Last Update: Nov 16th, 2018
Nashville-based Melodic Progressive Rock band Evership is the conceptualization of composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer/engineer Shane Atkinson. Shane played in Nashville bands and as a backup musician for CCM artists in the late 80's and 90's. As a composer he wrote on Music Row and always having a studio running somewhere in the Nashville area, was a prolific composer with musical work spanning from commercials and film to orchestral and theater. He made two records with the 90's Alternative Rock band Curious Fools, but with the birth of his first child, he decided to leave the music business for the budding software industry.
Shane says he never really stopped writing. "The music just kept coming, almost haunting me. I'd constantly wake up in the night to record song ideas. Over those years I amassed at least a hundred hours of material. But I was so successful in software, it became nearly impossible to get out. Something like Evership was bound to happen, it had to happen, I was profoundly depressed."
Finally, in 2005, in response to a dream, he sold their big house in the suburbs, downsized, built a recording studio, and opened a commercial and film music production company to finance the album effort. It would take about ten years to make the first record; not just for the actual recording, but for raising a family with his wife (and PR person) Michelle, building a studio, holding down the production company and remaining business interests, and sifting through the mountain of song material.
Many of the Evership songs were written long before the project started. Some were five to ten years old even then, and there is purportedly enough material for four or more albums. "I've got other material, but I wanted to do this first. Musically-speaking, Prog is where my heart is." He said while growing up, listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Rush, Yes, Queen, Kansas and Jimmy Hotz, he had no idea it was progressive music. He just liked it. Amongst his other influences were classical composers, particularly Bach, Rachmaninov and Ravel. He has a sizable Opera collection and is a Puccini fan. Fusion music also played a role in the early years; Chick Corea, Al Di Miola, Mahavishnu Orchestra, anything that challenged him musically. "Even what I'm writing now is not intentionally Prog. It's just what comes out. These songs are life-stories, I can't tell them in three-and-a-half minutes. I was a music and lit major in school. So my lyrics tend to be classically driven as well, lending to a longer format."
After deciding on material for the debut album, demos were started in 2009, but life circumstances halted production until 2013 when Shane shut the music production company down to focus on the record.
Beau West, the lead vocalist, had moved to Nashville to do music in 2005 with his wife Melanie. He joined in a band with musician, acoustician and studio builder Mike Tharret and singer Mike Priebe. But nothing materialized for the effort. With no prospects on the horizon Beau put his guitar in a closet and there it stayed for three years. He says, "My wife asked me if I wanted to do music anymore. My answer was "'I don't want to write, I don't want any creative control, I just want to sing.'" Little did he know that around the corner of that third year he would get exactly that.
Originally, the singer Shane had keyed the music to was longtime friend and 90's band mate Jason Beddoe, who ended up needing to bow out of the project due to life circumstances. Shane says, "This was operatic, expressive music. These kinds of singers just don't exist anymore. I thought it was over." Beau was literally an answer to prayer.
Shane met Beau West, the lead vocalist, through session singer Mike Priebe (who sings BGVs on the record, along with Nicelle, Mike's wife, on violin). Shane and Beau had a conversation about music that lasted hours. The two had the same musical interests and the same vision for what they wanted to accomplish. After an initial meeting to review the material, Beau was invited to the studio to sing on the most challenging vocal track, Ultima Thule. Shane says, "Beau has that rare range and tone that sounds great anywhere on the scale. He could handle anything I threw at him, and had such a great attitude as well, which was critical because so much production had already been done." Beau says, "This music is everything I'd heard whirling around in my head since I was fourteen and couldn't get it out. Shane unlocked what was already inside and I can't wait to sing every note he writes." From there, Shane and Beau set course for a three year journey of finishing the recording and coming up with the brand that is now Evership.
On the debut album, Shane choose to play drums, keyboards, and an assortment of more obscure instruments like the Theremin and Chapman Stick, but to sub-out most of the guitar and bass work to like-minded musician friends and family.
The earliest recording, Flying Machine, was performed by Dan Smalley on classical guitar and Brandon Vestal on electric guitar. However, the classically trained Rob Higginbotham performed most of the rhythm electric, acoustic and classical guitars.
Shane's brother James moved into town later in the process and performed the lead guitars, which turned out to be essential to the Evership sound. "Having my brother here reminded me of when we were young. We used to do these 'concerts'. The neighbors would set up lawn chairs and watch." With James on guitar, the 'brother magic' (a term James coined to explain their telepathic ability to communicate musically) made the lead guitar production more organic.
The infamous Nashville bassist Jaymi "Pink Bassman" Millard (Innocent Monday, Kinetic Element, Mark Slaughter) rounded out the tracks.
Once the debut album was in full swing Shane engaged the know-how of recording engineer Mark Aartun of Innerspeaker Records who cut the beginning of Flying Machine-Part 1: Dreamcarriers on Plexiglas using a rare 1940 Presto K-8 portable record cutting machine. They then re-recorded it from a Newcomb schoolhouse tube record player. "This gave me the vintage Victorian feel I was after."
Finally, as a last minute production idea, Shane contacted his oldest Nashville friend and classical composer Charles Heimermann, who had been leading a professional choir made up of session singers and singers from both the Nashville Symphony Chorus and The Nashville Choir, to push the production over the top with live choir, recorded in a cathedral in Green Hills, Tennessee.
The panoramic artwork was illustrated by Nashville-area artist Philip Willis. Like the music, it is immersive.
The eponymous debut album Evership (CD and Digital) was released on July 1, 2016. Within a month Evership was invited to perform at the prestigious 2017 Rite of Spring progressive rock festival in Gettysburg, PA. By years-end was sited as a 2016 top-ten album of the year by scores of prominent international progressive and rock magazine outlets and radio! The vinyl was mastered by Grammy-award winning engineer Cameron Henry at Welcome to 1979 Studios and was released a year later, again to exceptional reviews.
The Evership momentum continued in 2017 and the band was invited to perform in the second iteration of New Jersey's new Progressive Rock festival "ProgStock", in 2018. But after RosFest the Evership live band went through a change-up, as the members who joined Shane and Beau to support RosFest were largely part of the original album effort and moved on to other pursuits. Jaymi Millard went on to play with Mark Slaughter and was replaced by Ben Young. James moved back to Atlanta and was replaced by John Rose. Jesse Hardin, who was part of the live effort, went on to pursue his own project (Coatsworth Drive) and was replaced by Matt Harrell. Taking time to secure new members lasted into 2018.
Simultaneous to getting the new band up to speed, Shane embarked on creating a second Evership record. What took 10 years for the first record, took 10 months for the second. "I was over-extended. Making a new record and preparing for ProgStock with a new band at the same time was probably not the best idea. I would have liked more time, but I felt it was important to get that material out, to complete the thought of the first record. I was compelled to keep the continuity of Evership in front of our listeners and media. And in a way, I had to clear my head of the first run of material. There is so much more to do!"
Evership II began in January of 2018 and was released on October 19th, 2018. The music received almost instantaneous international praise with a record number of reviews and sales in a short amount of time. "Evership II is really the rest of what would otherwise have been on the Debut. The best way to listen to Evership II is to listen to the debut first and then go into the second. It will make more sense."
The new Evership II record retains James Atkinson on most of the lead guitars, but otherwise the line-up includes most of the new live band; with Ben Young on Bass and Chapman Stick, and the classically-trained John Rose on rhythm electric, classical, acoustic and slide guitars. Beau West continues to shine on lead vocals and Shane fills out the remainder of the instrumentation, with the exception of the opening track which includes some live performance material from live drummer Joel Grumblatt and some guitar work from former bandmate Jesse Hardin. Shane also managed to incorporate a live orchestra and another session with the Charles Heimermann Chorale. The artist Philip Willis was re-engaged to create the new album artwork in the celebrated style of the first album.
"ProgStock was wildy successful", says Shane. "The mailing list exploded and we think we doubled our listenership…our Evershipenteurs." Judging by the phenomenal response of the new sophomore record, Evership is in full-sail and the journey continues strong.