The Coast News Group
Shane Hall describes the sound of his music as “thick,” which comes from a long time playing on his own. Courtesy photo
Shane Hall describes the sound of his music as “thick,” which comes from a long time playing on his own. Courtesy photo
Arts Community Community News Rancho Santa Fe

In the thick of it all

‘Big tone’ signals growth of local musician

CARLSBAD — The faded, “greenish” colored Brixton fedora that sits atop Shane Hall’s head used to brown. The musician has grown accustomed to wearing a variety of headgear after having shaved his hair one day in his early 20s and saw that it wasn’t growing back.

But it’s the fedora that most of his fans know him by — that and what he calls his “thick” sounding music.

“It’s a big tone,” he said before one of his Wednesday night gigs at Carlsbad’s RELM, where he regularly performs either solo or with his latest band From the Cold.

That sound, he explained, comes from a long time of playing on his own.

The versatile singer and mostly self-taught musician from Pennsylvania has been in and out of San Diego for the past 15 years, but has lately been working to establish his music here in the county’s music scene.

With three bands ongoing, The Klay, From the Cold and Shane Hall and the Diabolicals (the former two being his more creative endeavors, he said) Hall doesn’t spend much time looking behind him.

For Hall it’s all about looking ahead.

“I would love to be famous. I would love to be immortal — musically,” Hall said. “But I just want the opportunity to create without being worried about money, without having to divide myself between money and time.”

But it was partly his past that got him to where he is today.

The retired Marine, who did combat logistics by day and music by night, credits his then-roommate he was stationed with in Japan with really shifting his thought process about music.

His roommate, a “seasoned Marine,” turned out to be a music aficionado who would eventually school Hall in music — playing everything from the ‘50s like Elvis, Chubby Checker and Johnny Cash to start.

It would be nights of music playing on the stereo and drinking beer.

They’d go through each of the decades, Hall said, his roommate serving as an encyclopedia of sorts to each of the singers and bands.

He’d always liked music, but Hall said he never felt the need to make music when he was younger. His mother and stepfather were both musical. His mother played the horn and his stepfather a folk musician.

Tough it wasn’t until he heard the Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds’ album “Live at Luther College” that he told himself, “I could do that.”

It was a revelation for Hall.

Still, when pressed to look back, Hall said the evolution of his music over the last 13 years has been a “growth process.”

“At first, I was afraid to embrace (the music life) completely,” he said. “In my mind I was like, ‘I want to do this forever. I want to get paid to do this.’ But I was like, ‘there’s no way.’ So, I’m going to do the best I can and play as often as possible and that was it.”

Having put down roots in San Diego, Hall knows that his success will hinge on recording new material.

With two albums under his belt, “Less Than Vintage,” which he recorded while in Japan and “Thick Teeth” released in 2013, and recorded at Red Room Recording in Wilmington, N.C. — where he also purchased his now trademark-of-sorts Brixton fedora.

“Thick Teeth,” he refers to as his “growth album,” because, he said, it was the beginning of the exploration into his more bluesy/ indie rock style — a sound he’s embraced.

Though in San Diego, with all of its beauty, it can be a little rough to accommodate writing songs that are more to his blues style.

“It’s a little bit too happy,” Hall said. “But you can still find beauty in some of the darkness, too.”

He recognizes that the city and its surroundings do impact they way he writes. “You’re a product of your environment whether you realize it or not,” he said. “Whatever’s around you affects you.”