From tent revivals to the lights of Nashville’s Broadway to having a song on Yellowstone, Grafton native George Shingleton has had a very colorful music experience. We recently caught up with George and talked to him about his career and his new song Beer Drinkin’ Women.
This article has been edited for clarity and brevity.
BB: So you were born and raised in Grafton?
GS: Yeah, I graduated from Grafton high.
BB: So, tell me how you got into music. When did it start for you?
GS: I started in Church. I was about four years old playing on the tambourine starting out early, you know. And then I started singing with everybody in church and realized I like that. And so I would try to scream over top of everybody else while I was singing.
BB: When does the music bug actually catch you though? You’re in high school, college? Where, where was it? Where were you?
GS: 11, 12 years old for guitar. But I mean, I was pecking around on the piano before that and, you know, tinkering with drums.
BB: When did you make that transition from, “I’m doing this in church” to “I actually wanna do something with this.”
GS: Well, I think that started early in my head and my teens, 12 to 15 range. I knew that that’s what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how I was gonna get there. But, you know back then, that was just some time ago, that we didn’t have a lot of access to outside of where we were. So, I didn’t know anything about it. So then I just kind of gave up on that idea. I was about 18 or 19 and figured I was just gonna work for a living the rest of my life as far as job to job or whatever.
BB: When did you say? No, I’m going to grab ahold of this music thing and I’m gonna go do it.
GS: Well, that was probably 24. I took a break from music completely. I didn’t pick up my guitar at all for a while. But, early on in adulthood, I was not the smartest of people. So I kind of never really thought about it as a career. I just kind of gave up on it because, you know, making a transition from gospel music to country music is a big kind of ordeal in your life. So, you know, there’s gotta be things that take place that makes that happen.
BB: I get it. Sometimes you feel like you’re doing something wrong if you’re not making church music when you’ve been raised doing it.
GS: Well, there’s no doubt about that and there’s probably a reason for that. I mean, you can’t mislead people. I think about that constantly with that stuff. You know, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing, you know, because I mean, I still have a conscience. And some people don’t believe that, but I do.
BB: Those consciences can be a nasty thing.
GS: Yeah, you never get rid of that. But anyway, my wife kind of pushed me into it. I was around the campfire once and I started learning country music. I hadn’t really paid any attention to country music growing up, because I wasn’t allowed to listen to it. When I finally did get my hands on it, I got hooked. I like all those deep cuts. You know, I like the songwriting aspect of it.
BB: So, how did you transform from, I’m George Shingleton the guy who’s a fan of these guys to now I’m writing my own music. When did you write your first song that you felt, it’s a complete song and this is what I want to do?
GS: I’ve written songs prior to that, like some gospel stuff and like one or two love songs, I guess you call it when I was in my first, in my teens and I finished them. But then I didn’t get writing again until I was around 25.
BB: Okay, let’s test your memory. Do you remember the name of that song?
GS: No, but I remember what it was about.
BB: When did you decide, “I’m living in West Virginia…It’s time to make this move to Nashville and you really go after it?”
GS: I decided on May 2nd of 2010.
BB: That’s very specific. What’s so important about that date?
GS: Because that was the day I made my first trip to Nashville. It was also the day it rained in Nashville and flooded the whole valley. The very first day we got there everything was flooded and I got my first taste of sitting in the candlelit, 150 to almost 200 year old home of a songwriter in East Nashville downtown. And it was just amazing, the music. There was a baby grand in the corner people were playing on and nobody was playing the Allman Brothers or Travis Tritt or anything that was making money with the bars back home. You sit in that and there’s just this atmosphere and nostalgia, almost a spiritual feeling. You get into the music world. I think that’s one of the very, most easiest ways to get into the spiritual world of music.
BB: Agreed. You make that move to Nashville and you have some pretty cool opportunities. Tell me, and I’m trying to understand, exactly what happened with you in regards to the show Yellowstone. Did you have a co-writing effort on that or something of that nature?
GS: I had a co-write with a man named Gethen Jenkins. He’s currently a southwest California – Arizona type guy. He’s from, I believe, the Huntington WV area. So he came to town in 2017 and I had just started really writing with other artists, not just myself. And he had the idea of this song called Restless Ways. And we wrote it then one morning he texted me, I don’t know, six months later saying, “Hey, I just recorded that song on this album. Your buddy Leroy Powell played guitar on it” I said “Cool, man, great.” It was out for like two years. His album was getting plays. I think before it ever got on Yellowstone, we got like over 2 million plays on it when it first came out, which is pretty good for somebody that didn’t really have a streaming deal or have a good following. So at the end of 2019 or 2020 we got the call that they picked it up on Yellowstone. And he’s the artist on it. I still couldn’t, to be honest with you, I couldn’t play it. I listen to his version and I love his version, but I don’t know it well enough to pick up a guitar and play it.
BB: Yeah, it’s a great song. That’s awesome though. You have your name in the history of one of the bigger shows on TV right now.
GS: Yeah, it’s opened a lot of other doors. That helped me out get into the sync world a little more to where I’ve been able to pitch songs ever since, especially this last year. We pitched a lot of sync stuff and I’m not saying that it’s working out, you know, as far as getting real successful, but there’s a lot of heat.
BB: Yeah sync is a really cool opportunity for artists. I think it’s a great way for artists to turn some songs that you don’t necessarily know what to do with into something really cool.
GS: Yeah. I mean, it’ll help pay the bills, everything every little bit helps.
BB: You have a new song out. Talk to me about it.
GS: Yeah man, Beer Drinkin’ Women It’s very commercial for me compared to my previous efforts. It’s still country, not pop, but it has some pretty pop lyrics. It’s very pedal steel, heavy country, honky tonk guitar. The whole song is very honky tonk.
BB: And you wrote it?
GS: I co- wrote it with a fella named Justin Wilson. It comes out September 15th.
BB: Last question that I ask in every interview. How did growing up in West Virginia impact you as a musician?
GS: I think I learned how to mix the secular and the religious world into my music. I put them together and make them go hand in hand. I watched that my whole life and I got both views. I got the whole religious side but I also had a mom that had a big family and the biggest part of them were drinkers and so I got to watch that side of things. The biggest impact I think West Virginia had on me is making me humble. It shaped my approach to life and music.
Check out George Shingleton’s music everywhere you stream.