Artist Spotlight

Joe Shelton: A Little Insight

Photography by Bailey Shelton, Article by Syd Innovaria

Have you heard of Joe Shelton? No? That’s okay. We have, and we are here to tell you a bit about who he is. He’s currently in Indianapolis, writing some music and running a podcast called Moonshine and Music. Recently he released his second album The Americana Diaries, which we will talk a little about here as well.


S: How long have you been playing music?
J: I started playing piano when I was in 7th grade. One of my best friends and I loved Van Halen’s Jump and all the great keyboard songs of the mid 80s.  We were the basis of the first band I ever played in and several more after that.  I also graduated from Ball State University and  moved to Nashville in 1994 and worked on 21 music videos as an editor, a production assistant, a gopher, a grip, a set decorator…basically anything they would pay me to do.  I worked with many big country music stars during that time and I really did want to play but I had no idea how to do that as well as make rent..  When my children came along in the late 96 and 97… we moved back to Indiana to be near gamily and I pretty much halted all music outside of the house because we had to find a way to grind away enough cash to take care of them and I worked sometimes a couple different jobs and then I settled into a career as a Software Developer for GE.  Music really started back up for me around 2005. I was going through a divorce and I started writing lots of songs. Most of them very sad and a whole lot of them were just awful and sad in a different way… lol.  When I met Sara and we got married in 2008 our first Christmas together I mentioned that I had always wanted to learn to play guitar.  She got me a Martin Acoustic for Christmas and set up lessons for me.  It took me a while to get decent starting out on guitar at age 36 and with at the time a very consuming day job as we built some very high end advanced software at GE and I was the lead software architect on that project.  But slowly… I got better and my teacher, a guy named Todd Blower, encouraged me to play at some festivals.  I made a short video of myself playing one of my songs on piano and singing and sent it to a festival promoter and they gave me my first show.  The 2012 Riley Festival… it went well and I started playing others and people started asking if I had CDs to sell.   I didn’t.  So… I talked to Todd and he agreed to help me make and album.  That was my first album… The Littles and it was released on May 12, 2014.  In the first month I sold 21 copies, all to family and friends… I had 24 followers on twitter and no facebook page only about 150 friends on my facebook profile.   In the second month… I sold 2 copies.  Then I started an online marketing effort and eventually sold enough copies to make back the money I had spent and break even.  It took me about 3 years to do that.  However… the best thing happened. I met tons of people around the world online and it enriched my soul far more than I ever could’ve imagined.  Today I have around 150,000 total followers across all social media platforms around the world and it is fun on a daily basis to see what they are all up to and sometimes even have heated arguments or great joys come into my life from folks I have never met in person.  S: Who are some of your biggest inspirations musically?
J: A tough question in some sense… I mean I am of course inspired by those whose music I loved growing up… John Mellencamp, Bob Seger, REO Speedwagon, Van Halen…  Those will always be my favorites.  When I was growing up in Muncie, my older brother John and I had a paper route and every morning we would listen to those groups and sing loud to stay awake while he drove us around delivering them.   When he suddenly died in March of 2017.. I was quite adrift.   I literally had finished the final mastering of The Americana Diaries that day and I had purposely kept him from hearing any of it.  I wanted it to be perfect before he could. It makes me really emotional to think about it.   I had planned to release it in May of 2017…. but I just couldn’t.  So.. I got up and started really hitting the scene inside Indianapolis really hard. I found inspiration everywhere.  I have never really hit the scene on that level. I was always happy playing a few festivals and selling a record or 2 here and there.  But John kicked me into gear.  He motivates me every day to do something with whatever time I have here.  I had a friend I had met at an open mic somewhere named Jem Holden.  He invited me to come play at this little place on Mass Ave called Liberty Street with him and Chris Wilson.  Just a little open jam session.  I ended up playing there every week with these guys for months.  During this time at some point I mentioned that I hadn’t written any songs in quite a while because every time I tried they all came out very sad and I really like to make happy music.  Chris said to me that the sad songs make him not feel so alone when he is down.  That struck a big chord with me.  A few days later I was playing shows on a makeshift Tour through the south I had thrown together as part of a vacation my daughter and I were going on we called… The Great American Road Trip…and I was thinking about what Chris said as I started writing some new songs.  They have been pouring out of me ever since.  I am gonna go into making another studio record this fall.  S: How do you feel about where you are currently with your music?  
J: I feel great about it.  I have sold more records this year than I had combined all the other years.  More streams and sales.  I also have played more shows that ever before.  My new record is touching lives… every day I get messages from people telling about things they like about it or coming up to me at shows and saying how Riverside is their favorite or they like the different genre bending things we did on this new record.  

S: Tell us a bit about your latest album, The Americana Diaries.
J: Where do I begin?  The second album was really born in December of 2013.  I wrote the song Riverside that day and it was also the last day of recording for the first album.  I loved it from the moment it came into my world.  I really wanted to go ahead and extend and put on the first record, but Todd talked me out of it saying… there will be a second record.  Be patient.  The thing about it is, that song really did have a different tone than anything on my first one.  It was a different kind of story.  Almost like an entry in a diary.  I thought it is like a Diary of Americana!  I KNOW.. a little too on the nose or set for a movie or something… but honestly this what happens inside my skull…  anyway, I thought I want write a series of these little pieces of Americana for the next record, if I can ever afford to make it. So that name is the theme really for all of the songs I wrote for the record.  

I spent about 20 months from the time we started recording the first song which was Riverside until we finished the mastering of the last song 21.   Now… while these songs all have Americana Themes… they are definitely not all Americana Genre songs… most of them are… but a couple bleed into rock, a couple into country and one the aforementioned 21 into an Americana/Hip-hop/country/rock mishmash.  
2 B with U was the first single… we made a music video for it in New Orleans last summer the day I played at the House of Blues in New Orleans.  In fact, some footage from that performance is mixed into the video.  It did really really well and is still the most played song on the record on streaming services.  It came out in Sept 2017 and we had a big release party show up in Muncie in Nov 2017 for the whole record.  We also made video for Americana Diary during that trip and shows scenes from all other the place including our stops in Amarillo at the Cadillac Ranch, Roswell, Nashville, St Louis as well as vintage Super 8 film footage from my childhood. You get to see some old Muncie and some old Daytona in B&W super 8 glory!  Then we put out Riverside and it new video a few weeks ago.  The feedback on it has been great.  I plan to make a video of some kind for each of the songs. 

21 is up next. It will be the new video project coming out sometime here in the summer.  I love the song 21, it is my personal favorite on the record. It has a lyric, “Don’t ya know what would be fun, if we could all stay 21” which I try to achieve at least once a day in my mind.  I have a great featured vocal from my friend Sydney Paige (who I helped produce a EP for called Fool’s Gold … go download it now!  ) and a freestyle rap from a local mystery rapper under the name Slater Kane in the middle.  I promise if you turn it up at your next gathering, people will start dancing.   

S: We hear that you do a podcast as well called Moonshine and Music, can you tell us a bit about that?  
J: Well.. Moonshine and Music!  OMG. This is my new joint project between my record label.. Notlehs Entertainment and my friend Brandon Ley’s Video Production company Eat New Media.  I hired Eat New Media to do a promotional video for me back at my record launch and Brandon and I became friends.  We started talking about his previous podcasting effort called Toast and Jams.  I said I was interested in doing something like that, but I wanted to make a show with very high quality audio and video so that the artists we have on the show can use it as a promotional video sort of like the one we were making.   So that is what we decided to do.  

So… we periodically get together a day where we shoot several artists shows back to back and record them with full studio tracking in HD. The show’s audio is mixed and mastered like a studio record is and then married back to HD video.  The result is awesome.  The best part for me is getting the opportunity to produce a live 3 or 4 song… basically what amounts to an EP… each week for all these great artists.  We have had newcomers like Meghan Cristeen Martin and seasoned touring artists like Jennie DeVoe on the show.  

Our goal is to promote Indie Artists and to provide high quality music for the fans.   We had Cari Ray & The Shaky legs on the show last week and I am dead serious when I say I have never felt so good doing music as I have when I heard the harmonies they performed on the show for a song called House Keys coming through the speakers in the mixing room.  It is awe inspiring.   That is why I make music…and if you want to know what inspires me musically that is a great example.  

S: When can we expect the next podcast?
J: Each Sunday… Tory Fischetti comes out on Race Day… May 27 and Kristopher Garner on June 3.     We will be having a new shoot day from 8 artists on June 30 that will be the first one we have opened up to the public.  Check for details coming soon.  It will be an all day event.

S: Tell us your upcoming gigs for your music!  
J: Oh.. that is a list. If you go to my website the list there is always up to date and shows are always being added.  But here are a few of those coming up….

July 20th- Books and Brews Brownsburg
July 21st- Burnside Inn
July 27th- Books and Brews Broad Ripple
July 28th- Harvey’s Tavern
August 18th- Garfield Park
September 1st- Books and Brews Mothership in Fishers


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