Shakey Graves

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Playing a smoky, spectral fusion of blues, folk, and rock in a stripped-down one-man-band style, Shakey Graves is the stage name of Texas singer, songwriter, and guitarist Alejandro Rose-Garcia. The Austin-based musician parlayed the grass-roots success of his homespun 2011 debut, Roll the Bones, into national visibility, signing with Dualtone for subsequent releases, including 2014′s And the War Came. Along the way, Graves toyed with his approach, trying out more expansive full-band sounds and even venturing into more psychedelic territory on smaller EP releases, such as 2020′s Look Alive. In 2021, he put out an anniversary reissue of his debut with heaps of rare bonus material, followed in 2023 by another set of unreleased songs, Deadstock: A Shakey Graves Day Anthology, and a lush, stylistically adventurous set of new material, Movie of the Week.
Born in Austin, Texas, on June 4, 1987, Rose-Garcia grew up in a family that encouraged his creative pursuits — his mother was an actress who also worked as a director and writer, while his father managed a theater. Initially, Rose-Garcia followed his interest in acting, working with his high school’s drama club and later moving to Los Angeles, where he appeared in several films (including Spy Kids 3: Game Over and Material Girls), as well as landing a recurring role on the TV series Friday Night Lights. But Rose-Garcia also had a passion for music, and he wrote and recorded songs in his spare time. In 2007, Rose-Garcia attended the Old Settler’s Music Festival in Driftwood, Texas, and while spending time with friends, they began coining rustic nicknames for one another; someone dubbed Rose-Garcia “Shakey Graves,” and the name stuck.
In 2009, Rose-Garcia saw a performance by blues-punk one-man-band Bob Log III and was impressed both by Log’s minimal performance style and how he used tempo and key changes to make his songs unpredictable and capture his audience’s attention. Drawing inspiration from Log, Rose-Garcia began crafting a stage persona for Shakey Graves, using foot pedals to keep the beat with a tambourine and a bass drum fashioned from a suitcase, while playing music he dubbed “hobo folk.” Audiences were impressed by his music, charisma, and talent for spinning tales, and the act evolved from a part-time home-brewed music project into a growing presence on the Austin music scene. In 2011, he released the first Shakey Graves album, Roll the Bones, which documented his stripped-down performing approach. Initially released online, Roll the Bones became an impressive independent success, and the Mayor of Austin acknowledged his rising star in 2012 by declaring February 9 “Shakey Graves Day.”
Later in 2012, Shakey Graves released a follow-up EP, Donor Blues, and attracted the attention of independent roots music label Dualtone Records, which signed him to a recording contract. The first album for Dualtone, 2014′s And the War Came, found him expanding his approach, using backing musicians on several tracks as well as duetting with vocalist Esmé Patterson. He toured extensively in support, as well as appearing on a number of late-night TV shows, including Conan, The Late Show with David Letterman, and Late Night with Seth Meyers, as well as Austin City Limits. In 2015, he decided to celebrate the anniversary of Shakey Graves Day by releasing a digital album, Nobody's Fool, which was available as a free download for three days only, from February 9 to February 11, 2015. Also in 2015, he took home Best Emerging Artist at the Americana Music Awards. Two years later, Graves combined Donor Blues and Nobody's Fool into the double-disc collection, Shakey Graves & the Horse He Rode in On: Nobody's Fool & the Donor Blues EP. Early 2018 saw the release of the Sleep EP, with Graves’ third full-length Can't Wake Up arriving later that May.
He began the next decade with another EP, 2020′s four-song Look Alive, which featured further forays into psychedelic pop. In April of the following year, he celebrated the tenth anniversary of his full-length debut with an expanded re-release, Roll the Bones X. In addition to the original 2011 album, the reissue included a second disc of rarities, demos, and deep cuts. Deadstock: A Shakey Graves Day Anthology, a collection of previously unreleased material, appeared in 2023, as did the singles “Evergreen” and “Ready or Not,” the latter of which leaned toward alt-country singer/songwriter Sierra Ferrell. In 2018, not long after completing Can't Wake Up, Graves was approached by some friends who were making a film. They asked him to score their project and he was soon working on music to accompany the rough-cut footage, but as he submitted his compositions to the filmmakers, they didn’t feel that his ideas meshed with their own. Eventually, Graves walked away from the project, but he was pleased with many of the melodies he’d written and used them as the basis for his next album. Boasting a lusher sound than much of his previous work, Movie of the Week was released in September 2023. ~ Mark Deming