’ll try another way.

Do you often collaborate with other musicians when you perform, or do you typically perform solo?
All of the above. I generally perform with my violinist (who is so much more than just a violinist) David Gerald Sutton. And then for anything bigger I partner with Andre Rodriguez and The Silver Alchemist Band as I believe they are the best in the Midwest. And are actually composed of many of the musicians I use when performing my original music with a full band in theaters or larger venues.

What has been your favorite performance of your career so far?
I got to sing for 70 thousand people in the mountains of Zakapone Poland on New Year's Eve after a song I sang went viral in Europe. That was wild. And then also selling out my first Theater show at the 800 seat Paramount Theater in Saint Cloud. I spent a decade in that town playing bar gigs and never thought I would get a night like that. So it was everything. Still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.

What is your favorite part about performing at weddings specifically?
The cinematic nature of them. The fact that you only get the one chance to make it a moment for these couples who have entrusted you with their day. And then when you nail it, and you see how much it meant to them. That’s what I love. I love helping people. And giving them the best possible wedding soundtrack is extremely gratifying and fun.

What is next for you in your music career?
To grow as an artist and continue honing my craft. Focusing on the things you can’t control is a recipe for unhappiness. I believe that if I become a better man then I will write better music. So my goals are to continue being a better husband and father, and to always write from the heart. Most of the goals I had have already been passed. Because I never had high expectations for anything. I just wanted to do it full time and provide through music. My dreams have already come true. So I’d love to help other artists and continue making work that I am proud of.

Check out a video from one of Shynes' original wedding songs 'Next To You' and view more of his live performances here