Marc Lee Shannon stepped outside of his camping trailer and stood on the desert soil of Joshua Tree National Park while holding out his computer and pivoting so he could show glimpses of the landscape during a recent interview.
Early-morning sunlight illuminated the horizon while Shannon admired the natural beauty moments before embarking on a seven-mile hike in a cool 61 degrees.
For the Northeast Ohio musician, the new day symbolized his personal rebirth as he celebrated seven years of sobriety.
A longtime member of Michael Stanley’s backing band The Resonators, Shannon also was marking this month’s release of his new album, “Lucky 7,” which is available at www.marcleeshannon.com/ and through https://bandcamp.com/.
“I’m … just celebrating that whole feeling of if you would have told me eight years ago that I’d be sitting here talking to you (from Joshua Tree) getting ready to release my second record sober for seven years, I would have bet against you … because I just had tried everything … to get well,” Shannon said from inside his Airstream trailer. “And it wasn’t until I finally admitted that I had a medical problem that needed to be taken care of, and that was the disease of addiction.
“No. 1, I had to go into a long-term period of abstinence. I had to get medical treatment and counseling. And I had to join a group of people like me who help people like me.”
Michael was a friend
Shannon has opened for rock stars, including Pat Benatar at the Canton Palace Theatre in September and The Wallflowers at The Kent Stage earlier this month.
But his strongest connection in the music ranks was to the late Michael Stanley, a Northeast Ohio legend who achieved national success and once played three consecutive soldout concerts at Blossom Music Center.
“There were no angles working,” Shannon said of Stanley. “There was no pretentiousness, there was total authenticity. He was just a guy from Northeast Ohio who happened to be a songwriter who we all grew up with — he was just like us.”
Shannon remains loyal to Stanley’s memory as well. A guitarist for The Resonators, he will be part of a string of shows from Dec. 3-5 at MGM Northfield Park Center Stage, titled “Michael Stanley, Among My Friends Again,” featuring members of The Resonators with special guest Jonah Koslen.
The first two shows sold out faster than any concerts in the history of the venue, according to Live Nation.
However, resale tickets still are available for the Dec. 3-4 concerts through Ticketmaster. For more information, visit https://mgmnorthfieldpark.mgmresorts.com/en/entertainment.html.
Tickets for the Dec. 5 show are also still available through www.ticketmaster.com/event/05005B42EDFB40F2.
“I’m happy I’ve been elevated from the junior varsity to the varsity,” Shannon said of his role in the tribute shows. “I get to sing some of the songs that were hits for Michael, and that’s a really serious responsibility to me.’
The Akron native also has a solo acoustic show from 7 to 10 p.m. on Sunday at The Still House at Gervasi Vineyard in Canton.
An album release party will be on March 5 at the Akron Civic Theatre. For ticket information, visit www.akroncivic.com/shows/374.
For more information on his upcoming performances, visit www.marcleeshannon.com/shows or www.bandsintown.com/
Stark County connection
Ryan Humbert, a North Canton resident and member of the retro country and Americana band The Shootouts, produced “Lucky 7.”
“it’s a fun record; it’s not a too serious record,” Shannon said. “There’s a lot of fun, upbeat songs, (and) there’s a lot of soulful songs on it, but it’s Northeast Ohio, so that’s the way it is.”
Humbert provided a steady hand in the studio for the new material, Shannon said.
“It’s a really good collaboration because Ryan helps me get past that artist perfection syndrome, which I think a lot of us have,” he said. “… It’s really good to have somebody else that you really super trust saying that, ‘Yeah, you got it, leave it alone’ or, ‘No, we’re not there yet,’ and that’s really, really useful to us as creative people — to have that other perspective, especially when you trust them.”
“The intention of this record was to really take these songs I wrote during the pandemic … and imagine as if we were taking ourselves back to the late ’60s and … doing really a soulful approach,” Shannon added.
A bonus track, “Steady On,” is a tribute to Stanley as well as a callout of sorts to Shannon’s work in the recovery community in supporting and encouraging those working towards or maintaining sobriety, both through a podcast at www.recoverytalks.org/ and in a column, the “Sober Chronicles.”
‘Great presence on music scene’
Shannon also called on the help of other musicians in the region in crafting the classic rock and blues-influenced record, including members of the popular Youngstown-based band The Vindys.
“We were a little intimidated when we first learned Marc played with (Michael Stanley), and when we learned about his history as a session guy in LA and then his corporate music career,” said Jackie Popovec, lead singer of The Vindys. Shannon, “however, is one of the most humble and kind people you’ll ever meet, and is a great presence on the music scene of this area.”
Popovec lends her distinctive voice to a cover of the Bad Company hit, “Rock Steady.”
“I laid down some call-and-response style vocals on the tune, leaving space for the awesome driving groove, and I think it came out fantastic in the end,” she said. “Marc’s version is only faintly similar to the original song in a really good way.
“It’s so easy to regurgitate cover songs note for note that you’ve heard before, but Marc really arranged and sang this song in a unique way,” Popovec added. “He has great instincts as a musician and writer and I’m glad I could be a part of it.”
‘There’s only so much time left’
“Lucky 7” was recorded amid the backdrop of Stanley’s passing in March at age 72.
“So there was that element … of just as we progress along the aging continuum, we become acutely aware that there is not an infinite amount of time to do what you want to do with the people you love or to do things you want to do,” Shannon said. “I think during this record I was astutely aware of … there’s only so much time left.”
Like the album itself, the song, “Steady On” bridges both Shannon’s recovery from alcoholism and the loss of his mentor. The song title is a nod to how he signs off his columns about recovery — “that old phrase in Japanese culture, which is fall down seven times, get up eight.”
The quiet, poignant song, featuring Jennifer Lee on harmony vocals, began as a simple acoustic riff strummed early in the morning while Shannon sipped coffee with his dog lounging nearby.
Soon he pitched it to Stanley, who after a few days, said simply: “Let’s proceed.”
Around the same time, Stanley was diagnosed with cancer, Shannon recalled. After initial reluctance, and at the urging of Humbert, he finished the song without his late friend and bandmate.
“Steady On” honors the loss of both Stanley and those who died from COVID-19, Shannon explained, his voice softening.
“We had seen great suffering with people leaving this Earth, and that was really what the song was about — when I’m gone, just remember me.”