Shane Parish says he’s a self-taught musician, which isn’t a typical credential for someone earning a living as a guitar instructor.
“I’m not coming at it from this woo-woo perspective,” he said of his teaching practice. “We can get very specific and technical and advanced, theoretically, but I realized most of it is being present with that person in our time together. I look at it as a conversation about something we are mutually interested in.”
This is an evolved and expanded view for someone, while growing up in Tallahassee, Fla., who came to music as a lifeline.
In the 20 years he’s lived in Asheville, Parish has played in bands and made records that sound nothing like one another—from the improvisational noise rock of the duo Ahleuchatistas to plaintive explorations as a singer-songwriter to perhaps his most ambitious endeavor. This past summer, Parish recorded 147 traditional folk songs and grouped them into 14 volumes. He’s wrapped 12 of those songs into a new album, titled “Way Haul Away.”
Parish performs music from that collection Jan. 21 at the Mothlight in West Asheville.
“I got a guitar at 14 and then I just held on for dear life, because my life was chaotic growing up,” he said. “Just a violent culture and surroundings, an abusive homelife, just an unstable situation. And when I got into music, I just completely escaped into it.”
Parish devoured a smorgasbord of music through his guitar—John Coltrane and Chalres Mingus, hip-hop, prog rock and metal—and took deep dives into music theory and composition, classical and folk guitar.
“I was just going for it,” he said.” As scattershot as my approach has been, I’ve also over a decade or so, corrected a lot of the idiosyncratic things, like poor technique, I was operating from as a young person.”
Parish was still in Tallahassee when he gave birth to the experimental band Ahleuchatistas, which has evolved into a drum and electric guitar duo recently rebranded as Lighted Stairs. Parish calls it the most restless music he’s ever made.
“Initially, there was this idea of being really disruptive, musically. I wanted to make music that was gonna engage the listener immediately and then completely disrupt their expectations almost violently,” he said. “There’s plenty of music that’s going to soothe your soul, but on the cusp of war with Iran, do you really need to be soothed?”
Parish came to the attention of experimental music pioneer John Zorn, who has released three of Parish’s albums on his Tzadik Records label. But more than through his recorded music, Parish has perhaps made a greater impact locally as a guitar teacher—through his private practice and through the Carolina Day School.
He approached it from this direction of ‘You have a specific voice. What can you add to that by knowing where you want and don’t want to go?’” said Corey Parlamento, an Asheville musician who studied and collaborated extensively with Parish in 2019.
“Not only is he a phenomenal guitarist in that he can play in so many different styles, but also his air of discipline,” Parlamento said. “Not only with music, he’s a very dedicated father and has incorporated a practice of music into his life, like a meditation practice.”
For all the research, time and attention to detail he put into his folk music project, Parish has already moved on, at least psychologically, to his development as a singer-songwriter.
“I’ve been trying for, like, 20 years to sing,” he said. “I finally had a breakthrough this past year where I brainwashed myself into liking my voice.”
Still, his restlessness continues.
“I think about bands like the Rolling Stones that are going on tour. I’d feel like a cover band of myself,” he said. “They’re not even the Rolling Stones. They’re a Rolling Stones cover band.”