SHEL – A Band For The New Music Business

Wed, Oct 17, 2012

Music, Reviews, Uncategorized

SHEL’s newest video, "On My Way"

(disclaimer: We recently became part of SHEL’s digital marketing team. We’re part of the team precisely because we feel they possess a lot of the qualities needed in order for a band to be successful today.)

We’ve spent some time looking at bands and artists who have really taken to the new DIY ethic, especially in the digital music space. We continue to be inspired by the Amanda Palmers, OK Gos and The Civil Wars’ of the world. They have fundamentally re-defined what it means to be a band or an artist in the current musical landscape. We’re also really interested in trying to figure out what gives an artist, band or act the best chance of success in the future of the "new" music business.

We recently began planning and executing digital strategy for SHEL, a hard working band from Ft. Collins, Colorado. They are four classically trained, freakishly talented sisters. They’ve been described as "a power quartet of femme fatale wunderkind sisters…They don’t just play the hell out of their instruments with great passion, they do so flawlessly as if they were born mutated with these instruments attached to their hands.”

Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook each play at least two instruments. Liza, the polyrhythmic percussionist/drummer/sister, plays djembe & beat boxes simultaneously and then sings harmony vocals at one point in the set…on a single song. She also doubles as the band’s webmaster on the road.

SHEL was signed to Scott Borchetta’s (think Taylor Swift) Republic Nashville imprint in early 2010. But they were "discovered" by Nashville based Brent Maher, a lifelong consummate musician, guitarist, songwriter and producer based in Nashville about a year before that. Maher’s credentials include producing The Judds, Kenny Rogers and Kathy Mattea. He even engineered sessions for Ike & Tina Turner. Yet Maher (and Borchetta) were completely floored the first time they heard SHEL.

A possible major label suitor even described them as "too musical for today’s music market." Which depending on your perspective could have been pointed criticism or a back handed compliment.

This year SHEL having amicably parted ways with Republic Nashville, just released their first full length album as a joint venture with Maher and his Moraine Music Group. Dianna Maher, Brent’s daughter, remains their staunchest ally and relentless champion. Moraine is also a future forward thinking music publisher/label.

So what sets them apart?

First, the music is completely and utterly amazing. It sounds great coming out of your car stereo. But the sisters have a singular gift for live performance. They have that sisterly "simpatico" on stage. At a recent outdoor performance in Nashville, one of the hottest producers in country music was so moved he got up like a shot from his lawn chair and ran like an excited kid backstage to see what he could do to help the band get noticed.

SHEL’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s "Battle of Evermore"

Second, the sisters are very digital media friendly. They are active on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Their fan base constantly engages and interacts with them at a level and intensity seldom seen in established acts, let alone new ones.

Third, and I think this is where they shine off stage…They shoot, direct, edit and produce their own music videos. Sarah, the fiddle player, is also a filmmaker. The music video for their last single, "Freckles" is now in rotation on CMT online and on cable. The quality, look and vibe of the video surpasses that of some high budget music videos.

They are also incredibly lovely and gracious young women. They treat their fans with respect, appreciation and kindness and go out of their way to make even their youngest fans feel comfortable in their presence.

Finally, they are constantly working at their craft as songwriters and musicians. They regularly visit Nashville and immerse themselves in the business of getting better at what they do – on and off the road.

More importantly, they perform these tasks and functions as integrated extensions of their music. It is all part of their creativity. It is not something extra that they feel forced to do. They just do it. There is no expectation of entitlement. And they do it all without whining. We like the "not whining" part.

They are obviously gorgeous (they need a hat endorsement) but beyond that they are driven, focussed and determined.

To be sure they are not perfect. Their web site is not properly optimized and under leverages the huge number of visits they get each month. They are also still learning how to properly navigate their way around Twitter which arguably could turn out to be their biggest social media platform to date. But that’s why we’re now part of the team, we hope to help them turn some of these challenges into real opportunities.


This week they are one of the buzz bands at CMJ’s Music Marathon. Tuesday night they played the PledgeMusic and TuneCore showcase at The Brooklyn Bowl. Twitter was…well…all a twitter about SHEL. Friday they play The Press House and Imagem Music showcase at Rockwood Music Hall at 1 PM. If you’re in New York City or if they’re coming to a town near you, catch their show and you’ll see what I mean.

References for post:

The Tennessean, Peter Cooper, And Now For Something Completely Different

String Theory Media, Craig Havighurst, Now Hear This: SHEL

Denver West Word, Dave Herrera, SHEL Moves Forward After Parting Ways With Republic Nashville

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This post was written by:

Charles Alexander - who has written 45 posts on Outside The Box Music.

Charles Alexander is a performing songwriter, music entrepreneur and digital media marketing strategist. He was born in Malaysia and lives in Nashville. He recently bought a shinier, new vocabulary. He can also be bribed with "gulab jamuns" and an insulin chaser.

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