Guest Star: Stitely’s own Shana Gray

Today’s Guest Star is Stitely’s own Shana Gray. By day she works in Stitely Entertainment‘s office, but by night she is an accomplished singer and songwriter. Whether Shana is singing jazz, pop or folk, she brings her earth-shattering voice and contagious enthusiasm to every performance. From her contributions to numerous bands throughout the years to her solo endeavors, she is a woman on the move. Stitely was thrilled to be able to catch her in between gigs for this interview!

Stitely Entertainment: What music are you listening to right now?

Shana Gray: I tend to listen a variety; live performances from Youtube, KCRW’s Eclectic 24, Last FM radio, etc. This week I’m listening to 10CC, Burt Bacharach, Mark Ronson, and  from Jim Dinou & Danny Shaffer.

SE: Who or what inspired you to be a professional musician?

Shana Gray

SG: My parents were both lifelong successful touring jazz musicians. While I was growing up, and to this day, they had a strong influence on me. I hold tremendous respect for them, risking whatever necessary to share, perform and express themselves positively through music. You might say I was born inspired, considering by junior high school I’d completed numerous fine arts summer programs and was ‘secretly singing’ in my bedroom every afternoon after school. Eventually I could no longer suppress my desire to sing publicly so I tiptoed out of my bedroom and into the real world. At that time radio was a huge influence on me, as well as the music-infused TV variety shows, all the singer/songwriter LPs, and scores from movie soundtracks. During  high school my band director also directed the marching band. He became my mentor because he was bombastic, sensitive, and really cared about student’s current interests and opinions. I thanked him by assisting in coordinating music students for his summer Fine Arts programs.

SE: What’s your craziest event story?

SG: While working for years as a freelance jobbing vocalist, I’ve witnessed a multitude of crazy situations. Once a bride called us on the cell phone on the way to the hotel ballroom who informed us she chose a new song for her first dance, which was to take place in roughly 45 minutes. I bought the tune, replayed it a good 10 times in a row, scribbling lyric cues on scratch paper, and on my palm in ink.  Forty-five minutes later after speeches and cake cutting the time had come for the first dance.  I glanced down at my hand and of course the ink had sweated off, and I could barely read my writing on the scratch paper.  But when the music started, I sang through the song and tried not to look nervous.  The vocal was convincing, but the band struggled since they were also working off self-written shorthand lead-sheets.  Afterward, everyone applauded the performance, and the party continued.  The situation felt crazy and out of control to me.  But it was in that moment when you learn the strength of your ensemble.  As competent musicians, we all want the music to be right, every time. Experiencing situations like these for many years wound up providing me with great tools for adapting, reassuring, customizing, and accommodating the needs of the client, and also served as a great reminder to leave my opinion at the door, unless asked. My job is to show up prepared, and to serve the party and client in the best way possible.Shana Gray

SE: Do you have any regular gigs?

SG: In the last 15 years so I’ve had numerous “steadies” in Chicago and Los Angeles.  It feels great to now schedule projects (recordings, live work, guest voice) when I’m in the mood to.  Currently, I’m co-writing locally and long-distance with musician/producers in Chicago and LA, and am in the infancy stages of writing a second record. My next full-band set will take place on October 13th at Nichols Hall within the Music Institute in downtown Evanston with my group “Under The Radar” featuring some fantastic players. I’m also in the beginning stages of planning a third evening featuring the works of Joni Mitchell at either The Wilmette Theatre, or at SPACE in Evanston, in Jan/Feb of 2012.

SE: Do you play in any other groups?

SG: I’ve been involved in a number of successful original music groups including Brother Brother, Dish Water Lake, Peking Turtle, Kari Nelson Band, Miga, Ellen Rosner, Anne Harris, Jade Maze, and numerous others. As co-founder of Chicago’s long-running tribute band, Tributosaurus, I began a female version, entitled Ladies of the Canyon Present. I’m beyond proud that both projects are still running strong and selling to droves of devoted fans from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.  I’ve served as a guest vocalist on numerous original artist’s recordings, written on spec for hire, won an an LA Music Award for songwriting, served as a longtime contributor, production assistant and host for various Chicago vocal showcases such as Chick Singer Night, Singer Spotlight, and The Local Vocal Brew. Also, in Los Angeles, I was actively involved in LAWIM (Los Angeles Women in Music). Selected  tracks from my 2006 recording “Valiant” are available at www.myspace.com/shanagray, and on SoundCloud via Facebook.  As you can see, I really enjoy playing with others!

SE: What was your first concert?

SG: My parents performed together (Mom on the piano & vocals, and Dad drumming) at the Ann Arbor Jazz Festival in 1967, when I was nine days old.  So technically, that was my first live show!  The first “big” concert I remember attending was Chicago at Pine Knob in Detroit, summer of 1972.  All I can remember from that night is running around doing cartwheels on the grass, feeling older because I got to stay up late, and taking in the great horn arrangements echoing off the pavilion and  tuning into the faceless vocal harmonies that sounded amazing.

SE: If you could share the stage with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be?

SG: Beyond impossible to answer this one, since I adore a myriad of styles, genres, and eras.  How about sharing a tune with Duke Ellington? Now he was a gent!

SE: You’re stuck on a desert island. Which three albums do you want with you?

SG: On any given day, I’d give you a different answer.  Today I’m feeling: Coltrane: A Love Supreme, Elton John: Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Eric Satie: Gymnopedie.  Ask me next week and it might be Carmen McRae, Yes,  and The Who’s Quadrophenia : ) Shana Gray

SE: Beatles or Stones?

SG: Though I did later gain an appreciation and real respect for the contributions of the Rolling Stones, for me it’s always been The Beatles.


1 Response to “Guest Star: Stitely’s own Shana Gray”

  1. October 5, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I love my work peeps. Thank you!

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