Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Brent Shuttleworth: Finding Home

Brent Shuttleworth's guitar teacher at Bates College informed him he was so far behind in terms of understanding music that he wouldn't have a chance making a career out of it.  "I received a D+ at the end of the year," Shuttleworth said with a laugh.  While owning a guitar since age 10, Brent received no formal training until college, in a guitar class and a music theory course, investing a great deal of time and hard work to catch up.

Graduating from Bates with a B.A. in both Philosophy and Political Science, Shuttleworth wanted to be a public defender.  Despite loving music and wanting to play, sing, and write songs, it was a strong desire to help people and be of service to those in need that led to the path of law and justice.  "I guess there was a period of time that I felt like [music] didn't provide practical use for people," Shuttleworth explains.  The realization came in moving to New York and starting a full-time job with a non-profit company, a career choice that opened Brent's eyes in defining what helps the less fortunate.  In discovering the way audiences responded to and were moved by art, it was easier to understand that music was equally significant in day to day existence.

This honest, genuine, compassionate attitude not only comes across in Shuttleworth's personality, but also in the truthful lyrics set gracefully amongst the soothing, warm melodies of his songs.  "The artistic side of me is a cross between arrogance and foolishness," claims Brent, a musician who strives for deeper, more purposeful words but understands technical limitations.  A major component of achieving success as an artist is bringing out the best in yourself and those around you, a concept Shuttleworth has mastered over time: "I surround myself with very technical, talented people.  I can hear things, I know what sounds good, and I know what I like."

Turning to early David Gray for musical and lyrical influence, Brent began to explore songwriting as a freshman in college.  Finding Gray's work to be bold, creative and inspiring, it was the balance of "abstract yet beautifully specific" wording that grabbed Shuttleworth, guiding the path to more powerful work.  In listening to "Witness," Brent's current album, that equilibrium is evident- "Nothing flashy, words that cut you, speak the truth, and convey what I'm feeling."

Moving every year and a half for most of his youth, Shuttleworth grew up experiencing the hardships of trying to fit in.  From eating alone at the lunch table to struggling to make friends and feel accepted, those memories left their scent well into adulthood.  Then, during a seven month stay in South Africa, studying at a Masters program at University of Cape Town, Brent felt an awe-inspiring sense of acceptance and belonging.  Being in a place where poverty and struggle were part of daily life, it was moving to attend services and see thousands of people so warm, open, and extending themselves.  The title track "Witness" was born through this experience, a concept that Brent explains: "The idea of acknowledging our existence, validated through saying hello and introducing ourselves.  It was overwhelming, I didn't know what to make of it."

Perhaps that's why the actual song lyrics did not come to Shuttleworth until some time later.  "I did not write it there," Brent divulged. "I sit down sometimes and a song will come out.  Other times I'll have an experience and the song won't come out for months, or even years.  Which is beautiful because seeds are planted at all these different points... sometimes they come to fruition and other times they don't.  They're just memories."

After the program in South Africa, Shuttleworth moved to New York City, a place called home since 2004.  The NYC scene has evolved greatly for Brent, whose first gig was at the Bowery Poetry Club.  Starting out as a regular at spoken word poetry venues such as Bar 13 and Poet's Cafe, it's been within the past two years that a following was cultivated. Shuttleworth's talent has graced the stage of most of the downtown scene, including Rockwood, The Cutting Room, The Bitter End, Arlene's Grocery, The Living Room, and Piano's to name a few.  Rockwood Music Hall has become a venue of it's own strengths, constantly exposing Brent and colleagues to people coming for the scene.

"Rockwood is like my home," states Brent, singing the praises of owner Ken Rockwood. "There's something inspiring when you meet people that are really about the music.  Ken is one of the sweetest, most genuine, authentic people.  He's doing sound until two in the morning every night just because he loves it.  There is nothing else attached to that.  It's about the purpose of providing a space where real things can happen."

Real things are happening every day for Brent Shuttleworth, a musician who understands the difference between great artists and everyone else.  "It comes to the point when it's not about them.  It's about the purpose behind what you do," Brent declares.  Focused, determined and insightful, Shuttleworth lists simply being happy as a main goal in life.  Being a career artist, having a family, writing songs well into old age, continuing to tour and expand the audience are all part of sustaining this goal.  Paraphrasing a quote once read, Brent reveals, "The main block in any transformation is being unhappy with where you are now."

Beautiful words to live by.

To hear Brent's music or check out a show visit or join the group Brent Shuttleworth Live on Facebook,

1 comment:

  1. Heard Brent last nite in Charleston SC for the 1st time. He is a very unique, awesome person. I fell in love with his voice. He should be on the big scene by now, but I know it takes time. I know he'll be abig hit sure enough!