WILMINGTON—2020 started out promising for local musician Travis Shallow. In January he teamed up with Cavity Search Records to release his single “Let It Pass.” Shallow wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered it himself.
Then Covid-19 hit.
“We had a release date for the end of March for ‘Let It Pass,’ and with the shutdowns and not being able to go play it for people, and [promote] a release the way I’ve always done, the label and I decided to push it back to June 26,” Shallow said.
The musician suspected his career, too, would take a rather bleak turn as concert cancellations came rolling in last March. Yet, something else happened: He found a new way to grow his fanbase with an hour-and-a-half livestream, “Live From Shallow Chateau,” which airs twice a week, Wednesday and Saturday, at 6 p.m.
By June, the world hadn’t bounced back from the pandemic and few in-person concerts were happening. Shallow, determined to put his single into the ether, decided to take a chance by releasing “Let It Pass” on “Chateau.”
The risk paid off.
“It has ended up being my best received and streamed song to date,” Shallow said a few days before Christmas. “I’m still kind of shocked at the response it got; it’s been a silver lining, for sure.”
Though Shallow had no experience with the livestream format, he saw it as the only way to close in on replacing the 150 shows a year he performed either solo, in a duo, or with his band The Deep End. Shallow headlined concerts and has opened for prominent acts, like Gregg Allman, Tedeschi Trucks Band and Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real.
“I knew this [pandemic] was going to be bad, and unfortunately our line of work was going to be the last thing back up and running, so I tried to think and act fast,” he detailed. “I saw musicians en masse hitting the socials, streaming throughout the day, and my feed felt like it was every musician across the country I had ever known singing into their phones.”
Like his comrades, Shallow needed to play. More so, he needed the structure.
“When I don’t have [a schedule], it’s easy for me to drift off for days at a time, and as a guy that’s been in recovery for five years, drifting off and isolation is no bueno,” he said.
Shallow wanted to ensure his sound didn’t suffer or buffer in this format either. He turned to a camera he bought the year before and tools he already had in his home studio, like mics and soundboards, to produce something of high quality.
To date Shallow has done almost 80 episodes. Weekly, folks tune in on his Facebook or Instagram, then Shallow leaves up the shows so fans can catch the replay if they didn’t watch it live.
“It ends up being between 1,000 to 5,000 views per episode,” Shallow said.
Yet, those who do tune in live interact and get an intimate concert-going experience with the musician.
“I always say throughout the stream for people to drop in the comments where they are tuning in from, and each week I see new countries and flag emojis in the comments,” Shallow said.
Fans get a personal glimpse into his world. Literally, they can see his living room and kitchen, which serve as backdrops to “Chateau.”
“People will notice when a pot is moved or things are placed somewhere else, or when my dog comes walking through the frame in between her naps,” Shallow said.
His girlfriend, Kristin Meetze, who also is his manager, tunes in from a room down the hall. She shares links in the comments section to reflect which songs Shallow is singing and the albums they’re on, in case folks want to purchase merch. Meetze also runs all Shallow’s socials, including his own label, Pearly Girl Records.
“It’s definitely a DIY setup over here,” he said.
As the livestream gained legs, it also caught the attention of popular music sites and publications, like JamBase.com and Relix Magazine. Each began listing and promoting the “Chateau” livestream, alongside famed acts like Warren Haynes, Billy Strings, Todd Snider, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires.
“That helped pull some new folks over to our corner of the web too,” Shallow said.
JamBase went one step further and hosted Shallow’s livestream on their own website for folks without Facebook or Instagram.
Breedlove Guitars also tapped the Wilmington singer-songwriter. Shallow already was one of the company’s endorsed artists, but in the spring they asked him to do live-takeovers of their socials. For five months through November, Shallow presented “Songs & Ramblings,” a series where he did exactly as the name suggests: play music and talk about it.
“Breedlove was great and basically said, ‘Do whatever you want,’” Shallow said. “What’s better than that, right?”
They also made him their featured artist in November. Just the month before, in October, the featured artist was no one other than Jeff Bridges. “I mean, The Dude, really?” Shallow said, flattered to be in such company. “Bridges has some great songs and a killer band, [the Abiders].”
Once the Breedlove audience caught wind of Shallow’s sounds, they’d inevitably head over to his personal socials to tune into “Chateau.”
“It really made it a win-win,” the musician said.
Shallow’s live-takeovers seemingly snowballed across the pond when UK company G7th Capos invited him to host shows on their site.
By the end of 2020 the musician will have done 100 livestreams, either his own or for others. Still, Shallow said it doesn’t beat seeing fans in person: “I’ll say first and foremost, nothing replaces a live show.”
Shallow was able to play on stage, safely and socially distanced over the summer, when Wilson Center launched its drive-in concerts. Alongside his “copilot,” Bob Russell, they took over the stage to headline a different kind of concert, which was transmitted via audio through FM signals in car radios.
“I was skeptical of how reliable that would be and the fidelity loss, but they proved me 100% wrong,” he said. “They nailed it. Hats off to them. . . . they executed all of that flawlessly.”
Shallow and Russell played many listening-room concerts in 2019 and had hoped to refine their act even more this year. “This pandemic hit and had a completely different plan,” Shallow said. “That has been a big part of this whole ordeal that has been hard for me.”
Instead, Shallow focused on mixing a live duo album from his shows with Russell. He plans to release it in 2021.
He also has begun booking a few mid-2021 shows, but he’s being careful not to jump the gun.
“I have kept my outlook purposely shortsighted and pretty much on the day at hand,” Shallow said. “There’s still too much uncertainty to start planning bigger things at the moment.”
Until the virus subsides and allows people to gather again, “Live From Shallow Chateau” will feel the void. “As long as people keep tuning in, I’ll keep turning the camera on,” Shallow said.
For more information on Travis Shallow, to buy his music and merch, as well as follow his livestreams and live show schedule, head over to https://www.travisshallow.com.
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