By Clay Sawatzke
Riverfest goers, specifically those Saturday night revelers, will be in for a new treat in this, the 40th annual Monticello Riverfest.
After a several year run of the Fabulous Armadillos, the Riverfest committee decided to mix it up and bring in a new band.
That band is the Shane Martin Band. A well-traveled, well-respected group with local ties, the Shane Martin Band is expected to bring its own blend of modern country rock to the Riverfest street dance stage in 2016.
“We wanted to have a country rock theme this year,” said Tom Grossnickle, a Riverfest committee member. “And [Shane’s] been knocking on our door for a few years to be here.”
That might be because it’s a festival that’s close to home for Martin, who grew up just down the road in Albertville. The musician confirmed as much in an e-mail response to the Monticello Times.
“Anytime I perform somewhere close to my roots, it has kind of a homecoming feel,” said Martin. “I have a lot of dedicated support from family, friends, and fans in the area.”
Martin, the lead singer, is joined in the band by three other members. Shawn Kolles plays the drums and sings vocals.
Kolles played his first gig at age 12 and went on to play in a myriad of bands, including a German polka band.
The drummer, who is cousins with Martin, holds a master’s degree in Conducting from Southern Oregon University.
On the bass, and singing harmony vocals, is Mike May. The Shane Martin Band website describes May’s technique as a “driving, groove-oriented style on the 5-string bass”
The fourth member of the band is Brad Nelson. Nelson is the lead guitarist and helps provide vocals as well.
The experienced musician was a founding member of the band “Aslyn” that performed original rock in the Chicago-area during the late ‘70s. He also spent five years with the Top-40 band “Prophecy” and is now a part-time director of a church worship band.
The band has plenty of their own music, and concert-goers can expect to hear some of their original songs mixed in with the covers the group will play.
“We will absolutely mix in our own songs,” said Martin. “Performing our own songs is what we live for, and our fans want to hear them and sing along.”
Martin did say that he enjoys covering music as well, specifically artists such as the Zac Brown Band, Garth Brooks and the Eagles.
Songs they cover range from true country to a blend of classic and modern rock.
One things that fans can count on, regardless of who’s song he’s playing, is a fun time.
“The crowd at the Monticello street dance can expect a high energy good time,” said Martin. “A get-on-your-feet dancing, singing along and leave you wanting more performance.”
The Albertville native is well-practiced at the art of putting on a show. In recent years, the band has performed more than 150 shows per year, and they are in the midst of doing approximately 175 during the 2016 calendar year.
The band has played at major festivals around the Midwest, including Moondance Country Jam, Rockwoods Jamfest and Winstock.
They’ve shared the stage with artists such as Ronnie Dunn, Joe Nichols, Jerrod Niemann, David Nail, Josh Thompson, Easton Corbin, Greg Bates and Black Hawk.
Martin said the opportunity to tour with and be around many great artists has taught him some good lessons.
“One thing I’ve learned from being around other great musicians is their true passion for performing,” he said. “There’s a lot of work involved outside of the stage and the late nights wear on you, so you have to love the music and what you do to keep the fire burning.”
Martin learned to play piano at a young age, and found himself singing along to songs across genres soon after.
Before long, he learned to play the electric guitar and bass and found himself starting a rock band with friends from school to play at house parties and a few club shows.
Martin’s career kicked into high gear in 2009 when on a trip to Nashville he enrolled in a songwriting seminar and struck up a friendship and creative partnership with Emmy winning recording engineer and producer Kenny Royster.
Martin has put out several albums since, including the recent EP ‘Til the Wheels Fall Off,’ featuring the single “Whatever Floats Your Boat.”
Martin has also participated in several national contests, finishing as a top-five finalist at the Texaco Country Showdown in 2012.
As a finalist, Martin competed for the National Title of “Best New Act in Country Music” at the world-famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN in a contest hosted by LeAnn Rimes.
Currently, Martin is traveling around the Midwest almost daily playing shows from Big Lake to Crosslake and from Shakopee to Devils Lake, North Dakota. He said that this time of year is one he enjoys.
“I always look forward to summer festival time,” he said. “Up in the Midwest we spend too much time performing indoors so it’s a breath of fresh air to be outside on a big stage in front of excited music fans.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]