Even though his music career has taken him across the United States, Michael Shynes, 30, of St. Cloud will never forget his hometown, Little Falls. He has even written a song about it.
“My hometown is a part of me as much as my arms and legs,” he said.
Still, it wasn’t until after he left when he was 18, that Shynes realized how much Little Falls had to do with shaping him as a man and a music artist.
“When I was living there, I kind of took it for granted, but I think that you have to move away to realize the significance of it. I spent more than half of my life in that town and will always come back. In a sense, I feel like I never left, because it will always be my hometown,” Shynes said.
Since Shynes left Little Falls to pursue his music career, he has grown tremendously. Not only in his musical and vocal abilities, but also in who he is, he said.
“I am much calmer, very contented and settled in who I am and in my career,” he said.
In the early years of Shynes’ musical career, he focused on “chasing the next thing.”
“When you’re young, you think you’ll be happy once you attain certain milestones or things. I was constantly living thinking: ‘If I could just make music my living. If I could just support my family by playing music,’” Shynes said.
One thing he discovered, was that his desperation to make it in the music industry and for people to like his music affected how well he performed.
“When you’re not as good you try really hard to impress people, which is actually counterproductive. They can sense the desperation when you’re up there. But when you’re calm and you can put the people in the audience at ease, they know you are very calm within yourself and because of it, you are a better entertainer and better at what you do,” he said.
Even though Shynes has more than 10,000 hours of performing behind him, he is not completely immune to experiencing some anxiety.
“I still want to do well, but I don’t feel like I have to sing my biggest notes all the time,” he said.
Shynes believes what can make a performer stand out is how well he or she handles making a mistake. It’s very easy for a beginner to make a comment, such as “oops,” that lets the audience know a mistake was made, he said.
These days whenever Shynes makes a mistake when he is performing, he acts as if it was just part of the act.
“If you can act as if everything happened the way you wanted it to happen, you’re in great shape,” he said.
For a time in his career, Shynes believed he wanted to write songs for famous artists, such as Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. But when he had the opportunity to compose for a universal group in California, he quickly realized it wasn’t for him.
“I thought I wanted to write songs for major artists, but when I did, I hated it. The thing I love about music is the story telling, but writing what you think other people will like was very hollow,” Shynes said.
With the added pressure to write music that would sell and at the same time trying to have his own career, Shynes realized that his family was suffering for it.
“The music became very joyless and that is a profound thing to happen when the thing you love to do becomes the thing you hate. That’s a pretty dark and lonely place to be,” he said.
Shynes quit the job in California and focused on finding a balance between family life and his own career.
“The only way to be successful in life is to have a balance. Too much of a thing, no matter how good it is, isn’t good. Balance is the key,” he said.
Even though Shynes plays many songs made popular by other artists (cover songs), he adds his own spin to them. Oftentimes it is unintentional.
“Every great musical artist has his or her signature. If people can hear that you have your own signature, whether it is a sound or vocal quality, it makes you stand out in all the clutter of other artists,” Shynes said.
One way Shynes stands out musically is that he plays an acoustic guitar, but runs it through an electric guitar processing. It gives the sound of an electric guitar, but still has the warmth an acoustic guitar offers, he said.
He also finger picks most of his music, which adds dynamic. In addition, he creates a unique atmosphere with layers of ambience, reverbs and delays, he said.
Shynes is getting ready to release his third full-length album, in November. It is filled with a variety of songs about life.
One song, “When You Get Older” he wrote to his adopted 5-year-old daughter, Addie.
When he met his wife, Madie, she was a single mom. Addie was 1 when Shynes adopted her.
Adopting Addie was more than doing the right thing. He didn’t want to just be her “stepdad,” but wanted be “all in.” He wanted to be her dad, Shynes said.
Today, Madie, Addie, their son, Duke, 1, and their two dogs and one cat mean the world to him.
“I’m in love with my family. They are my Utopia when I’m not playing shows. We don’t even have to be doing the same thing, but just being together in one house, knowing they are all safe, means everything to me,” Shynes said.
Contrary to what many artists do, Shynes goes out of his way to make it home after every show. The only exception is when he is performing out of state.
“I don’t like sleeping over in strange places or hotels,” he said.
Shynes said his family is a great inspiration to him when it comes to writing songs. Even close friends who are going through various situations can become an inspiration.
Shynes has also written about loss. Watching his dad, John, pass away in 2012 helped put his priorities in perspective.
John’s regrets on his deathbed were not that he didn’t make enough money or wasn’t famous, Shynes said.
“If he could’ve had anything else, it would’ve been more time with his family. I don’t take that for granted. I’m not going to chase fame and money over missing seeing my kids grow up,” Shynes said.
Another thing Shynes stays diligent about is remaining humble. It is easy to get caught up in the fame and the good things that come his way. Shynes thanks his dad and mom, Shirley, for that.
“We didn’t have much money and were always on a shoestring budget. I am fortunate to come from such humble beginnings. I don’t take things for granted and don’t feel entitled to anything,” he said.
Shynes’ albums are available at iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and other online retailers Personalized, signed copies are also available at any of his live shows.