With a recent solo album to assert his own identity, Brian Paddock plots his next move
Any time an artist opts to part ways with his or her namesake outfit, the question as to why inevitably arises. After all, it would seem to suggest that, given the fact that the individual’s name already was elevated on marquees, his or her musical vision always held sway anyway and that said ensemble naturally would be guided by the dictates of the person at the helm.
For Brian Paddock, who once was known as Shimmy, erstwhile frontman of Shimmy & the Burns, that wasn’t ever necessarily the case. It also wasn’t the only reason why he opted to venture out on his own.
Indeed, the last few months – the last year, in fact – have been a trying time for Paddock. Not only have health issues (he was diagnosed with testicular cancer last summer and has since found himself dealing with his mother’s decline, as well) impeded his personal progress, but they also have led to him deciding that he needed to take his fate into his own hands.
In fact, it was a culmination of circumstances that made him leave Shimmy & the Burns, revert to his given name and embark upon a solo career that initially yielded an EP late last year followed by a full-length debut album this past summer. Paddock says that the decision to part ways with his former colleagues wasn’t one that he took lightly, but it was one he knew had to be done.
“Shimmy & the Burns were really taking off after we played Rhythm ‘N’ Blooms in 2017,” Paddock reflects. “We were getting really hot, and we were seeing a lot of people coming to our gigs. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to expand on that. Various band members had life situations that intruded on the circumstances. I made it clear that I wanted to take the band in a different direction – a direction that I wanted to dictate. And when they were unwilling – or unable – I became frustrated. Some of the guys were reluctant to tour as much as I thought was necessary to maintain our momentum, and that was also thwarting our progress.”
Ironically, the final Shimmy & the Burns album, released in 2016 and dubbed “Letting Go,” bore a title that proved prophetic. A final EP followed later that year, and Paddock hoped that more music would be forthcoming. As it turned out, the release of the EP coincided with the airing of personal issues that had been plaguing the band for some time. The members collectively decided to take an indefinite break, giving Paddock cause to consider his own priorities going forward.
“The new songs were getting the best reaction in concert, and that made me want to go back into the studio and work on some more,” he retrospectively recalls. “But the other guys thought it was too soon.”
Not to be deterred, Paddock re-entered the recording studio and recorded a four-song EP on his own. It, too, was titled with an auspicious name: “Villains.” With bare-bone arrangements consisting entirely of only his voice and solitary guitar accompaniment, it was an intimate and evocative expression of singular emotion evoked through tender and touching sentiments.
“I was really testing the waters,” Paddock suggests. “I didn’t want people to mistake this for a Shimmy effort. It may have been a similar style, but the music was getting more sophisticated. I was listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” a lot, and while I wasn’t really happy with our self-recording process, I did have multiple people telling me that my solo EP was the best set of songs I had ever done. I was also intent on touring on my own, playing with a band only for bigger shows. I like to straddle the line. I love playing rocking songs with other people, but I really love acoustic music, as well. And I feel the songs are getting better, as well.”
The album that followed, “Under New Management,” boasted an even more telling title and was released under his own aegis. Having a new band – one that consisted of John Tod Baker on bass and Gurnee Barrett on drums along with a variety of special guests – in tow allowed Paddock to fully express his own ideas and touch on subjects that had occupied his thoughts for a considerably long time. With his sandpapery vocals and a clear sense of gritty determination at the fore, the material ranged from driving rockers spun from clear conviction to contemplative ballads imbued with introspection and insight – songs both pointed and poignant.
“While I try not to take myself too seriously, the vast majority of my music is about important issues that I think need to be shared,” Paddock insists. “I wanted to write and record songs that were more serious and more mature. My earlier music sometimes sounded very angry. This time around, it was a quieter and more subtle kind of anger – although there were still things I was trying to work through. I wanted to dissect those issues a bit more, explore why people did the things they do instead of blasting them outright. Discover what makes people so abusive and self-centered. Getting into the reasons why they’re that way is much more interesting to me.”
In the process, Paddock was able to re-evaluate his own mindset, as well. “I haven’t spared myself in the past, either,” he admits. “I always try to remain as self-deprecating as possible. However, this time around, I was trying to express things that meant something to me, things that are important – whether they were social issues or relationship issues or what have you. I thought it was important to project a serious adult image even though when I’m onstage I still try to keep it as light as possible and crack as many jokes as I can.”
Although Paddock’s plans to tour immediately behind the album were prevented by his mother’s illness (“I had hoped to go out for three weeks, and then I decided to just go out for a week, and then those plans got curtailed entirely”), he’s now hoping to do a solo tour early next year with buddy Josh Smith of Handsome and the Humbles,
“I’d like to spend a week on the road every month,” he says. “When I play in the right places, people will come out and see us. So once things settle down, I do plan to hit it hard.” In the meantime, Paddock says he has a show booked at Boyd’s Jig & Reel in the Old City on December 28. He’ll be backed by a new band, the American Gentlemen, consisting of Baker, Barrett and Denny Meyers on lead guitar. The band is named for the Boston terrier breed of dogs; Paddock has three of them as pets.
As for Shimmy, suffice it to say that the alter ego is likely gone for good.
“It was a stupid nickname I got in college,” Paddock explains. “One night we played a prank, and we all climbed up a pole to steal some signs meant to welcome students back to school. We took them and lined them up at the student union. One of my friends liked the way I shimmied up the pole. Ha. Ha. Very funny. So they started calling me Shimmy.”
The name stuck, but now it’s no more. Paddock has put the past behind him, and the move he’s making is clearly forward towards the future.