For Hang pioneer Steve Shehan, “the unexpected became a profession”. Hear from one of the world’s most recognized percussionists about what makes a fulfilled creative life, rich in experiences, adventures and relationships.
Full-Length Documentary About Steve Shehan's Life:
The Hang Documentary by Thibaut Castant featuring Steve Shehan:
"Centaurea" by Steve Shehan with Hadouk Trio:
"High Jazz" (live) by Steve Shehan with Hadouk Trio:
"Gamelang" from Steve Shehan's Hang With You Album:
"Kite Dream" from Steve Shehan's Visa Mundi Album:
Steve Shehan's Purvi and Hungarian Scales:
Sylvain Paslier Meets Steve Shehan in 2008:
For more music, painting and poetry from Steve Shehan, please visit SteveShehan.com.
Sylvain: Hey, it’s Sylvain and this is the handpan podcast.
If you already know Steve Shehan, you know you’re in for a very special episode. If you don’t know Steve, well, lean in because the next 40 minutes provide us with a rare insight into the brilliant mind and the open heart of one of the world’s best percussionists and one of the first pioneers of the handpan. Steve Shehan’s life story is extraordinary. Others have covered it much better than I could. In fact, there are many TV and radio interviews about Steve, including a full-length documentary about him that I’ll link to in the shows notes. Steve’s had a prolific career as a percussionist and a composer and he’s created a monumental body of work of his own, spanning over 3 decades. But what shines through all this are the adventures and the people along the way. We’ll touch on some of these things as we revisit Steve’s first encounter with the Hang, his early involvement with PANArt and his relationship to this instrument over the past 20 years. So here is my conversation, with probably my biggest inspiration, Steve Shehan.
Sylvain: Well, thank you so much Steve, for accepting my invitation to be on The Handpan Podcast. You are a guest of honor. Steve: Oh, that's really kind. It's a pleasure here too. Sylvain: So let's set the stage first. Bring me back in time. Where were you at? What were you doing? What did your life look like around the year 2000, Steve: 2000? Well, I was actually, I was living in New York, New York city playing with Paul Simon played, I worked with him for about 10 years. So I had to find in New York, switching to Paris, but I was based in New York for 5 years. So in 2000 I was in New York city. Yeah. Sylvain: And around that time you discovered the Hang? Steve: Yeah, actually I'm 1998, Mark Steward handing me a hang drum. I think it was in San Francisco. It was maybe a prototype, but it was, it was interesting. It was unexpected. 1998. That was early. So was my first introduction to the hang drum and then coming back to France. 2002-2003 I met. Oh, I had a friend called Jimmy Braun. Maybe if you heard about him, he introduced me to Felix and Sabina to the Hang and to different possibilities that we would find with them. So talking about different scales and they did send me a shipment, six or seven, I don't know, five or six Hang Drums, first generation. That was, that was the moment. I mean like it was fascinating. I mean this instrument was a real revolution. It would change a lot of things, you know, for nomads. And in terms of the musical approach right away, I knew it would be a major change in both in a good way and a strange way maybe. But I was facing an instrument that was possibly revolutionary. I mean, no electronics carry-able, you know, you need to carry around like elegant. I dunno. Nice scales, easy to sort of, you know, cope with or dive in what it made possible. So that was really interesting, by the way. So, so I was fascinated. I thought it was, yeah. Something new.
Sylvain: Yeah. And when most people come across the Hang and then later hand pans they, they might think it looks odd, but you're accustomed to eclectic instruments. Uh, what inspires you about odd musical instruments?
Steve: Well, the thing is, you're right in many ways. I mean, it's the first thing is, okay, how can I adapt myself to this instrument and how can this instrument make me say something or create something? How can it cope with other instruments? It's like an instinctive first approach and quality of the sound. I mean, and, and, and then the scales made it obvious, but it was worth trying to make it cope, you know, with different instruments. And it's true that my approach always tried to integrate like crystal Organ or even lithophones, you know, pre-historical lithophones that you can find a big museum of mankind and a strange sounds. And naturally I tried to, how do I, how can I introduce and blend this sound or this way of playing into some something else. And then different styles if possible. And the Hang is definitely playable. Different really different ways. As a matter of fact, you can play Salsa, you can play jazz can play Oriental really it's so generous an instrument. So right way I was, I went into this like, okay, how can I blend this? Is it worth it? Is it an instrument that becomes part of the world instrumentarium? And I thought so. I thought it was definitely something powerful and profound. So that was the base of the discussions we've had with Felix. Yeah, that was interesting.
Sylvain: And I, I've heard rumors that you worked with them to develop sound models. I knew about Purvi. Are there any others that you created specifically for the Hang?
Steve: Well, yeah. Well it's discussions, ideas, I wasn't a part of the work on development. No. But ideas, yes. So Purvi, Hijaz yeah, I was part of this movement that wanted different scales. I don't know. So it's a rumor, but it was discussions, but it was not easy because it's not easy to be free spirits. It's an interesting instrument of because of what it provoked in terms of visions of what the instrument should be. But listened the Violin is played, violin is played in so many, many, many, many ways in this the history of music. So you know, same with drums or frame drums or anything you take. So why not the Hang or the pan drum? It should express as largely as a humanity has in store, I think
Sylvain: You've definitely taken the Hang into a space that has become the Steve Shehan's sound signature. Cause that, those same kinds of frequencies or sound textures in your albums before the Hang was around you would, you would feel and you still do you would fill them with the gamelan or the Kalimbe or other similar lyrical instruments.
Steve: You're right, absolutely right. Yeah. Suddenly the dynamic was different, the structure, the construction was different. Everything was different in the approach of the instrument, the shape and the fact that before that only eight notes that but the sound and then the family of sound it would approach. You're right, it's close to gamelan if you want. Or it's close to, you know, steel drums if you want or, yes, indeed. It was, it was kind of close to the family and what I usually use. Yeah.
Sylvain: And it seems like you were gravitating towards certain scales or sound models. Can you, can you tell me which Hang scales are your favorite to this day? I think you still have them, some of them.
Steve: Oh yes. I still use them. Of course. Well, I know you'll understand. I mean, I always, Hijaz has been one of, you know, because I've used it with Hadouk Trio, Rokia Traoré and Jon Hassell all these guys and girls. But so as, as as itself, the Hijaz Hang, but then the notes on the Hijaz blended with Purvi, for example, brings in something totally different. I mean, you can write thing that includes these two scale. Quite different. So true. That Purvi me. Hijaz the Hungarian, I loved that scale. It's great because it's easy to blend, and, and, and actually if you starts playing salsa, with the Hungarian. It works great. The way it, I mean the notes. So I would say these three PANArt Hangs, I'd really use them a lot. Yeah. Purvi, Hijaz. Hungarian. And there's another one. I don't remember if name a kind of a Greek scale.
Sylvain: Is that the one that you use for the Centaurea piece?
Steve: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. The name slips, but I like it very much. It's a bluesy scale and, and it blends easily with others because what I do too, and you maybe you've seen it, there might be some videos of concerts. I mean, sometimes I have like four or five Hangs in front of me and maybe one, I'll use two notes of it. I need to come an instrument with the sound, but you don't have to play the scale as it is. As it dictates, I would say, so it becomes, you know, I try to find the notes I need. I mean, this is like 10 years ago.
Sylvain: Yeah, yeah. And we'll, we'll jump around chronologically a bit, but it's important to remember that, that time, and that's around the time that I met you. You were playing a concert with a Hadouk Trio at the opera of Lyon and at the, at the intermission, I remember just coming up to you and saying you know: "hi, I love your music. I also play this weird thing". And you were incredibly kind to invite me and my friends the next day.
Steve: Well I remember actually, yeah, you were on the left side of the stage, I remember, right? Yeah.
Sylvain: Yeah. And then we met a couple other times cause you were doing a concert series at La Fnac, the kind of record store.
Steve: Whoa. Oh boy. Yeah. That's like 10 years ago. Was it with the touareg guy or yeah. With Nabil Othmani. Yeah.
Sylvain: Yeah. So it's important to remember that at that time the Hang was not famous yet. And then something happened. And, and this "discreet revolution" became no longer discreet and this thing blew up and it went viral.
Steve: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Especially in places like Spain or Russia. Whoa. Russia.
Sylvain: So what, what changed for you during those years? Because this instrument became associated with street performers and with a totally different I guess context than what it meant for you. What were those years like for you?
Steve: Well, for me it was, it was far away from this context. You right. I mean it was not at all my pace. I was really into getting deep into writing, composing. You probably heard of Hang With You.
Sylvain: Of course.
Steve: It's a tough, tough, tough, tough work. It took me many years to be able to play it on stage which we did, we do actually still to adapt it. That took me quite awhile, parallel to, to, to my regular gigs. Because these years I was playing with John Hassell. I was playing with, I don't remember, and I was actually writing other music for different stuff. Yeah. And with elevation. So I was multi-writing. Yeah, I was more preoccupied to take it to this position, feeling and yeah, it's slow work, slow. Yeah. Take time. But then you're at the same time, I will work my piano or I will work my crystal organ or I wasn't limited to the Hang or pan.
Sylvain: Hmm. Yeah, I mean it's definitely, it was definitely interesting because I think if we think about this psychology of viral content, viral videos, it gets, it gets so much attention that it comes to define something, whether it's the right definition or not. And I, I remember those years and, and how it's a, yeah, I mean it's, it's, it's paradoxical that the Hang documentary was called a 'discreet revolution', the calm before the storm and then it blew up. Yeah. I want to go back for a second because you, you did play a big role in the Hang documentary and actually I didn't take me long to realize that Thibaut Castan the, the filmmaker of the Hang documentary is also the filmmaker of the documentary about your life From Bali to Baly and a lot of other projects. Steve: Well, actually did it, how I met him, I met him through the Hang documentary. Sylvain: Yeah. So what's the story there? Steve: Well, this young guy calls me and tells me that he's interested in, you know, filming or doing something about a documentary about the Hang, which is really unexpected and no one really knows about this instrument. So it's like, Whoa. Quite young. He was like 19 or something and so he came to my farm which I'm actually right now it's like 60 miles south of Paris in the middle of nowhere. And it was interesting because he was serious about it and went to, I don't remember the guys in this film, but it's interesting. Each one is dedicated to the work he's doing and considering the instrument and, and, and the fact that it's, it's, it's revolutionary in so many ways. But anyways, your question. Yeah. Thibaut did a great film, quite visionary. Maybe a little too profound and probably a little too honest. So I don't know if it was, I don't know if Arte took the film or if they broadcast it, I don't know. Sylvain: I don't know. So my experience with this documentary is I was able to get my Hang in 2007, and then a year later I went to PANArt to get it. Retuned and Felix handed me a copy of the documentary. By that time I had already met you. So it was really funny to like put it in the DVD player and see you in there. But I don't know if it was broadcast, if it was aired. Steve: I don't really know. I don't know. I'll ask him. He actually lives, he bought a farm a few miles from my place. So after the lockdown. Yeah. He's, we're very close. The guy's very spiritual, beautiful person. Sylvain: I mean, it's a wonderful snapshot in time of what the Hang was like. Also what obscurity and, and pre-internet, pre-social media exploration looks like. Steve: That's true. Yeah. Yeah. I forgot that. You're right. Absolutely. But then Felix already had this can you call it schizophrenia? Sorry, but I don't know. Maybe the word is a little too hard, but I mean, he changes 180 degrees, you know, every day. I mean, he was really happy that Thibaut made this film and then he wasn't, I mean, it was a complicated relationship. I don't know. Maybe you can still have a great relationship with them and I have huge respect for that guy, both of them. I mean, they're great, but it's complicated. They didn't write me wonderful letters and the same way I could receive really hateful letters. So I don't know. I don't know where they are. I don't know what they want. I think they got something happened. Maybe they didn't protect themselves enough. I don't know. I don't know. Something was complicated in their approach because I dunno, you still work with them? Sylvain: No. So I've been in touch with them recently and there's obviously a chasm. You know, a lot of things have changed and we can understand both sides. Right. Steve: Exactly. But that's it. Both sides are logic. Yeah. I know that, that's the sad thing about it actually. You know, it's, it's, it's gotta be hard for them. Yeah. But they, they were generous and they were really doing it in a beautiful way. And that's actually, that was part of the fascination we had for this instrument. Because when I remember actually what you're asking, it's interesting because I right away, I wrote Felix and we had communication about this right away, told him, listen, this is so unique and amazing. Why don't we experiment something different with it, you know, and he said yes, and he sent me a bunch of Hang, which is wonderful. It was Christmas. Imagine. Wow. But, he changed his mind the same week. It was strange. That's why I did it by myself. Well it took many years. But I was, I was ready to do it right away because, because they amazed me and it was a beautiful story. It was incredible. You know, at he awaken of the millennium, being in front of something unique, a momentum. Sylvain: Yeah. Yeah. Having experienced your art for quite a while now I can see how you connected with their sense of poetry and elegance and and yeah, I mean, the music that you've made on the Hang is my all time favorite, just to name a few. I think Centaurea is, is this piece hits me every time. Steve: Oh, you're sweet. That's really, it touches me a lot. Did you hear that the last version on a triple album? You have it? Sylvain: Of course. I've heard every version and I love that you revisit those pieces, whether it's High Jazz or Centaurea or even the Kites dream and the Kites of Kabul. Steve: I love it. Kites in Kabul. Yeah. It's fun to revisit of course. And yeah, it's a tradition. People did this before in classical and jazz or, I got a lot of criticism because of that, you know, it's like, Oh, can't you do something different, you know? Well, it is different. It's got the same melody maybe, but it's different. Well, thank you. Anyways, I'm touched by your words. I mean, yeah. Well then that you've heard the last one, and I did this tribute to, yeah, the Viennese school in the French composers of the 19th century, on piano and it's, no, it's a dream I've had for the last 30 years, so, yeah. Sylvain: Yeah. Visa Mundi was just an experiential album to me. I don't know if this will make sense, but and, and I mean it as the highest kind of praise, but listening to Steve Shehan is like reading fiction in the sense that it creates a whole universe, a whole backstory. It's real. There's realism, real textures real people that you get to know and know where they're from. And but it's also this surreal mix. It's a fictional experience and it's, wow. It's like dreamlike music. Steve: Well, and very, very touched. I'll send you the next one. Actually, I'm about to release 5 CDs and it's between you and me. The next one is 30 years of my, it's called many lives, many lives, many masters. And it's it goes from the prehistoric lithophone that I'm museum "Musée de l'homme", museum of mankind to the latest hang you know, both sides. Very modern hang drums and it's a double album. It should go out sometime this year. Maybe, I don't know, but I'll be very happy to send it to you, avant tout le monde.
Sylvain: So this is a good time to, to talk about something that I, I've been wanting to ask you. Some people call it deep work just focused work. But here's, here's kind of how I'm bringing that. Because you're of a different generation than me. Most of your formative life experiences and most of your career took place before the internet, before constant distractions and cheap placebos and the urge to post anything online right away. Could you talk to what a lifetime of concentrated work looks like? And maybe advice for people who feel like they have something inside a creative itch to scratch but who are facing a really tough call, which is, how do you bring that out into the world when there's so many distractions and so much noise? Steve: Oh boy. And that's you're pinpointing in the very essence of how hard it is today to bring something but to even to give it. I mean it's weird, but it's the way it is. Well, I think the first thing is to do it. First of all, do it without expecting anything in return. It's just, I mean it sounds maybe corny, but we're so lucky to be alive. We're so lucky to be able to discover anything now is how do you ingest, how do you take this? Everything. This is where it happens. You have to choose, you have to construct a kind of a logic of what attracts you, whether it's reading or listening or singing or you have to make decisions, you know of decisions for your taste, decisions of who and how you meet people. So if you travel, but you don't have to travel. But traveling did a lot for me because I've been confronted to different cultures. Of course today it's different because you have access to everything right away. But then just to have a African piano or you know, you Likembe, or any instrument or books, sometimes you have to go and search and ask and trust and yeah, but it's still actually if you wanted, it's still like this, the quality of who you will meet and, and it will all be linked to your decisions to be ethic you have to, and when it comes to creating a genuine path as you were asking, it's to do it without expecting anything in return. Because the problem is the narcissism some of the society today, you know, the, the, the, the "Likes", you know what I mean? All this crazy instant, John Lenon call it "instant karma" now it's instant "being loved" or whatever you can call it. It's terrible. It's terrible because kind stretches crime is everything and nothing in the same time. And, and when you're not expecting, you have time to, you know, work to approach things profoundly. And you'll be surprised of how many people are still in this, actually in this system. You know, not everyone is, you know, linked to this craziness, the rapidity and instantaneity of everything today. So I think it's working on your values and the ethic and what you think, not be afraid of. I don't know, taking time to search and then, and then take risks. It's take the risk of anything creatively. It's, well, it's of course it takes time, but it's worth it because you'll learn from it. You learn from your mistakes, you learn from your that's a hard question actually, because, because of the power of what we're surrounded today, you know, but I can talk about myself. I mean, I decided that I'm very happy creating, I'm not making any money out of it. And it's okay, I always can find, you know, sell anything. If I'm lucky or help a friend or whatever, even without being rich it's not a problem, I mean just to be able to work and create and search is already such a luxury, really in some places you don't even have time for time because you have to survive. So I think you're just being conscience consumed and, and and open, you know, open your eyes. And all right. And you see what's around you and being aware, I know, all this is calling it. It's not religious at all and it's, spirituality is important. Being religious is nothing that the spiritual, there's quest, there is a questioning and that's important. And then I had to cope with my questions and that's, that's important. We can't avoid pain and we can't avoid questions. So that's, that's important too. Sylvain: Yeah. Thank you for these words of wisdom. It's, it gives me hope for my own creative journey. And, and looking at your work, I mean, I can see that you made those tough decisions to honor the process, to not cut corners, to work slowly. Steve: Yeah, that's really important. Sylvain: And to be proud of the work that you put out. Yeah. Steve: Well, the most important thing is the quality of the friends, yeah, that's the thing, being loved and loving, really. It's the main thing. And it's the same in appreciating music or reading anything you appreciate is the love you give to this moment because someone wrote it, someone played it,, wow, we're lucky. We're very lucky. Sylvain: That's profound. And it's true that when we look at your work it and we start zooming out the camera a little bit, there's all these people in your life that have influenced your work and your art and it's just a big family. We can sense that. Steve: No. Yeah. And I'm proud of it. Very thankful. Sylvain: Yeah. So I want to pivot I want to pivot really quick because of your success as a musician. You must've spent a lot of time on stage in recording studios and, and talking with the media. But for you, what's the role of leaving all that? What is the role of travel and going on adventures for your creative life? Steve: Well, actually it's the main role. It's much more important than a studio life or business life, which I love it. Of course. I've loved it for years. It's interesting. It's stimulating, but nothing to compare with the mystery of coping with a new place or discovering new artists or people. I have so many stories about, you know, suddenly being in the middle of the desert and meeting this guy those days I was flying as a pilot. He was a surgeon and we started talking. The guy invites me for Tina's place. We're talking about the border of Niger, Algeria and Libya. And the guy has a Lute in his place. He takes, it starts playing and he's got a way of playing, which is beautiful. Starts singing and I'm amazed and this guys is Baly Othmani, spent 15 years working together. I mean, the guy's like a brother to me, one of them biggest thing in my life. That's an example of what you know, and it's a totally unexpected, I wasn't going there to find musicians or to jam or I was just, you know, flying around. I mean, for other reasons. That's one example. But the other example, I went to Tajikistan, I didn't know what I was going to discover in Tajikistan and I realized I was in a place where, in the ___ region, in the beginning of the Sufism, I met great, of course musicians, but then met poets and writers. I didn't expect it, but it was great to be there. And I mean traveling is much more important. That's what I want to say anyways. You know, whether it's Afghanistan or Iceland or Sahara or Mauritania place I love, I mean no one knows Mauritania, but this place is amazing. It's the women who had the memory of the music and the way they play, the way they swing. When you listen to ____, for example, the girl, you know, she plays a harp, she sings, if you transcribe what she sings on a guitar, it's a BB King, but BB King level 100 and it's stunning. It's great. And it's swings. And that's an example again, I mean traveling, it's this, it's unexpectedly suddenly you're facing something amazing. I mean, the first time I went to Bali, I was just timed to see kids, you know, two year old kids sitting on the lap of his grandfather, his hands in the hands of his grandfather and the grandfather is playing the Trompong and with the hands of his grand grandson, whatever, which doesn't really know what he's doing, but his hands are moving with the hands of his grandfather. And that's the way of learning. And I'm looking at that and I'm like, Whoa, I want a grandfather like that. I mean, no, I'm joking. But I mean traveling, I think everything I've learned, I learned in traveling, you know, Brazil, Cuba and I started, luckily I started early because of paperwork I didn't have in Europe. So I started, yeah, hitchhiking. I was like 13, 14 going everywhere. Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey and stuff. But traveling did the thing, I mean it's really, it's okay. Sometime it's it's slippery or risky but wow I mean it's what you project and what you get back. And once again, if you don't expect anything but your heart is open, wow, you will receive so much more. And this, I've learned traveling while traveling, so then you come back and all this, all these ideas or all this emotions, well then you use it in studio, use it with your band or you use it. And you swing. Even if you're playing with something corny, but you're going to make money so it'll pay the next trip, you know? Or it will maybe pay the production of your next record or the machine you don't have. Because you know, when I've built my studio then they didn't have home studios yet, you had to buy the regular huge thing. So expensive. And so yeah, I did the Gypsy Kings for what, five years? Just to pay for second hand mixing boards. But wow, it was great. And then you come back with all these ideas, you have your equipment and then yeah, you'll play with Bernstein at Carnegie Hall or, or something terrible in pizzeria which is okay actually because people will be happy and you'll be happy playing. And maybe you'll make a buck or two or maybe you make a lot of money. And I'm saying thank you to this too, but you're living, you're living and you've confronted to everything you have to learn. And I mean, for me anyways, it worked like that, that learned by traveling and meeting people and the expected became a profession. I really didn't expect it, but, well, wow. It really changed my life and it's flavored it, and I cherish every day and, and I'm still learning. I mean that's one other thing too. I'm an internal student, To me, the basis that I know a little, but then I don't know much because the more I know the more I know I don't know. So it's great because I can learn as long as I will be able to learn, that means I'm living. And that's great because that's, that's a nice promise. You know, tomorrow morning I'll have something to learn. I like to be confronted. And that that happened with the hang. It was this actually confronted to the unexpected. Sylvain: Oh, that's beautiful. I love that. Thank you for sharing these profound thoughts. That's, it's encouraging. It's inspiring. Oh, that's great. So I know that music is only one part of your life. You're, you're also a poet. You're a, you would do field recordings of animals and insects and, but more recently you got into painting heavily. Can you tell me about this, this new inspiration and, and what it's meant in your life? Steve: Oh, actually it saved me, probably saved me. I mean, it's, it's in French we call it "Fulgurance". I don't know how to say this in English, it's like an enlightenment. I mean, somehow, but it's nothing pretentious but just suddenly there's this light coming from somewhere and it pinpoints you. And I was walking in the streets of London and suddenly this light comes on me and I, I don't know why I liked, I've always liked paintings. I mean, in, in, in, in Venice or in London Turner's something I'd like very much. And the colors, and I don't know suddenly, but music actually happened to, same thing. Music that really started on that very strange way in a park on a Sunday in Stockholm. I mean suddenly like, Oh well I'm going to play music, but painting the same thing happened suddenly this, I don't know, this light comes in. Okay, I'm going to find something to paint on and I'm going to start working. And right away, like with the Hang, I realized, okay, it's serious. So I have to dive, really dive into it. And I though of, I mean I went into it and it takes time. It's delicious. Suddenly you can work the colors, you can work the perspective and search. You're allowed to search. You're allowed to be "Contemporain", contemporary, you know, or "Figuratif" or anything works. And it's the same thing again. It's what you express and what you don't know that the good way of it's, it's everything. It's a psychoanalysis and it's it's relief. It's, it's fun. It's exciting. I like oil. Okay. And I like painting with nice brushes. Well. So, but it's, it indeed really changed my life. I mean, it came at the right moment actually. I needed something to balance with the, it's not pretentious, but with the power of music because music is, it's powerful. It's deep, but it eats you somehow. It can be heavy sometimes because, because of the time it takes because of the investment of energy takes. So I needed something like writing is fun, poetry is fun, but didn't make it then painting for me. It's fun. It's interesting. And it suddenly relates you links you to history of mankind. I mean, yeah, it's that important. Suddenly you look at the Titian or Vittore Carpaccio 16th century differently, you know, or prehistorical painting on the caves. I mean, when I look at this, I'm like "how did they do this?" You know, it's stunning. And then in the Sahara, we're talking about earlier, the paintings on the stones. Prehistorical paintings are so elegant. I mean, it's amazing. Actually. Two covers Assarouf and Assouf were paintings, pretty stark paintings. And I found the same paintings in circle in, in, in Sweden, Polish circle. And there's, the place with the same thing. Things, which is really strange actually. But yeah, so suddenly, I don't know. That's another that's another way of leading something maybe. But it's another way to learn, humbly honestly, because I'm not trying well and see, I'm not going all around trying to sell. No, it's, I'm just thankful to be able to, to search and to express something and to discover things. So it's somehow it's linked to the music and, and the emotional fields. But, but I like when I paint, it's either silent or I listen a lot to Morton Feldman and stuff like that. So it's just, it's probably linked to silence somehow. And I like it. I like it. I paint early in the morning, I wake up at four or five and whether it snows or what, anything works but I'm up at four or five and I start painting in the morning early, then music comes later, nine, 10. I have a kind of a discipline, but it's delicious. It's a need. It's a balance to my compulsive music work. I would say it's quite compulsive. I need to work my piano every day or the bass or for fun because I'll never be a wizard, which is not actually what I'm looking for it. But same. It's a way to express the piano. I'm not a pianist but that I love being able to express an emotion or pays tribute to, to Schaumburg or Schubert or Ravel, or, it's delicious to be able to say, Whoa, I loved you so much. Okay, this is my little little little drop. I can express in this field of emotions. Well it's the same with paintings. I'm the Turner I'm not Picasso, but they inspire me or they gave me ideas at some point and I'm having a really good time by drawing emotions or painting emotions. So yes, it's a big change in my life. And actually logically they should be a couple of books coming up soon because suddenly, well, people like it, some publishers in France are interested to see them. Yeah, it's interesting. So one never knows. Sylvain: Well it's, it's incredibly refreshing to think about having another medium, another tool to express emotions and, and it's just another version of you. But through pigments on a canvas instead of frequencies in a, you know, speakerphones or so it's it's cool to see that facet of you and obviously you're a very well rounded artist and that's incredibly inspiring. Maybe I'll wrap up with this. In a way an artist is someone who feels something and who wants others to feel that same thing, whether it's through music or pigments on a canvas or, and art really is about resonance. Obviously that's particularly true to music because it actually resonates physically. But I just want to say that it's real, it's real and powerful. I can speak for myself and I think for many others your work and your art has resonated with me and, and it's, it's quite a unique thing when you learn about yourself through someone else's story. And obviously we have to honor the, the complexities of people's life experiences. No two people are alike, but resonance, resonance is something really powerful. And so I just want to say thank you for your art. Steve: Wonderful. Well, thank you for your welcoming. We'll talk one day about resonance and the lives of people and how it can change your life. Recognizing whether it's the beauty or the pain. The first time I heard Coltrane recognize the, some pain that maybe I went through. And because of that, I started listening to Coltrane. You see what I mean? It's suddenly something touches you. It's important to what you just said. Sylvain: Well, thank you so much. Yeah. I, I can't overstate what an honor and a joy it is to speak with you again, Steve. Steve: Thank you so much. Sylvain: And we'll be in touch. Steve: It's shared. Sylvain: Thank you. Steve: Take good care. Bye. Bye.
Sylvain: Well, here it is friends. I hope you enjoyed hearing directly from Steve Shehan, who’s one of my all-time heros. I’m filled with gratitude after speaking with such an incredible person. If you were to ask me: “who are the musicians who make your want to create?” Steve would be top of mind. Not only because of his music which is excellent, but because of his integrity and his posture towards life. The tension is real. We probably can’t go viral today or be an overnight success but we can develop a passion and create art we’re proud of and surround ourselves with people who care. Steve has modeled that for us.
I encourage you to go to thehandpanpodcast.com and look for the show notes of this episode. There you’ll find links to Steve’s music and well as the full-length documentaries about the Hang and Steve’s life. You can also find his music on all the different streaming platforms and if you feel inclined, consider supporting his art as well.
Finally, I know this is the handpan podcast but remember there’s more to life than this. Whether it’s painting, writing, baking or going on adventures across the world. Thank you for listening to this episode of the handpan podcast, and talk to you on the next one!