Alejandro Rose-Garcia, a.k.a. Shakey Graves, is “a gentleman from Texas.” This one-man-band is a singer-songwriter from Austin whose style is unmistakably authentic: potent lyrics sung through husky yet soothing vocals that pierce your guard and make you listen and feel him as he dips in and out of time.
Traveling the world with a suitcase-kick drum, tambourine, and guitar, he has let his soul sing for crowds from Australia to right here at Berklee. His mysterious online presence, he said, was intentional. He made apparent his desire to be a “best kept secret” of sorts. And until he met his manager and agent, Bodie Johnson and Keith Levy, respectively, he was an unsigned artist just trying (with some success) to make it happen: “They are good people and they just happen to run a business that runs alongside mine,” Shakey Graves notes.
He and his team came to a Berklee-hosted Beyond the Band event to educate eager minds about his path to success. I gathered a great sense of family and friendship from his visit with what seemed to be his professional brothers. They shared fun stories that became anecdotes for all of us aspiring industry-members and artists in the crowd. “Family first” was one point that could not be stressed enough.
“The mentality that I like to pride myself on and bring is that it’s an open book policy,” said Johnson. “A lot of times, managers are the peer gate-keepers, and if [someone] wants to speak to Alejandro, it needs to go through me. That sort of disgusts me to a large degree. Keith came on first, and then I came on board.”
I had a chance to talk with him after the show and one of the first things that came up was balance. He quoted Bruce Lee’s “Be like water” philosophy, and we continued upwards on a positivity spiral. Unshaken by potentially awkward pauses and indefinitely strong eye-contact, we ended by echoing much of what was said inside the event: stay on your path and continue learning and honing your craft. Don’t be afraid of mistakes; embrace them, and balance that difficult process by knowing what you need (i.e., knowing who you are).
“I’ve been stressed out about coming and talking here because this is a college of music and I am a very unlearned musician,” Shakey Graves admitted. “There’s a lot of things that people have praised me for doing right [on guitar] that I just know I’m doing wrong; I just don’t know how to do it better. I think that’s kind of what becomes a style.”
Being afraid to make mistakes is like evading strength. Caring too much about competition is conceivably like racing a Lamborghini on your way to the grocery store; just because it revs its engine at the light doesn’t mean you can, or even should, compete. Remaining on your path, learning about how to adapt through constant shifts in life, and being the best you can be is all that counts in the end.
Out of the many nights to remember in my lifetime thus far, this one has definitely been one for the books.
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