By faith alone
Eudora musician goes solo into contemporary Christian genre
When Eudora singer/guitarist Shandon Bailey and bassist Kelley Kirk played a recent gig in Pomona, the entire audience of Christian youth clapped along in unison with the duo during one song. At first, Bailey said he and Kirk thought the spontaneous enthusiasm was, at best, a little cheesy.
But Bailey, a musician experienced in the bar scene, said he and Kirk realized it was kind of cool to have an audience more enthusiastic about the music than the evening's drink specials. Shifting his focus from the secular band Ashton Drive to a contemporary Christian solo project has brought opportunities to the local singer/guitarist.
"Things have really started to take off with it, and doors have started to open," Bailey said.
In addition to upcoming gigs at area coffee shops, Bailey will play at about 5 p.m. Sept. 3 on one of three satellite stages as part of Rock the Light, a two-day concert drawing national contemporary Christian acts like Pillar, Relient K and Steven Curtis Chapman to the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Mo. Bailey said he submitted a demo and after having not heard anything assumed he didn't make it until he checked the concert's Web site and saw his name listed.
For Bailey, taking on a solo project has meant adjusting to playing without the comforts of Ashton Drive.
"It's been a little more scary than the band, because you're up there by yourself," Bailey said. "When you're up there with you and your guitar, you can't cover up your mistakes."
But the plus side, said Bailey, who plays acoustic guitar usually backed up by electric bass, was the increased intimacy between the musicians and the audience. After gigs, Bailey said he and Kirk often talked with the audience and sometimes honored bizarre requests, like giving a string Bailey broke during a performance to an eager fan.
Although Bailey has played in Christian bands before, getting one off the ground can be difficult, in part because of other musicians' reluctance to jump into a genre about which they had a lot of misconceptions. Bailey said bass player Kirk was surprised to find the locale of a recent youth group gig looking more like a night club than a sanctuary.
"A lot of people have this false thought; they think it's going to be like church," he said. "They're not going to have a potluck or sing 'Kumbaya.'"
The emergence of bands like Dashboard Confessional and Creed (now reformed as Alter Bridge) on mainstreatm radio has meant people are getting a taste of the type of music Christian artists can produce, Bailey said. That includes thoughtful, esoteric lyrics to express faith that such bands and Bailey favor over the more blatantly Christian praise-and-worship genre.
But Bailey said he was also disappointed in such mainstream bands' hesitancy to proclaim their beliefs. When he was younger, Bailey said he embraced the teen-angst attitude of 1990s grunge.
"As I got older, most of my music was positive," he said. "I want to write (thoughtful) lyrics and still have integrity and still have an uplifting message. I want to appeal to both genres."
Bailey describes his solo work as straight-forward American rock, citing influences like Dashboard Confessional, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Elvis Costello.
Playing the Christian music fest Rock the Light is Bailey's biggest step as a solo artist. And performing at such a large venue means thinking about the non-musical aspects of the business, like merchandise. Not having any, Bailey looked locally to the guys at Blue Collar Press/Blue Collar Distro in downtown Eudora to get T-shirts and buttons.
"I wanted to keep the business in town, and they came through," Bailey said.
Although he hopes to sign with a major Christian label in the future, Bailey, who is as a manager at Pearson Government Solutions in Lawrence, said working as a musician in Eudora wasn't as hard as it might seem thanks to the Internet.
"You don't have to live in Nashville or L.A.," Bailey said. "You can live in Eudora, Kansas and sell your stuff online."
Bailey's Web site --ncluding upcoming area gigs -- is at www.shandonbailey.com, and the band's Web site is www.ashtondrive.com. Having a presence on the Web meant musicians could distribute their work to a wide audience through music Web sites, file sharing and message boards.
"It gives you motivation to continue when somebody tells you they like what you're doing," Bailey said.