Passion and purpose tend to go hand in hand, so it’s little wonder that in the case of Shane Henry there’s an indelible bond that fuses his music to his message. One is intrinsically linked to the other. As a singer, songwriter and guitarist, he’s made it his mission to impart the emotion and inspiration he’s accumulated through the sum total of his life experiences.
Henry’s stunning new album, Light in the Dark (due for release April 28), conveys that intent without hesitation. Over the course of its eleven songs, it seals the divide between blues and pop, resulting in a sound that boasts elements of both, while also retaining a freshness, spontaneity, and yes, an instantly infectious and accessible sound that expands his boundaries as both a songwriter and a musician. It brings his career to new heights, the accrued accomplishment derived from a fifteen year journey that spans six previous independent releases — You’re Comin’ Home (2000), Deliverance (2004), The Love EP (2007), Beauty in the Struggle (2011), and a pair of holiday EPs with Maggie McClure, First Thing on My Christmas List (2012) and Happiest of Holidays (2015) — a steady diet of touring and solo performances, and continuing praise from his peers.
That’s an impressive accomplishment, especially for a musician who began his musical quest in a small town in Oklahoma. His father played guitar and made a point of exposing him to the likes of the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix. When he was twelve, his dad took him to 2 concerts that changed his life: Tom Petty at the Civic Center in Oklahoma City, and B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt at the Tulsa Blues Festival. That inspired him to learn guitar, a skill he pursued with a passion. That, in turn, led him to the blues and the soul sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Otis Redding, and Donny Hathaway.
“My music has always reflected my reverence for soul music and for the blues,” Henry says. “It’s all about sharing songs that originate through authenticity, from the heart and from the soul.”
At age 19, Henry made the move north to Minneapolis to work and record with songwriter/producer Kevin Bowe (Jonny Lang, Etta James, Joe Cocker, etc.), and began gigging steadily around the Twin Cities area before returning home in 2006 to ponder his next move. In 2012, he moved to Los Angeles in search of greater opportunities to further his career and bring his music wider exposure. Along the way, he racked up an impressive list of accomplishments — 30 dates supporting B.B. King, a signing with the influential independent label Shanachie Records, work with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s renown backing band Double Trouble and recordings with guitar great Kenny Wayne Shepherd, plus touring with the likes of Etta James, Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Joe Bonamassa, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Johnny Winter, Edwin McCain, the Neville Brothers and Grand Funk Railroad and playing such notable venues as the Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, the Santa Barbara Bowl, and Jones Beach Amphitheater. In addition, many of his songs have received international exposure, courtesy of placements on NBC, CBS, Discovery Channel, Hallmark Channel, and the E! Television network, as well as through feature films, radio airplay and retail sales.
“I’ve experienced the highs and lows that accompany a career involved in making music,” Henry admits. “The songs I’ve included on Light in the Dark express that range of emotions — the struggle, the spiritual journey, the excitement and the enlightenment, all while trying to offer some thoughts about what it takes to find one’s place in the world and the steps we need to take to realize our dreams.”
Produced in part by David Ryan Harris (John Mayer, Dave Matthews, Santana) and Justin Glasco (The Lone Bellow), Light in the Dark boasts songs that effectively reflect an upward gaze while offering hope and comfort in a world where challenges abound and confusion often reigns. A mix of the occasionally dark underbelly, some instantly accessible grooves, a host of ready refrains and fiery fretwork, it carries a persistently uplifting theme throughout.
“I’ll keep on fighting until the battle is won,” he insists on the song “Running Towards the Sun.” He bases his beliefs on eternal optimism, as echoed in “Turn on the Lights,” and the search for salvation, persistent themes found in “Find My Rhythm” and “Save Me.” In fact, the entire album is flush with drive and determination, the result of Henry’s evolution as an artist, an advance that he’s quick to point out.
“This record reflects my development as a songwriter,” he suggests. “It defines who I am. I’ve always believed that if the artist doesn’t feel the music, then no one else will either.”
Ultimately then, his goal is simple. “I want to make a positive impact on my audience through my music,” he says. “If I can shine a little bit of light, then maybe others will find some comfort there as well.”