Growing up on R&B and “old school” country and western, Marty Shaughnessy, 43, lived in a household where the music never stopped. “My father constantly had the vinyl spinning,” says Shaughnessy, “and it was the backdrop for many of my childhood memories. It’s hard to think of a day without music.”
Shaughnessy’s only formal music education was a handful of electric bass lessons. In high school he switched to guitar, learning from books and watching friends play. It wasn’t until college that he started playing seriously and formed the band Rainchildren. Based in Central Pennsylvania, Rainchildren quickly developed a following, hit the festival circuit, and opened for national acts including Jars of Clay, Skillet, and Bob Carlisle (“Butterfly Kisses”).
“A few local radio stations played our music; hearing your song on the radio for the first time is surreal,” says Shaughnessy. A couple songs went to number one on local charts. Several record companies approached Rainchildren, but as quickly as the interest came, it receded. “The band was playing every weekend. It had become a job and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore,” says Shaughnessy who was by then engaged to his wife Cyndee. The band dissolved in 1998.
For the next seven years he focused on launching a successful web design business. In 2006, he joined Hershey Entertainment & Resorts as a web designer, eventually becoming design director. During these years he still played occasional gigs.
Then, in 2013, he pulled together former bandmates, adding Mike Bitts on bass, and it felt like the perfect mix. “Playing with this lineup has gotten me excited about music again,” says Shaughnessy. “In some ways I’m starting over, and it’s exciting. We’re going to track some new songs this fall and our live shows have good energy. This is what music is supposed to feel like.”
Who are your main influences?
As a songwriter I’d go with Ryan Adams, Greg Laswell, Bob Schneider, Jon Foreman, and Steve Hindalong.
Why do you continue to make music?
There’s nothing like the joy of completing a song, seeing the music and lyrics come together, and the excitement of playing that song for someone the first time.
How do you continue to learn?
I play with some amazing musicians … far more talented than I am. I learn from them constantly. I also started writing songs in open tunings a few years ago. It makes you approach your instrument in a different way and challenges you to create and explore just by the nature of it.
What benefits have you found to making music?
It’s the people you meet. So many of my good friends are musicians I met through making music in some way or another. There’s also an amazing feeling when you craft a song and you see someone respond to it.
How do you make time for music in your life?
The easiest way is to make sure I’m surrounded by multiple music opportunities. I have a guitar next to my bed, in my office, and I just gave my son my Baby Taylor … so I have one in his bedroom as well. Now that I’m back out playing again, I try to schedule a few practices before gigs … and some just for fun.
What advice do you have for someone getting back into music later in life?
There is nothing like the buzz from playing live music. Hit an open mic just to start or find some fellow musicians who enjoy playing and schedule a night to make it happen. If it feels right, the opportunities will just keep coming.
What is your best memory of making music?
The Rainchildren tour during the summer of 1998. We played the festival circuit from Pennsylvania to Atlanta, Washington to California, and everywhere in between: five guys in a rented van, sleeping in tents, making just enough merch money to pay for gas to the next gig. It was exhausting, but there is nothing like it.