Musician Richard Shindell ’83 was recently featured in a music blog, which provided a biography and music critique as well as “a dozen questions” answered by Shindell and clips to videos of his music. The singer-songwriter has a uniquely eclectic style that is featured in his eight albums and two live recordings. Loved by fans and critics alike, Shindell is described as “a weaver of poetry and melody.” His songs are often written from a first-person point of view, and tell a story of the disadvantaged or marginalized.
Though his songs are often said to be filled with social commentary, Shindell disagrees. He is quoted as saying: “I don’t really think about it as social commentary at all. I think about it more as trying to inhabit a character almost as if I was an actor, writing from their point of view. It’s very much like a role.”
Shindell recently completed a small tour of New England, New York, New Jersey and Ohio. He earned a B.A. in philosophy from Hobart College. Now living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he currently has another album in production.
The full article from the blog article follows. More information, including the dozen questions and links to his music, are available on the blog.
No Depression: The Roots Music Authority
Richard Shindell: Guardian of the Word/12 Questions for Shindell
Joel Barrett • March 4, 2014
In a sense, Richard Shindell is a painter of words, emotions and worldly situations.
He’s a poet, a philosopher, a teacher, a spiritual being.
Shindell is a weaver of poetry and melody, the fabric of which is much brighter and stronger than the individual threads.
Any label for the New Jersey born, Long Island, NY raised singer-songwriter could never capture all of Shindell’s talents.
Those talents will be on display when he performs in venues across New England, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.
Shindell, now an expatriate living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is more than a folk singer. Like his protagonist in the WWI sad snapshot “Courier”, he’s the guardian of word.
His songs capture life’s big picture through the eyes and voices of characters of all sorts. There’s the Civil War widow waiting for her husband’s return in “Reunion Hill,” the immigration officer and his Latino charge who find common ground in “Fishing,” the nun who gets a flat tire on her way to a prison choir performance in “Transit.” He poses the big questions and lets the listeners decide on the answers.
Some cite Shindell’s music as social commentary, but he disagrees with the over-simplification.
“I don’t really think about it as social commentary at all. I think about it more as trying to inhabit a character almost as if I was an actor, writing from their point of view. It’s very much like a role,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Argentina.
“I just try to empathize how I think that person might talk, they might think, or what they might be concerned about or how they might say it. I don’t think it’s social commentary, it’s just observing people. Get into their skin, into their shoes and let them speak.”
Shindell has the rare ability to connect listeners with songs that put into words what many feel but can’t articulate. His songs are passionate, profound, clever and perfectly honed. His talent to glean and offer up emotions that bring tears to the listener’s eye is remarkable.
Shindell only tours occasionally and when he does, New England seems to get a lion’s share of his appearances.
His mother now lives in Massachusetts, but New England offers much more than just family – it’s comfortable.
“It’s just because it’s the highest concentration of gigs and fans and infrastructure. It’s just the kind of culture, the appreciation of this particular branch of American music that I happen to inhabit. It’s just a comfortable place for me,” he said.
“I’m a New Yorker, but this is my base.”
So it’s not unusual for him to play the nooks-and-crannies of New England, such musical meccas as Tunbridge, Vt., Old Saybrook and Norfolk, Conn., Fall River and Haverhill, Mass. All will be stops on this March tour.
With his talent and skills, Shindell could be playing arena rock before thousands. Instead, he revels in keeping true to his music and his vision of success.
“I have a really, really great life. I have a beautiful family here and a career that not a lot of people get to have,” he said.
“There’s not a lot I’d want to change about that. Maybe I could sell a few more records. I am very wary of being in the public eye. I’m very much a homebody, I go out and play and I make records once in a while, and I do tours and I enjoy it all. I love touring. I love my fans. I love recording records and I love my family. And that balance between those things is just about perfect. So making a push to sell a bazillion records and play arenas just doesn’t look right.”
When Shindell talks about his yet-to-be-released new album and pop, he’s not referring to the AM radio megahits or easy listening anthems.
He’s talking about that a-ha moment when the proverbial light bulb shatters the darkness with its brilliant shine.
“It’s pretty much done. I have about 10 songs mixed. I keep thinking to myself that it needs something else. I’m having a little bit of a hard time letting go. We’re really, really close, it’s difficult. I want it to be out, I wanted it have to been out last year. It ain’t ready ’til it’s ready. I’m not going to put it out because it’s been a while – I don’t need to do that. It can’t really happen until this little switch goes off in my head.”
Writing the songs and recording them is just a part of the process, he said.
“From the point of view of a mix, you have a bunch of tracks that you like. Okay, that’s done, but then you have got to mix it. That’s an infinite process, you can take that as long as you want to – you can take forever. Some people do. I stop mixing when a little switch goes off in my mind. It’s like some little pop music switch – like when you hear a good pop song on the radio when you were a kid. You immediately know it’s right. I’m not necessarily talking about being the greatest song ever written, or the most meaningful, just hearing it and going ‘that’s right.'”
Then there’s the real “pop” he seeks in his musical efforts.
“It’s a very subtle, intangible thing that happens when someone listens to a song. It’s something that happens when I listen to my own mixes. It’s that immediate pop, and I don’t mean that in the popular sense. I mean in a way that a phrase, a piece of copy pops on a poster. Those endorphins have to fire. There has to be a visceral sense of satisfaction.”
The unreleased album still doesn’t have a formal title, he said.
“I don’t know, I have some ideas. I’ve been thinking about “Same River Once.”
It’s a play on the statement by Heraclitus of Epshesus, “You can’t step twice into the same river.”
That’s how deep Shindell’s music can be – a title playing off the words of a Greek philosopher who lived between 535 and 475 BC.
“The process of making a record where it’s a constant moving target – it’s like stepping into a river of songs (with) words, different chords, mixes, musicians and sounds. It’s like stepping into a river and at a certain moment you freeze the river. So I’ve been thinking about that as a title but I don’t know.”