Based out of New Braunfels, TX, Shane Walker is a songwriter, a beekeeper and a middle school Spanish teacher.
“You’d be surprised how similar they are,” he laughs. “Bees are not the only creatures in nature that sting when they are unhappy.You kind of have to go into it knowing that it's gonna hurt a little bit every now and then. But that really only adds to the experience."
Long before working with bees or teenagers, Walker began his music career in 2002 by winning the University Songwriter Competition at the Kerrville Folk Festival – the same year he founded the Austin-based alt-country band The Gougers. In seven years touring the United States (and opening for country greats like Willie Nelson, Roseanne Cash, Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs),
Walker and the Gougers (also featuring Jamie Wilson of The Trishas) put out three records, culminating in A Long Day for the Weathervane, which spent six weeks in the AMA Radio Chart’s top-10 with over 10,000 spins nationwide.
In 2010, shortly after the breakup of The Gougers, Walker paired with longtime friend Brian Beken (The South Austin Jug Band, Milkdrive) to form a rock group called St. Cloud.
“That was the end result of an idea that started with a record called Juarez by Terry Allen,” he says, referring to Allen’s 1975 release. “The idea was to put a band together as a side project to perform the songs fromJuarez live, while we hired our friends to interpret the action on stage – like a play. Those practice sessions turned into us writing a bunch of music together that ended up being St. Cloud songs. And some of those songs eventually found their home on my record.”
That solo record, produced by Beken and engineered by Nick Jay (Band of Heathens, Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights), is scheduled for a fall 2014 release. Though very much rooted in alt-country and folk music, this record takes a sharp turn to the left from previous recordings with The Gougers.
“Being creative is all about starting over,” Walker says. “Good beekeepers know this. Effective teachers know this. That’s what art is and that’s what life is. And although I could never escape the musical roots I have planted – I would never want to – somewhere along the line I wanted to get past some of the restrictions you find in the more traditional musical styles. The result is a sophisticated new indie release,The Quality of Bees, with big sonic ambitions (think Wilco/My Morning Jacket) and ruminative lyrics (think Gillian Welch/Gram Parsons/Neko Case) that will appeal to hillbilly hipsters and the NPR crowd alike.