Entertainment, On A High Note

Shenandoah talks new music, video and the “resurgence” of their sound

Shenandoah’s two main cogs, vocalist Marty Raybon and drummer Mike McGuire, are navigating Country Radio Seminar in Nashville like a couple of seasoned sailors. And why not? This happens to be their 31st year of attending the annual convention, so they’re more than comfortable in this otherwise hectic setting. This year’s seminar is also a sentimental one for Raybon and McGuire, two of Shenandoah’s founders. Thirty years ago, the band played the prestigious New Faces of Country Music show, the highlight event of every Country Radio Seminar. “That was big deal for us,” Raybon notes with a smile.

Appropriately, some 30 years later, the full six-man band introduced their new single “Little Bit of Livin’” at a performance during Country Radio Seminar 2019. They surprised attendees with a 30-minute show at Blake Shelton’s Ole Red restaurant in downtown Nashville. “Little Bit of Livin’” is from their current album “Reloaded,” which features live versions of the band’s biggest hits like “Church on Cumberland Road,” “I Want to Be Loved Like That” and “Two Dozen Roses,” along with three new cuts produced by Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus. In a statement about the new single, Raybon said, “It made me think of our hit song ‘Next to You, Next to Me.’ It’s got that fun, bouncy lyric that already has folks singing and clapping along.”

Shenandoah still going strong. Photo courtesy Absolute Publicity

The seminar activity took Raybon and McGuire back to those salad days of the late 1980s, when they first hit the charts. “Back then,” points out McGuire, “our only outlet was radio. That was the only way people would know you.” Fast forward 30 years, and how things have changed. In addition to radio, entertainers have all sorts of social media platforms to get the word out about singles, albums and concerts. “We put a tour date on Facebook,” notes Raybon, “and the response is amazing. We’ll have a sold-out show.” The band also promoted “Reloaded” through social media, and it became their highest ever debut on the Billboard chart. “

The previous single off the album, “That’s Where I Grew Up,” struck a relatable chord with the band. “It’s one of those kinds of songs when we heard it for the first time, it painted that tender kind of picture that we like,” Raybon says. “Mike and I were the ones who, when we started 31 years ago, were looking for the tunes and what they said to us. We looked for what would work. When we were listening for tunes for this project with Jay, I made the statement that, as far as I was concerned, we have one of our songs [for the album]. Really and truly,” Raybon adds in his friendly, down-home manner, “it just sounded like Shenandoah.”

The band also released a video for “That’s Where I Grew Up,” marking their first music video project in more than 20 years. The clip features current country star, and longtime Shenandoah fan, Michael Ray. They hooked up with Ray during the Academy of Country Music awards last year. “Our manager was there and saw Michael,” Raybon begins. “And he told us that Michael saw us and went, ‘Man, is that Shenandoah? Could I meet them?’ That actually started a relationship.” Ray invited the band to perform a “90s Night” show with him in Nashville. “We did ‘Two Dozen Roses’ and been friends ever since,” smiles Raybon. This past summer, Shenandoah returned for another “90s Night” concert, singing “Church on Cumberland Road” with a myriad of fellow artists, including Carly Pearce, Tracy Lawrence, Brothers Osborne and others.

Apparently, Shenandoah’s classic hits have resonated with a number of today’s stars. Raybon and McGuire are both aware that artists like Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert often perform the band’s 1989 No.1 hit “Sunday in the South” in their concerts. On top of that, Lambert wrote and recorded a song titled “Another Sunday in the South,” which pays tribute to the Shenandoah single. Raybon added a guest vocal to the last verse of Lambert’s recording. “At the heart of my country inspiration is Shenandoah,” Lambert once commented. “They created a pure sound that takes you back home every time.”

It’s that same sweet sound that not only keeps the loyal fans coming back, but is also drawing a completely new generation of listeners. “I believe there is a resurgence in the music that we made,” notes McGuire. “The music community has run a lot of the traditional fans off by cutting all this pop music, They’re using drum loops and all that stuff. I think some of it is really good music,” McGuire quickly adds, “but it doesn’t belong on country radio. I think that’s why people are excited about us having some new music. We continue to see the fans at our shows and we sell out a lot of places.”

Fans will have plenty of chances to see Shenandoah on the road, as the band continues its 30th anniversary tour, which actually began last year. Also on the plate is another new album project, which might be best described as a salute to the famed recording center of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. That’s where the group formed and cut several of their albums. “We’re gonna be doing a record that pertains to Muscle Shoals with songs that were established or recorded there,” Raybon explains “There has to be some kind of a tie-in.”

As McGuire sums up about the project, “We’re excited about going back to where we started.” And we’re sure that fans will share that same enthusiasm.

For more on Shenandoah, please visit their website