By Maddy Berner
From one girl flashing him a switchblade, to another catching him after a shower, to yet another attempting to kiss him, Struan Shields has had his share of awkward fan encounters. But the 20-year-old acoustic pop musician takes it all in stride. He’s just glad they make such great stories.
This same laid-back, yet spirited mentality is present in everything Shields does. He has every reason to be excited—2012 has been a good year for the Arlington native. He released his second EP, “If I’m Being Honest,” at the end of 2011. But success came the next year when it peaked at No. 3 on iTunes’ Singer/Songwriter chart and broke the top 200 overall. He’s performed numerous shows with bands like Sing Me Insomnia, filmed a music video, and moved down to Nashville, Tenn. to concentrate on his young music career.
Shields’ musical journey began 10 years ago, when he started playing the guitar. He started writing lyrics at age 13, inspired by musicians like Tom Petty and the Beatles. In 2005, he and some friends entered a Battle of the Bands competition and needed original music. Shields wrote his first song then. He laughs when he thinks back to the lyrics. He hopes the world will never hear them.
Now, at least 5,000 people want to keep hearing him. His Facebook and Twitter feeds are packed with interactions with fans, proving just how inseparable social media and music have become. He responds to as many of them as he can.
But Shields makes sure not to let promotion overshadow his music. He took his time creating his latest EP, and wants the fans to know it. Before the album was released, Shields offered to call any fan who pre-ordered it.
“I feel like I kind of owe it to them,” he says. “If they’re going to take the time to listen to my music and learn the words and really share [it] with their friends, I think I sort of owe them the time of day.”
Or maybe a song, he says, as gift for their unparalleled loyalty.
Shields thinks back to his first live show as a solo artist. In the middle of one of his songs, he stepped away from the microphone to let the crowd take over. In a fleeting moment, he wasn’t sure if they knew his music well enough to sing along.
But every musician needs to experience a little frustration. After all, those moments often inspire the best tunes. Shields admits to having trouble balancing school with his passion for music, as well as dealing with some bad break-ups. But in his now characteristically light-hearted manner, he says he’s written some great songs from the experiences.
Shields hopes to find more motivation in Nashville, where he’s been living and will live for the next four or five months, taking time off as an English literature major at the University of Virginia.
“It’s a great place. There’s always someone to write with and it’s just sort of inspiring,” Shields says of Nashville. “You get down there, you see everyone else who’s so much better than you are and you’re like, ‘I need to work.’”
And work he will, with a collection of close friends and at his own pace.
I’m really just going to try and write and see where the music goes,” he says. Who knows? Maybe it’ll lead to his next great story.
Find his music and more info online StruanShields.com