Since arriving in Colorado in the early ‘90s, singer-songwriter Danny Shafer has been an integral part of the Front Range music scene.
Danny Shafer plays Coffee on the Rocks in Estes Park in summer 2021. (Sal DeVincenzo/sdvphoto.com/Courtesy photo)
From fronting honky-tonk rock band The Unknown Americans to hosting long-running open mics at Oskar Blues and the now-shuttered Conor O’Neill’s, Shafer has proven to be a supporter of local talent, in addition to one of the region’s most notable performers.
As a solo artist, he has built a fanbase with his honest Americana folk.
In the years prior to the pandemic, he was clocking significant miles on U.S. roadways, in some cases playing nearly 300 shows per year.
A prolific songwriter, Shafer has crafted his first independently released album in 10 years that drops Monday.
Danny Shafer hangs out in his Longmont home in 2021 (Josh Elioseff/Dancer Productions Photography/Courtesy photo)
“Living in the Elephant Cage,” is a 10-song collection — filled with poetic musings and compelling picking — free to download and listen to on his website, on SoundCloud and on Spotify.
The pay-what-you-can format allows listeners to donate an amount they feel comfortable with at any time to Shafer’s Venmo at @Daniel-Shafer-18.
Sunday, he will play a free show at The Wheel House in Niwot at 5 p.m.
Offering free albums and a free show may seem like an unusual move to outsiders pondering the motive to do such a thing considering the pandemic has bulldozed much of the entertainment industry.
But, this unencumbered generosity and a pure desire to share song is nothing new for Shafer — who used to live in Lyons, but now calls Longmont home.
In 2019, he released “Songbook,” an album about “home, family and warmth” and a corresponding collection of essays that let listeners in on his journey from the cradle to the stage.
He made both the record and mini memoir obtainable at no cost to fans.
On the title track of “Living in the Elephant Cage,” Shafer sings, “I am a wanderer/ I am a rake/ Born to give more than I take.”
This sentiment echoes through most everything the Chicago-raised musician does.
We caught up with the former road dog to find out more about the inspiration behind his latest album, what folks can expect from his upcoming gig and if, in fact, the siren song of tour life is still calling.
Kalene McCort: What inspired your latest album? Were songs crafted during the chaos of 2020 or are many of these tunes ones you have been working on throughout the years?
Danny Shafer: The songs on “Living in the Elephant Cage” were written in 2019 and recorded shortly after. There was a long pause in the process of finishing the record with studios being closed due to the pandemic.
The songs were written in a writing spell I was having as I was healing from a few different aspects of the last 10 years. I wrote almost 150 songs and picked 10. The album — though a bit heavy — is really about getting through and seeing the other side, as I was figuring out how to move on and be OK after divorce, flood and overworking myself to the point of very poor physical health.
The songs were written without any thought about someone else hearing them. I hope it’s honest and very to the point. Maybe there is beauty in that alone.
Danny Shafer plays a song during open mic night at the Oskar Blues Boulder Taproom in 2017. (Daily Camera file photo)
KM: Why did you decide on offering this album to fans at no cost or a pay-what-you-can rate?
DS: It’s a great experiment to release this record as a pay-what-you-want format. Also, a person can just download the record and not pay anything at all. That’s fine by me.
This is the first record in 10 years that is independent of a label. I own this one, so I had freedom to release it this way. It seems technology and the independent artist finally has a place where it is possible to effectively release an album and have some success.
KM: What can attendees expect from your Wheel House show and what do you like most about this Niwot venue?
DS: The Wheel House is an intimate venue. A listening room. The show will be just myself, my old Gibson and the songs. There is nothing to hide behind.
Also, there is no cover, a great staff and it’s at 5 p.m. on a Sunday. That seems like all the reasons to make it easy to come and enjoy the show.
KM: I understand you are running a new open mic at Boulder’s DV8 Distillery. How did you land on this location and what’s the response been like?
DS: The Open Stage has never felt better than at DV8 Distillery. The people at DV8 have been amazing to get to know. There is a lot to look forward to from them. I think it’s a brilliant and unique place.
We have had a full list the first few weeks and, as always, there is new music and artists to be heard. I was a bit lost without the Open Stage. I am grateful DV8 invited me to host there.
Danny Shafer hangs out in his Longmont home in 2021. Behind him is the desk where he wrote all the songs for his upcoming release “Living in the Elephant Cage”(Josh Elioseff/Dancer Productions Photography/Courtesy photo)
KM: After this Niwot gig, where can folks catch you next? Are you eager to get on the road again and tour?
DS: I am sure I will get on the road again, but I am not sure when. It’s in my blood for sure. In these times, it’s been a relief to take things one step at a time and see how things feel and turn out.
I am still moving slowly into a performance schedule. This last year and a half really did change the way I want to plan the future. Steady and forward with fewer and more intimate shows with an occasional loud, rowdy bar burner in the mix — just for kicks — is what I am planning this year.