Megan and Shane

Between the two of them, Megan and Shane Baskerville have played just about every kind of American music you can imagine. Born in Wisconsin and based in the Southwest—with a lot of rambling in between—they’re veterans of punk scenes, bluegrass circuits, ska bands, even hip-hop acts, all of which inform their work with the School of Rock franchises they operate in Arizona. But nearest and dearest to their hearts is country music, which allows them a unique opportunity to meld all these disparate interests and to air their darkest secrets. Defined by Megan’s force-of-nature vocals and Shane’s inventive guitar playing, their full-length debut, Daughter of Country, is a memoir set to music, every word the God’s honest truth, as the husband-wife duo re-create the sounds pioneered by their heroes while putting their own personal spin on the genre.

“I’m a daughter of country, raised my whole life,” Megan sings on the barn-burning title track. As her husband provides a hand-on-shoulder guitar solo, she recounts a rough childhood and a broken family, but the song also conveys the solace and wisdom that country music offered her. It’s clear they’ve both taken such lessons to heart, as she channels the grit and integrity of Loretta, the heartache and dignity of Patsy, the clarity and self-possession of Tammy. Growing up, she saw those women as mothers. “Patsy Cline in particular, she’s just so strong,” says Megan. “Her voice didn’t have that country twang, but it was booming and powerful. She embodied strength to me. That was something I wanted to be. She helped me daydream of a different life.”

Country, in other words, raised her right. Megan and Shane don’t simply recount those hard lessons, they enact them with every note and every chord on their full-length debut, turning their tribulations into triumphs. After spending her adolescence skipping school to see DIY punk shows in Chicago, Megan lit out to South Carolina, where she apprenticed herself to a pair of bluegrass musicians named Roger Bellow and Bob Sachs. If Patsy was a mother figure, those two guys “were my musical dads. They helped me believe I could do something.” Meanwhile, Shane was touring with a series of punk bands before a mysterious illness sidelined his career. “One doctor said I had six months to live, but I never gave up. Instead, I packed up and started a career out in L.A.” Many years later, he relocated to Minneapolis and used his experiences to teach kids at the School of Rock (one of his first students was Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus).

It was through that organization that he met Megan, who applied to teach vocals. Instead of asking her out, he invited her to start a ska band. Their first real date was a Motorhead show at the legendary Minneapolis venue First Avenue. The attraction was romantic, but also musical, as they realized they complemented each other in every way. Not long after that, they split for Arizona to open and operate a School of Rock franchise in the Southwest. In 2013, they flew to Memphis, booked sessions time at Sun Studio, then got married the next day at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

The School of Rock has been important to them both as educators and as artists. “We love what it does for kids, and that is really, really special to us,” says Megan. “We love that we can employ other musicians, too. But something was missing. We weren’t feeding ourselves creatively.” When Covid slowed their work with the school, the couple found themselves with extra time on their hands, so they started writing a batch of new songs—deeply personal, deeply harrowing songs about hard upbringings, death scares, true love, and what looked to them to be a world falling apart. It was a creative breakthrough. “We had realized our songwriting was skating around what the actual story was and the real emotion behind it,” says Shane. “We weren’t really digging in. So we just ripped off the BandAid and let it all fly out. When we wrote these songs, we felt like they were different.”

So they wanted to treat them differently, with a bit more care and consideration. Megan and Shane were so committed to these new songs that they sold their house to fund the creation and promotion of an album that would serve as their defining statement. First and foremost, they wanted to hire an outside producer—someone who could bring a different perspective to the music. After considering candidates all over the country, they finally settled on somebody just down the street: Bob Hoag, who runs Flying Blanket Recording in Mesa, Arizona, and has helmed albums by Courtney Marie Andrews and the Gin Blossoms, among many others. To capture both the sound and the spirit of the country music they loved, they recorded to tape rather than digitally, often using first takes to preserve the spontaneity of the performances. One area where they took their time, however, was with Megan’s vocals. “Every time we’ve recorded before,” she says, “my vocals always got pushed to the end and I never got to spend the time to get the perfect take.”

“Megan’s such a stronger singer, and her rough tracks would be pretty solid. She wouldn’t be giving it her all on the rough tracks, but nobody understood that because they were so good. They just assume it can’t get any better,” adds Shane. When Hoag suggested they use her first takes, she put her boot down. Megan insisted she could do better, and that she did, pushing herself to capture those moments perfectly. That was especially important on the standout “Scars,” on which she tells the stories behind the wounds to her body and to her heart. There’s a moment toward the end when the instruments all fall away to leave just her voice confessing unspeakable tragedy: “This one’s when I lost that little baby, Lord how I cried and how I cried.” It’s devastating, but the clarity and steadiness of her performance show just what it takes to survive such heartbreak.

On that and every other song on Daughter of Country, Megan and Shane strip away everything that might stand between them and their listeners. It takes a lot of guts to show those scars to the world, but that’s what country is. That’s what makes it so relatable to listeners looking for musical mothers and fathers. “It’s a sad album,” says Megan, “but it needed to happen.” Shane agrees: “I don’t think we even had a choice. It all just came out. We had to bare our souls to put those things to bed and move on with our lives.”
Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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