His first single “Feels Like Home,” reached the top five on the AC charts.
And, his newly released lead single, “The Real Me,” from his same-titled debut album, was the most added Adult Contemporary record on radio for the second week in a row. That puts him in the same league as Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5.
The songs are all hidden gems from some of the most gifted composers around: Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Van Morrison and Randy Newman. They range from the “deliciously jazzy” simplicity of Elvis Costello’s “Almost Blue,” to the “cool, sexy rhythms” of Waits’ “Temptation.”
“I go about life from my heart,” says Shiner. “I love hard, I suffer from anger, I suffer from loving too much, I suffer from worry, but it’s all from my heart, it’s all real.
“Sometimes it’s a rollercoaster, but I don’t think you experience life without that part. A lot of people just kind of skip over the top of the water but I can’t. I gotta dive deep.”
Shiner wears his heart on his sleeve for all to see. And now, with The Real Me, for all to hear as well. IM sat down with Shiner during one of his rehearsals in New York City for a Q&A.
TheImproper: You just got the news that your new single was one of the big records added this week on radio. How does that feel?
Shiner: I sing for the love of the song, lyric and melody. But I’m not going to lie. When someone else likes it, it is a thrill and an added bonus. This is an indication that it is being enjoyed by others that truly touches me.
IM: Your album musically tells the story of your wife Suzanne’s brush with cancer, and how she got you back on track to singing. How is she now?
Shiner: I am thankful, we are thankful, that she has passed the all-important five-year milestone. She has been declared 100 percent cured. In fact, at her last appointment at Sloan Kettering, her doctor said ‘Go live your life, this episode is over.’ We both burst into tears at the news.
IM: After she got you back onstage, at what point did you decide to record an entire album?
Shiner:I started singing with an orchestra for dances and special events. I did that for two and a half years before Ken Levy, (my manager), and I agreed to work together. Early on in that working relationship, we had a meeting with Gary Katz and Mitchell Cohen. They proposed the album. It was really not in my mind at all. We decided to do a Christmas single first to see how it went. It all went so well and we enjoyed working together so much that an album was a given at that point. It all happened very naturally.
IM: How was it working with the brilliant producer Gary Katz? Were you familiar with his work previously? Whose idea was it for this collaboration?
Shiner: I was very familiar with his work. The idea was Ken’s and Katz’s. I was along for the ride at the beginning. Working with him was like working with your favorite uncle who has nothing but your best interest in mind. He has every right to be intimidating, but he’s the opposite. His ear and instincts are phenomenal. What makes him truly brilliant, however, is the way he makes the artist want to please him and how he instills a relaxed confidence in the artist.
IM: All the songs work remarkably well; what were Suzanne’s first comments on it? Was she privy to the progress, or did she hear it all at once?
Shiner: I had over 50 songs to pore through and choose from. I chose the ones that spoke to my heart, and the ones that, structurally, allowed me the most room to put my own stamp on them. I put my choices together on a disk and played them one evening for Suzanne while sitting up in our bed. We realized then that most of the songs were telling our story together, and we literally welled up with tears.
IM: You were once in a television soap opera. Tell us about that. Do you want to do more acting?
Shiner: ‘One Life to Live,’ ‘Guiding Light’ and ‘All My Children’ were the main ones. I was in over 40 episodes under my middle name Matthew. I am a classically trained actor and have done a lot of Shakespeare. Yes, I will certainly go back to acting and musicals.
IM: After recording all of these terrific songs, have you come upon a favorite?
Shiner: A very difficult question because I love them all for various reasons. But, I catch myself singing ‘A World I Never Made’ more than any other on the album. The story of how that song made it to the album is probably the reason why (Let’s save that for another time).
IM: This concept of recording these overlooked classics is just brilliant; do you see a whole slew of projects like this?
Shiner: Yes. I actually feel like I am rescuing songs and giving them another chance.
IM: But, you are the first create a collection like this, and it’s always nice to be first, right?
Shiner: It is nice. It’s actually shocking to me that it hasn’t been done before … at least not in a concentrated effort.
IM: We know there’s an upcoming show at The Cutting Room. You did several shows at 54 Below in Manhattan. How were they?
Shiner: Recording is fun, but getting in front of the audience and engaging them is my favorite. I love the people and the energy that’s created. It’s quite addictive.
IM: Have you been thinking about a follow up album?
Shiner:: I have certainly considered it and think about it from time-to-time. I have no doubt it will happen. This album is so new, however, I feel like I need to give it most of my attention. It’s a labor of love.