Southern rocker Christopher Shayne was about to sign a contract with Carry On Music when label head Tom Lipsky had something to say.
“He signed Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers,” the Arcadia resident recalls. “When we signed on, he had the gold record of Skynyrd behind him. He said he gave it to them on stage.
“Then, he said, ‘We’re going to give you your first gold record on stage, too.’ That level of belief for us is huge.”
The Carry On Music team is behind “Ten High,” the debut EP by Shayne and his bandmates—lead guitarist Dave Lansing, vocalist/bassist Mark Blades, keyboardist/guitarist Zachary Hughes and drummer Trevor Hammer—that is due on January 22.
The videos for the EP’s first two singles, “Any Given Sunday” and “Pour the Bottle,” are available on the label’s official YouTube page.
“It’s a little more raw, a little more unpolished,” Shayne says of the EP.
“It’s very much five guys playing in a room together, just playing songs. The songs are just more fun. This one, we wanted to be a little more rock ’n’ roll, old school sounding. You can hear the buzz of the amps in between songs. That was one of those things we wanted to encapsulate.”
Shayne was born in Scottsdale, but his family moved to the West Valley when he was in the seventh grade. He graduated from Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale. From there, he went on to study communications at ASU.
His mom was into music but didn’t play an instrument herself. Shayne described her as “involved in that whole ’80s rock scene.”
“I attended a Motley Crue concert in the womb, if that’s any indication,” he adds.
Shayne’s father was in the ’80s popular local metal band Surgical Steel.
“A lot of people who remember that band always remind me of it,” Shayne says with a laugh. “I have to remind them that I’m working on my thing.”
Shayne’s foray into music began as a loosely termed competition. In high school, one of Shayne’s friends picked up a guitar. Not one to be outdone, Shayne followed.
“I went out that night and bought a guitar,” he says. “We competed with Metallica riffs back and forth for a couple years. I didn’t know I could sing until senior year of high school. I was really bored, and the theater department was doing ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ I thought, ‘Maybe this will be fun.’ I ended up getting the role of the plant, Audrey II. I didn’t have to be onstage. I just sat backstage, talked on the microphone and sang.”
His love of performing grew from there. An admitted “huge” Aerosmith fan, Shayne honed his performance skills as a karaoke host at the now-defunct Hurricane Bay at 43rd and Bell.
“I hosted karaoke for a number of years,” he says. “That’s where I really learned to be onstage, talk to people, be an entertainer and be a frontperson. It’s one thing to be a good singer, but if you can’t talk to a crowd or be comfortable on stage, that doesn’t work.
“We would dress up in silly costumes. After a while, I had no fear of being on stage anymore.”
Since he was 17, Shayne has played around town with a plethora of bands, including Whiskey Six, which won KUPD’s Playdio contest.
“I realized that technically, I was a musician at that point,” he says.
Shayne has performed at NASCAR races in Avondale, hit the stage at Country Thunder and entertained at the NAMM show in Anaheim. The band is a favorite at Arizona Bike Week at WestWorld, too. One of his fondest memories came from Bike Week.
“I’m a huge ZZ Top fan,” Shayne says. “We opened for them at Bike Week. Just being able to share the space with them was something I’ll never forget.
“We had to do our usual ‘play with the crowd.’ Right before ZZ Top went on, we did ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA. We had 21,000 bikers—the biggest, burliest dudes you’ve ever seen—scream along to ‘Dancing Queen.’ I’ll never, ever forget that.”
Shayne and Lansing have been writing songs together for 10 years, since they were in Whiskey Six, a well-known Valley bandy.
“He and I will throw riffs at each other, or song ideas or concepts,” Shayne says. “We both have in-home studios. We will go back and forth with a lot of Zoom calls lately just to see what sticks.
“We’ll play it out with each other and then present it to the rest of the group. We then flush it out and see what feels good.”
Cass Dillon produced “Ten High” in New York and says Shayne is an “extremely kind and funny human.”
“He makes bad-ass, bluesy, loud rock ’n’ roll,” Dillon says. “Underneath, he’s a great, super fun human.”
Dillon and Shayne both say they understood were they were coming from musically.
“I think it’s just an understanding that some musicians have,” says Dillon, who has worked with Morgan Saint and the Goo Goo Dolls, among others. “You work with a lot of different people and some you connect with. Chris was that person for me.”
“We talked about mood, and he was right there on board,” Shayne adds.
“It’s great when I meet another musician who can speak the same language. He came in and it was like we’d known each other for 20 years. I’ve worked with a lot of producers. I have deep respect for what they have to do. Everybody wants the product to be good. When you have somebody who immediately understands it, it feels so freeing, artistically.”
The music on “Ten High” is as sincere as it gets. Shayne says rock is making a comeback.
“There’s a lot of room now for rock bands who weren’t there two to three years ago,” Shayne says he believes. “I just want to hammer that point home and deliver something as real and as honest as humanly possible, in those veins. The fun is in the struggle and in the challenge of doing that. Music can be anything it wants to be—but it has to mean something to you. Making that happen for our fans is something I’ll be focusing on for the next handful of years.”
Fans have already latched on to Shayne and his band. It makes sense; the music appeals to country, rock and metal fans.
“We’re that Southern rock band that shouldn’t be, and yet here we are,” he says with a laugh. “A Southern rock band in Arizona? I don’t know how the math in that worked out. But we’re riding this train, and it’s been a blast.”
“We wanted that old-school, AC/DC, ‘Highway to Hell’ kind of sound, so we stripped away some of the production layers to see what that would sound like,” Shayne says. “And what came out was music that’s as raw and as human as possible. Making sure we had an extra tinge of soul in there, too, made it much more interesting in the rock setting we wanted this music to have.”
The proof is in several songs on the EP. While organ fills may bring listeners into “Sunday” church, Shayne’s “Lord, I know we don’t speak often enough” prayer section takes fans to the altar.
“The version that’s in the final mix is literally the demo of that speech, because it was one of those lightning-in-a-bottle situations, and we just caught it that one time,” Shayne says. “And that’s all we needed to do. It was all just made up on the spot, and that was it.”
Shayne calls “Pour the Bottle” a “pure guitar muscle song.” For the song, Shayne channels—perhaps unknowingly—Soundgarden’s late singer Chris Cornell and Doug Gray of The Marshall Tucker Band.
The EP wasn’t meant to be perfect, he says. The buzz of the amps in between songs was purposeful, as Shayne wanted to encapsulate old-school recordings.
“I’m not a fan of recordings that are pristine and perfect,” he acknowledges. “I would much rather be somebody who’s just going for it and feeling it in the moment, because that kind of emotional fire and resonance carries so much more weight with the audience than just about anything.”
In the meantime, Shayne is grateful for Lipsky and Carry On Music.
“They’ve been a dream to work with, really,” he says. “They’re one of the few business relationships where we’re allowed to be ourselves. In music, that’s rare. When they came on, they said, ‘We love what you do. Keep being you, and let us know.’ That was all we needed to hear.”
“Pour the Bottle” video
“Any Given Sunday” video