He’s a singer, songwriter and musician who’s been a staple of the Las Vegas music scene since the 90s. When he’s not performing, he’s creating and expanding his business ventures in more ways than I can keep track of. Please welcome Shawn Eiferman.
Amanda: Shawn, as long as I’ve known you, since sometime around the late 90s, you’ve been an actively performing musician. Whether playing in your old band Epstein’s mother (which is where I met you), as a one-man act all over Vegas, or traveling to perform in Australia and everywhere else, it seems like you’re always doing what you love. That’s not always an easy thing to do when you’re a musician, but what has kept you going all this time?
I get to blame Vegas
Shawn: You just said it. Find out what you love, right? I mean, I’ve been really, really fortunate on the musical side of my endeavors. It started 35 years ago. I’m 51. And since I was 15 years old, I’ve been making a living butchering songs wherever there’s a bar and a place to plug in some stuff. I just got really, really lucky/fortunate. And it comes with hard work. My dad has accolades, and he has always said that most of those accolades come from a quote that he put on the back of his business card for years, which was “I’m a firm believer in luck because the harder I’ve worked, the luckier I’ve been.” So you got to put in the time. That whole 10,000 hours thing was back in the 80s for me. And so I just got lucky in that, you know, you work hard at the stuff that you love to do anyways, and then somehow I found myself, again, really lucky being based here in Vegas. No offense to Epstein’s Mother, that you mentioned, or anything that I’ve done in my musical endeavors, but I have a feeling, knowing what my talent level is, I think that if I was in Portland or Boston or anywhere else but the entertainment capital of the world… I get to blame Vegas. I give a lot of responsibility to my whole career to the fact that if you want to be a working musician, this is it. This is the Mecca. So I’ve been really fortunate to be based here. That’s a huge part of the equation.
Amanda: A lot of people, at least that I knew, musicians – more in the 90s/early 2000s – the big complaint… because at that time, everybody was chasing the record deal. It’s not really how things work as much anymore. But there was this idea that in Vegas, they just wanted you to do covers. And a lot of artists, they want to do originals, which I respect and I understand, but you’ve been able to do both. I don’t know that you give yourself enough credit. I think you’re an amazing songwriter and singer and guitar player. You’re very entertaining, which is why your one-man act works so well, because it’s part comedy almost. But in Vegas, because we’re such a tourist-heavy city, those covers are important because they want to hear what they know because they can sing along and that helps them have a good time. I never saw you have that ego about it. You’d sneak in some of your own songs here and there, but if somebody requested a Huey Lewis song, you would find a way to play Huey Lewis, I’m sure.
Shawn: It’s really funny that you’ve observed that, and it’s stuck with you, because I tried to do it subtly over the years. As a songwriter, I made a living just writing songs in the 90s. So I’ve had stuff placed in TV and film. And as a songwriter, it’s a different ego. It’s a different beast that you’re feeding, because the truly creative side is really out there. And so people don’t know what they like, they like what they know, is so accurate. The Huey Lewis request would come in, and I would be like, “Hey, if you like Huey Lewis, you’re gonna love this.” And I would lie, fib, whatever you want to call it, and go, “You know, this is off of a Japanese import 12-inch dance remix of a Huey Lewis tune.” Look, I’m never gonna see these people again for the most part, right? So I can get away with a little bit, kind of like a one-night stand, and just go “Hey, again, if you love Huey Lewis, you’re gonna love this next song.” And I would play one of mine, and that’s how I would pepper, like you mentioned, like kind of sprinkle my original stuff into those cover sets where they just want to sing “Mustang Sally” and “Brown-Eyed Girl.” And it became the best of all worlds, as a songwriter with merchandise, with a CD to sell and music to share. I would also kind of tag those original songs with, “Hey, if you love that last song, there’s a copy of it on recorded material that you can put in your little player in your car and take me back to Ohio with you.” So it worked. I actually moved some merch and got to fulfill my own original songwriter bug. And I don’t think anybody ever left one of my shows ever that was like, “Well, I thought I had the best time of my life, but those original songs he played were shit.”
Amanda: You’ve played for local bar crowds, you’ve played for audiences with over 100,000 people. It would take up the whole episode if I named everyone you’ve performed with. Favorite is always such a tricky word, but what are some moments you’d consider career highlights?
I got to sing with Prince
Shawn: There’s two big shows, or two times that I’ve performed, on polar opposite sides of the spectrum. One is, I found out that Prince was rehearsing, was practicing for his residency at the Rio here in Vegas at a small little club right next to the MGM Grand. And a friend of mine happened to own that club, and he goes, “Hey, I know you love Prince.” And he goes, “Get down here. Just get down here.” That’s all he told me. And I get there, and there’s like maybe 300 people at the Empire Ballroom, basically watching. Like the big Afro’d drummer from Lenny Kravitz, she was on drums. The bass player from Earth, Wind and Fire, the guy that has the microphone that comes up from his belt. It was just like this All-Star band. These beautiful twin girl backup dancers and backup singers. It was just nuts. And like a few hundred people, and Prince. And so I kind of knew what was going on, but didn’t know what was going on. So I real quick got a sign, because I knew it wasn’t a show show. It was rehearsal. And I held a sign in front of him for like two-and-a-half hours that simply said “Can a funky white boy get up and jam with you?” And persistence wins, I guess, because out of nowhere, like two-and-a-half-hours into this thing, he goes “Come on up.” And so I got to sing with Prince. And, of course, because of what I wrote, he started playing “Play That Funky Music, White Boy,” and the band kicks in, it was just the most epic thing ever. Eddie Murphy was sitting in a booth, I don’t know, 15 feet from the stage right there. So of course, I was like “Sexual chocolate!” So the highlight of singing with Prince is I also made Eddie Murphy laugh. So it was just one of those like, next level out-of-body experiences, just unbelievable. That’s the highlight of my whole music career. Like, that was nuts. And I’ve shared the stage with a lot of people from Grammy winners to just, you know, my friends, and everything in between. That was a highlight there.
And then as far as like stage shows I’m booked, or the band was booked, or whatever… it wasn’t quite 100,000 people but I think the last big Junefest that we did was right around 50,000 people. And it was Journey. I mean, we just opened the show. I’ve always just been the bridesmaid. I’ve never been the bride. It’s never my show, but I’m happy to be there. You know what I mean? That’s not a complaint. That’s just an observation.
Amanda: A lot of those brides never played with Prince.
Shawn: You never know. Anyway, so those are the two things. Junefest was probably the biggest single audience that we felt like co-headliners. We were just the local unsigned opener, but it was really spectacular. Like that’s a… it’s just a different thing.
Amanda: The music industry itself has changed so much through the years, so you’re used to adapting. But then this pandemic came and wiped out all live performances. But you’re still performing. I saw you do some virtual concerts. You do the singing telegram videos for people. You’ve done private events. One thing I thought was really special was, in the beginning of all of this, you started the “Shawn in the John series,” which I can’t say without laughing. But you did that to raise money for other musicians. How did that come about? And what was “Shawn in the John?”
I set myself up for other things besides music
Shawn: Yeah, well, 35 years into it, trust me, I am not Bill Gates. I am still one of those, like, book a show, play a show, get paid for that show, and then hurry up and book another show. And so when there were no shows to book… I do okay, and apparently a lot of other musician peers of mine weren’t. So it only took a few days for people to be like, “Hey, what are you doing? Do you have any gigs? I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to pay rent” A couple of weeks all of a sudden were really bad, and it affected everybody. Again, the pivots that we all make and trying to figure stuff out.
Yeah, I set myself up for other things besides music, because I knew that my hands weren’t gonna be able to play guitar forever. I’m not gonna be able to sing forever. I have a tattoo here that says “everything is temporary.” And 35 years is a good run, so I think some of my friends knew that I had plan B’s in place and were like, “Dude, can I borrow some money?” It got weird. And so, all of a sudden I go, well, let’s do a little fundraiser for these people. I don’t know if it’ll be good, bad, whatever. And the best sound and lights and not piss off my family was in my downstairs bathroom, and so that’s where I started doing the Facebook Lives, and it was all charity. People could donate whatever they wanted to donate towards this thing and 100% of those proceeds…I didn’t take a dime. We raised $10,000 in like four-and-a-half weeks, five weeks. Everybody, each day that I did it, nominated another musician. So if all of a sudden, like, Amanda McCune got nominated that day, when we finished the thing I would be like “Alright, Amanda, you got nominated yesterday. Today was your show. Who do you want to nominate?” And so I think the most powerful thing, aside from just sending money to strangers and people… some of them I knew, a lot of them I knew… was that I got Facebook messages, video Facebook messages from a handful of people that were like, emotional, like, “I think I know who you are, but we’ve never met, and all of a sudden I got a Venmo from you. And we didn’t know where the groceries were coming from this week, so thank you, from my family to me, thank you, thank you, thank you.” It was a real attitude of gratitude moment, all from my bathroom. It was pretty cool. I used the toilet as my little bar. That’s where my… you know, it got silly some days, it was just a bottle of whiskey. No one knew how to cope. I don’t think there was a right way or a wrong way to cope with it early on. And so that was one of the pivots. We just raised $10,000 in a few weeks from my toilet.
Amanda: Not many people can say that. And it’s funny because people have this perception of Vegas and what Vegas is, and it is a lot of those things, but we do have a pretty strong community in certain areas of the city. And that proved that.
The only thing that’s missing here is the songwriting culture
Shawn: Agreed. It’s funny, you mentioned the original stuff. The only thing that’s missing here is the songwriting culture. You know, Nashville was obviously such a mecca for songwriting. I don’t think people realize Seattle didn’t become the grunge thing until all those guys in the late 80s/early 90s started writing together – not doing shows together, not hanging out together, but at two in the morning, once the gig was over, they went to a coffee shop and hung out and wrote together. I think that’s the one big, huge thing that’s missing here. I’ve tried to piece it together a couple of times over the years, and everybody wants to just, again, play “Mustang Sally.” It’s weird, all the biggest bands in the world that have come from Vegas from the Killers to…
Shawn: Sure. Imagine Dragons, Panic at the Disco!
Shawn: Like none of these bands can get arrested here as original projects, like nobody knew who they were. And then they went out of town, or the Killers went out of the country, and started their whole careers somewhere else besides here. We did that, too. Like Epstein’s Mother back at 20, we would go and do a show with whoever – with Collective Soul in Atlanta, Georgia – and make like eight bucks. But it was cool. Like, I can’t believe we’re in Atlanta doing a show with Collective Soul. It was cool, and we’d come home and people would think we’re the coolest band in the world because we just got done opening for Collective Soul in Atlanta, Georgia. But they didn’t realize we were all really, really struggling financially to do that, or it just didn’t make sense. And then we’d come back and I would book a three-day weekend at the Tropicana Lounge. True story. And it would pay for… totally comp, put money in our pockets, because casino budgets back in the day were substantial. That band was a band for almost seven years, and we made most of our money locally doing those, like hush, kind of… we didn’t promote those gigs. And then all of a sudden, we’re like, “Hey, we’re opening for the Goo Goo Dolls and Guns and Roses on New Year’s Eve at the House of Blues!” For free. We didn’t get paid for that. I mean, what a spectacular opportunity to be able to share a stage with Guns and Roses and Goo Goo Dolls on New Year’s Eve in the entertainment capital of the world. And then literally the same night – I wish I was joking – we had booked at Texas station starting at 11 o’clock at night. So at like 8:30 we find ourselves at the House of Blues doing all that and then, you know, signing boobs and like, the craziest thing. And then “Hey, everybody, we got to go ‘cause we got to go play the thing at Texas station.”
Amanda: You mentioned that you would play those local gigs, that that’s what supported you financially. And then you also mentioned the plan B’s, which is something that is important when you’re a musician. You can have that dream that you’re going to make it big and that’s what’s going to support you, but it doesn’t work out that way for a lot. So beyond music, you have an entrepreneurial spirit. You’re a “Shawntrepreneur,” I saw one of your bios, and yes, I had to call you out on that one. But it seems like you’re always trying new ideas to keep busy. You designed the Solo Station, which keeps you and your gear more compact and mobile. You’ve partnered with wine companies and fitness companies. There was a castle involved at one point. I don’t imagine you ever get bored, but how do you decide which business ventures to pursue outside of your artistic musical endeavors?
We’re now in the road trip business
Shawn: I’m going to circle back around to the beginning of the conversation. These are all things that I’m passionate about. I joke all the time. Like I go, “Well, what am I going to do? Sell insurance?” And that is no offense to insurance agents – I think life insurance is one of the greatest products in the history of mankind – but it doesn’t resonate with me. That doesn’t get me up in the morning to go do something. My existing business life is really a one-trick pony. And I mentioned this before, I woke up at seven o’clock in the morning and put on safety glasses, because I was outside at 7am this morning fiberglassing a 13-foot… sanding the fiberglass on a 13-foot scamp trailer. I’m now in the RV business. And it circles all back around. This is going to be a weird connection, but it’s true.
I bought an RV back in the ‘30s, 1000 years ago, off the side of the road for nine grand. And that became, when Epstein’s Mother had to go do shows in Colorado, or myself, or family vacations or whatever, we hopped in that Breaking Bad POS. You know, it was a junker, but it got us from A to B and it was a fun way to travel. All my favorite family vacations were road trips in that RV with my kids. And they’ll attest to that. At 23 and 25 years of age, they’ll still say, “You know, my favorite family vacation was this one trip we did to San Diego, or up in the mountains, we went skiing.” And so out of nowhere, when COVID hit, we poured gasoline on that fire, and I now have 14 RVs – whether it’s trailers, motorhomes, I’m staring at a sprinter – we’ve got all of them. Some of them we’re customizing and renovating and flipping for sale, and some of them are in a rental fleet. But yeah, the Free Bird RV fleet, which is obviously… you know, Freebird is not the free bird that I give to the random drunk that always requests “Free Bird.” I repurposed that to be the name of the company. And so it’s something I’ve always loved to do. Road trips have always been fun, you know? It’s a cool thing, and so we’re now in the road trip business.
The castle project, that’s on the big, big end of it. I mean, that was a $90 million project that we started three years ago even just talking about it, and then in talking about it, we put together a business plan and a business team, and a pretty impressive push to raise the $90 million. We found the land. It gets crazy when you start doing stuff. And I’m gonna wrap a bow on this and instead of going through all of them,Amanda, I’m going to tell you this. There’s two things that I tell people all day long, that ask me similar questions that are in my industry, like musicians that are like, “Hey, what happens when the gigs dry up? What happens if I break my hand snowboarding?” You know, all that stuff. And I go, “Well, you need to focus on two things, and that is the books you read and the people you meet.” And I say that like a mantra all day long. I buy 30 to 40 books every year, beginning of December, and hand them out.
The people that you meet, and the books you read, will change your life
Livingston Taylor, James Taylor’s brother, wrote a book called “Stage Performance,” and it is the Bible for anybody that wants to understand what we do, the way we do it, in a better way and a different way. He’s the guitar master at Berklee School of Music. I’m not gonna say he’s more talented than James Taylor, but he’s way less famous and just an unbelievable human being, exceptional guitar player as you can imagine, and he wrote this book. And as I tell my fellow musician entertainer people, that you got to meet different, better people and read different, better books. It’s everything. The people that you meet, and the books you read, will change your life. You don’t have to worry about what to do. You’ll figure out a way how to do it by those two things. They’ll just kind of present themselves. So everything in my Shawntrepreneurial endeavors have come – I can bet my life on it. I will bet my life on the fact that anything and everything that you’re talking about really stems from I have met exceptional people on my break. I know musicians that disappear because they’re not really “people” people and they don’t want to go shake hands. And the second I unplugged on a break, on a work gig, a steady type of booking, I’m out exchanging business cards and talking to people finding out why they’re there. Is this a birthday? You know, is this a bar mitzvah? Are you celebrating an adult circumcision? What? Why are you in Vegas? And those connections have rippled into all of these things, like all of them. And then I compound that with, you know, I don’t need to watch another rerun of Game of Thrones. Also, I stopped reading reading and started listening to audiobooks. And I don’t want to go on and on about this, but it really is the reason I am wired the way I’m wired as far as trying new things, and wanting to do new things, and popping up out of bed ready to do new things. Because let’s face it, the average musician works for a couple of hours a day, four days a week. So, if you’re not doing anything as a plan B, you’re just fucking lazy.
Amanda: Well, that’s what I think separates you from so many. There’s this stigma that you have to be a starving artist, you have to be struggling, and that’s going to be the case if that’s what you’re looking for. But there are so many opportunities, and you’ve never had to give up what you love. You’re still playing music. You’re finding ways to do it. And just because you’re a musician doesn’t mean that’s all you do. You can have other interests, too. And if you’re able to follow those passions and make money from them at the same time, and that supports you so you don’t have to take the insurance job. You can own your time and be mindful with how you spend it, and you have that freedom to do whatever you want to do. I don’t understand how that’s such a bad thing. But it’s because you’re willing to do the work, and that’s what so many don’t want. It’s that lack of accountability. “I just want it. I’m a really talented whatever, these opportunities should just come to me.” And like what you said about luck, you have to work really hard to be this lucky. And that’s what I tell people all the time, because I’ve had somebody say, “Well, you wouldn’t understand because everything just works out for you.” Yeah. I work really hard to make it work out for me. And I believe that it will, so that’s a big part of it, too.
I could be a musician or I could be in the music business
Shawn: Yep. I have another tattoo on my back that’s the Yin-Yang. It’s about this big. And I really believe in that whole balance in all things. In all things. And so that’s part of it as well. You have to have some kind of good habits versus bad habits to kind of counter what music provides, which is drugs and sex, and all this stuff could pull the average person over to the other side. I’ve been a Boy Scout, also, most of my life. I really, really enjoy monogamy. I’m a fan of being married and being in relationships. I’ve been in mostly long-term relationships. I haven’t been the dude groupie musician guy. I mean, I’ve had moments, but I’m only human. But for the most part, I’m not that stoned, late, dressed like a hobo, trying to bang the manager musician. I want to thank all of my peers globally for making me the tallest midget in that conversation. It doesn’t take much. It’s a shift, I think, a paradigm shift of, I could be a musician or I could be in the music business. And I don’t know what happened, quite frankly. It was probably somebody I met or a book I read. But I decided a long time ago to be in the music business. I didn’t mind bands I was in, or myself, being thought of as a product. I had no issues with CDs, and t-shirts, and hats, and condoms with the band’s name on it, and pens, and, you know, whatever it took to be able to balance my creative life with a business model. And that took again, I’ll say it over and over and over again, that took reading some books, right? I mean “Think and Grow Rich,” I was 27 the first time I read it. “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” I don’t know, like a month later. And all my musician buddies were like, “Yeah, I read the Rolling Stone interview yesterday about Bob Dylan. I read.” And so again, I’m not better or worse than anybody. It’s just a different way to spend your time.
Amanda: There used to be such a stigma about making your music a business. You couldn’t put your music on TV, especially in commercials, because now you’re selling out. And now that is what people want. Because the record deals, they’re not lucrative if they even exist. You have to have that following on social before a label will even give you a chance. They’re not even going to talk to you unless you already have the hundreds of thousands of people.
Shawn: For the record, Amanda, it’s not “these days.”
Amanda: It’s always been that way?
Shawn: We met Tom from MySpace. (Gives thumbs up) Remember him, his profile picture? We met Tom. I met Tom, shook his hand. He was sitting in a 10’x10’ booth at either the NAMM show or it was SXSW. We thought we were already on our way. I think we just finished a merchandising meeting with Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crüe, who wanted to do a t-shirt thing with us. Like, we’ve made it! And then we’re walking around the thing and none of that came to fruition. Everyone’s just talking a bunch of trash, but it was very interesting. We walked booth to booth, and you’re kind of taking in all this stuff. It’s a huge trade show, for those of you that don’t know what SXSW is that might be listening to this. And MySpace… so we already had a website that, at the time, you spent a lot of money getting a website developed. And we could sell all of our merch on that website. So this guy Tom is in his booth with like two computers and he’s trying to explain MySpace, and it’s, you know, you can’t sell anything. You can only play three songs. We had a full record done. And like all this stuff, and you can’t do this, and it’s kind of… you just get friends to come. And we walked away from that booth going that guy’s a dipshit.
And, like, six months later, we started to get the offers that we got, from 33rd Street records all the way to Universal and Interscope. We got, like, a handful of interesting conversations were going on. The Incubus Hoobastank record deal, that happened for Incubus and Hoobastank collectively, were initially kind of thrown into the conversation and equation for Epstein’s Mother, for that band, which is crazy to think of because both of those bands are so much cooler than we could ever pretend to be. And it was very weird, but we were on somebody’s list. Put it that way. And I think the deal breaker across the board, just six months later, was some guy at some label in some office going, “Oh, well, what are your MySpace numbers?” That was it. Amanda, I’m not kidding. They didn’t want… they actually didn’t care how many CDs we sold on our own, because we had outsold bands like Incubus because they hadn’t hit the radio yet, they weren’t who they were, and our SoundScan numbers were decent for an unsigned band. But our MySpace numbers were shit because we walked away from Tom laughing. I believe Incubus and Hoobastank got their deals because their MySpace numbers were huge, and they got huge in like three months. Nothing else. I mean, those are both great bands who had big radio singles, and were ready, were poised for it. But I think what pushed him over the edge was Tom, son of a bitch.
Amanda: Tom and his thumbs up. And that was, for anybody listening who’s maybe a little bit younger than we are, that was the beginning of social media. You could have your band page, and you could put your songs on there, snippets of things. And it was an easier way, if you didn’t have the full-fledged website, to get the word out there. And obviously MySpace didn’t have the longevity, and other companies have taken over. It’s just changed things. I was talking before we started recording how I’m perpetually stuck in the 90s music-wise, and part of that is I don’t embrace social media in the same way.
I just watched this documentary called “Fake Famous,” and they did a social experiment to take three people who didn’t have any kind of following and turn them into influencers. And just the way that most of these people now, and they’re talking about kids and the younger generations, they don’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer and pilot or whatever when they grew up. They just want to be famous. They want to be an influencer. And they were showing how you can take a toilet seat cover and make it an airplane window so you can have a photo that looks like you’re on a private jet. And they’re buying their followers. There are all these bots, and then you have to buy the likes and buy engagement. But then these big brands take a look and are like “Oh yeah, look at this. People really respect this person. I’m gonna work with them.” And it’s all based on that little lie, not unlike you saying that your song was a Huey Lewis song. But it’s such a different culture now, and we have to adapt. And that’s a big part of it. You don’t ever want to be the guy from the Tower Records… he was like the CEO in that documentary… where he just flat out said “the mp3 is not gonna stick around.” He didn’t believe it, didn’t listen to the people around him, and Tower Records didn’t make it.
Shawn: When we first started spending money on websites and stuff like that, I remember seeing the slogan for the company that developed the website, my first real website, and it said, “if you’re not online, you are flatline.” There was 20 years ago. It’s still stuck in my head, probably because it sounds like a lyric.
Amanda: With all of this adapting that you’ve had to do because of COVID and just the changes in the industry, what do you see going forward? Are you still involving music in your life?
My crystal ball is busted
Shawn: I say this all the time, too. My crystal ball is busted. I am so flattered. This is an amazing thing. It’s not lost on me that I’m still in Vegas, and there’s still people dying for concerts. You mentioned it. To this day, it’s 374 days. You know, I’ve marked the day, like a prison sentence, like I can’t believe I haven’t seen a concert in 374 days. And I wish I was exaggerating. Again, I’m not Springsteen or Prince, or anybody relevant even, and I get a text pretty much every day now. Every day, somebody is coming to Vegas for a birthday party. “Where are you playing? I want to come see you play.” Like, that’s a crazy thing for me. You know what I mean? In the entertainment capital world, again, what I do at the level that I do it, I’m always like, man, that’s nuts. That is so flattering to me, that somebody wants to come here with all the options that are even available now, even with restrictions and whatnot, and they want to see me sit on a stool that spins around, with a guitar in my hand, and just butcher tunes is crazy to me. It’s crazy. But it happens on a day-to-day basis, where somebody hits me up on Facebook and says, “Where are you playing in the next two weeks? We’ll be there on the 14th.” First thing I say is… Well, they always ask “What’s Vegas like? What’s it going to be like in April?” And I say the same thing, “My crystal ball is busted. I have no idea. I have no clue.” But right now, I have no shows for the foreseeable future. I say the same thing over and over again. Unfortunately, I don’t have a different answer. So, for me, the future looks like that.
I created an LLC a few years back that is just solutions for working musicians
The future is, we have 14 RVs in the fleet right now that are, like I said, either rental or renovation and flips, in the Freebird RV fleet. I still would love to pour gasoline on the fire that was the aforementioned Solo Station, and some of the ideas I have in my head for products. I had moments where I wanted to… my last name is Eiferman, the nickname shortened is “Ife.” So, all of a sudden, like Shawntrepreneur or silly wordplay, “Ifestyle.” I created an LLC a few years back that is just solutions for working musicians. And I’ve got six or seven products that are ideas and solutions for a working musician. And so the average… I’ve got guitars everywhere here. So the average guitar stand is this big clunky thing that you gotta take with you to a gig, and it falls apart. There’s some challenges that come along with just a guitar stand, whether you’re a bass player, guitar player, etc, etc. So I thought, man, why isn’t there a guitar out there…Wait for it, wait for it… where the stand is built into the guitar?
Amanda: Your guitar has a kickstand.
Shawn: And you just open it up and set it down. Ta-da!
Amanda: Why didn’t that exist before?
Shawn: I don’t know. But I put a couple of little magnets in, and that just clicks right, right? And stays on the guitar. And you can play, and it doesn’t catch, it’s like credit card thin. And this is prototype number one. And I’m in conversations with Fender right now to sell the license, the design to this as a license to Fender, who’s been making the Fender Stratocaster for 1000 years without any real modifications, to start building and selling the Fender Standacaster. I feel like the Shamwow guy just then. But I’ve got guitar stands everywhere. And this I can put down anywhere. It stays on the guitar. It’s built into the guitar. I don’t know why nobody’s done it. There was one model of a guitar company called Guild back in the 60s, early 60s, that had a flat bottom. The guitar was actually flat, wasn’t rounded. And they had a little bar that came out like this, and you could lean it back.
And nobody’s, of the major…I mean, I’ve done all the research, I have the patent information, and I’ve done all the stuff. I don’t know why nobody’s done it. But I want to do it. I mean, I’ve done it, and now we’ll see what happens. And so that’s what happens. That’s how this all works. So the future for me is I would love to pour gasoline on that fire. I’d love to turn this RV thing… I mean, it’s only been four months. We have 14 units in the fleet. It’s been just under five months now, and we haven’t sold one yet, right? We just finished renovation. We just crossed the finish line renovating three of them, out of the 14, about 10 days ago, 11 days ago. So, you know, you list them, and we have had looky-loos, and we’ve got momentum going in the right direction. But until somebody writes a check, this is just a very expensive hobby.
Amanda: And you do it with your family, though. Your wife and your kids are involved too, right?
Shawn: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Amanda: And how much better… you get to take this time, spend it with your family doing stuff, doing something that you love doing? And you all still, even though your kids are in their 20s now, you’re all still together. And I know you have your blended family with your wife now. It doesn’t sound like that such a bad life you’ve got there.
Shawn: It doesn’t suck. I mean, I’ve taken an angle grinder to this knuckle that went down to the bone. Some of it sucks. I’m used to being a little bit pampered when it comes to my digits. And now I work with my hands. I’m a day laborer, all day every day, which is different than working with my hands, you know? And so there’s a few little downsides to it, as I’ve learned how to do everything that we’re doing with power tools and all of that stuff.
Amanda: I was also going to ask you if you had one piece of career advice for other creatives out there, what would it be?
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
Shawn: Collaborate. You don’t know everything. I get asked all the time, “who’s the most influential guitar player in your early years?” and “As you’ve done this, which songwriters have meant the most to you and helped you?” They are all people that I’ve been in a garage with, rehearsing with, or sitting in a pizza shop, writing a song with. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. That doesn’t mean you have to be in a band, because musicians are dipshits and trying to like… they are. It’s herding cats on any given day. I said it.
I’ve learned all of the people that I list when I’m asked that question are the first band I was in in high school. John Auer, the most influential early guitar player that I can name, became the guitar player in the Posies. We were talking about you love the 90s. So my sort of eighth grade through high school bandmates and people that I played music with. I went off to college in Northridge, California, and they just moved down to Seattle, replaced my ass, and made a record. And that first record for the Posies, “Frosting on the Beater,” they sold like 25 million copies in Japan alone. John Auer is that guy, but nobody knows who he is in the guitar… like, people are waiting for me to say Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen, and those guys. Paul Gilbert, there’s some unbelievable guitar players that I look up to.
But collaborating with those people, understanding how other people write songs, figuring out what why a drummer plays what a drummer would want to play in a song versus what’s best for the song. There’s a whole bunch of things that you just can’t. It’s empathy, I guess. Treat everybody how you want to be treated is an interesting way to look at your musical endeavors. Because part of collaborating is the audience, and until you put yourself in the seat of that person out there, you can’t really make a living out of this. You can’t do it at a certain level. You have to make it about them. That’s lost on a lot of musicians. They don’t get it. They’re super talented, you know, and blah, blah, blah. But I mean, I’ve seen a janitor sing their ass off, from some elementary school in Kentucky, on the Voice. Like, there’s talent everywhere. Collaborate with some people. Understand what it’s like to be on a team. You know, whether it’s writing songs, anything. And then audience-wise, I got lucky. Again, entertainment capital of the world boils down to one thing, make it about them. That’s good advice across the board.
Amanda: That applies to business in general. Even if you are… there’s this word, the solopreneur… and you’re somebody like me. I’m running my own business and I do everything by myself. But I don’t do it by myself. I might be the only one in the company, but there are people I talk to. Like I said, I was learning how to do some of this audio recording stuff. Tansy Aster is a company that I use to do my audio engineering and sweetening and making it sound pretty, because that’s out of my wheelhouse and not something I want to dedicate my time to doing. But it’s always about the client in business. It’s not what do I get out of this? And if you come at it from that angle of how can I help you, they help you in return by paying you and keeping you involved in these projects. But it’s always a collaboration. You have to use your instincts and trust yourself and go with what’s right for you.
Amanda: But including other people, getting other perspectives, is really important because otherwise we just stay on that one track and we kind of miss all those extra opportunities on the side.
There’s going to be an artistic explosion
Shawn: And we’re in an interesting time to do that. People do all of a sudden have some free time. And if they want to learn software for audio, or whatever, it’s the time. This is gonna sound a little dramatic or whatever, grandiose, but I think there’s going to be an artistic renaissance. There. I said it. I think what we’ve done in the past almost a year…unbelievable. What COVID, I believe, globally is going to produce is the time and the energy and the passion of the average creative person has now been kind of massaged into this, well, what do I want to do? You know, nobody’s got any money, so it doesn’t matter anymore that I don’t have any money. And they just go down the checklist. And they’re like, I think I’m going to become a sculptor. Or, you know, whatever. I think there’s going to be poetry, books, music. I think the films that are going to come out… some of the scripts, the stuff that’s going to come out of this shutdown will be a renaissance. I think some of the paintings we’re going to see, and that there’s going to be an artistic explosion. Renaissance is a little dramatic, but it’s the first word I thought of. I think that’s what’s going to happen.
I’ve seen it happen with my peers all over the world. I’ve got a friend in South Africa that I never thought would be playing drums, and all of a sudden starting to write songs, and getting better at playing acoustic guitar, and then six months into COVID just decided to start writing and recording. And he’s a former international rugby champion. That guy’s nine feet tall, 400 pounds of solid muscle. You would never guess that he’s made a record, but that’s what’s happening. And so his stuff is great, but there’s going to be people… a lot of it’s going to be terrible. As with anything, you know what I mean? The first person that says, “Well, I’m gonna start sculpting or painting” or whatever, some of its gonna be awful. Some of it, because of this, there’s gonna be people that have never done it that are going to be the next Kurt Cobain, that we’re like, “Well, it’s not like I took lessons, and I learned two little things. And all of a sudden, I’m in Nirvana.”
Amanda: Playing your guitar upside down.
Shawn: Yeah. Right. Well, Grohl is a great example. I mean, he’s the best example of… he’s said it. I’ve seen interviews where he just says, “Look, be exceptional.” That’s it. Make yourself do whatever you’re going to do so that people can’t ignore what you do, and the cream will rise to the top. That’s good advice.
Amanda: Where can people find you out in the social media land and elsewhere?
Shawn: I think the best place still is just my name. Just Shawn Eiferman. I hate that you can spell it six different ways. I joke all the time. I don’t remember what year it was, early ‘93/’94. I was on the cover of the Review-Journal as Sharon Fifferman. I got to open for Steve Miller Band at the Thomas and Mack. Huge for me at the time. That was pre-Epstein’s Mother. Like, that was a big deal. And I did an interview over the phone, and somebody was handwriting whatever they were writing down, and then handed in that piece of handwritten paper to whoever they handed it to, and then it went to another person. Like the cup thing. And Shawn Eiferman handwritten became Sharon Fifferman on the cover of the Review-Journal, opening for Steve Miller. Anyway, so Shawn can be spelled S-e-a-n, S-h-a-u-n, it’s pain in the ass. And then Eiferman, I forget how to spell my last name sometimes. So “That Vegas Guitar Guy” became my little nickname moniker thing, but either one of those will find me on the interwebs. Yeah, Shawn Eiferman. S-h-a-w-n, blah, blah, blah, blah, whatever. Not Sharon, you won’t find me if you Google Sharon Fifferman.
Amanda: I’ll spell it in the show notes so you can find him. Well, Sharon Fifferman, thank you so much for making the time to talk to me today. I could talk music forever, but I’m glad to see that you are doing well. And I’m very excited to see how Freebird turns out for you.
Shawn: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And right back at you. We jumped right into this thing. And for those of you watching and listening, this young lady… Wait, where are you? Right there. I don’t know if that’s gonna be the format when they actually see this thing… is one of those exceptional human beings. The smile on her face lights up the rooms that I’ve seen her in over the years. Her love and passion and support of live music is exceptional. I can go down the line of why you are who you are, and the support, I think, is the biggest thing. People don’t realize what it takes to feel supported, and it takes people like Amanda. Like you. All of a sudden I’m talking like you’re not here.
Amanda: Well, thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate all of that.
Shawn: No, thank you. You know, from the U2/Bono stuff, you can really see what it takes to dedicate yourself to a lifestyle of love for something. And I’m excited to see what’s in your crystal ball in your future as well. And hopefully this is one of the vehicles that will get you where you want to be.
Connect with Shawn @shawneiferman