BY JULIA CIRIGNANO
There are a lot of similarities between former Kenny Wayne Shepherd and John Waite guitarist Shaun Hague and the legendary Eric Clapton. Hague has recently made a name for himself as a proficient blues guitarist and has gained enormous success from his band Journeyman: A Tribute to Eric Clapton. Although Hague currently lives in Chicago, Illinois, he will be returning to southeastern Massachusetts with his band on March 30, 2017, with a gig at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass. Purchase tickets HERE.
Hague, who was originally from Somerset, Mass., started playing music at a young age. He has been inspired by some of the greats, including his top three favorites – Eric Clapton, The Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen. Hague talked about how Journeyman: A Tribute to Eric Clapton, fell together.
“Everyone has that main influence, and Eric became mine…I had every Clapton record, and I was learning all of them,” he said. “And then I became such a huge fan, and I knew all of his songs inside and out. And now with my guitar techniques that were somewhat like his and my vocals; I just happen to have a bluesy, raspy voice. So it just seemed like a good fit, and it was always something I’ve wanted to do.”
Hague attributes both his success and his passion for music to Clapton, saying that he may have never fought and worked so hard to be such an incredible guitar player if it wasn’t for Clapton. Hague also talked how he was affected by the presence of The Beatles and Springsteen when he was growing up.
“[The Beatles] really turned me onto music,” he said. “Bruce Springsteen kind of showed me what an entertainer is, songwriter, you know he’s just kind of the ultimate package of musicianship, live entertainment, and stage presence.”
Now that we know how Journeyman formed, how did the journey men come together? Hague talked about the creation of The Journeyman featuring Robert Monroe (keys/vocals), Andy Taylor (drums) and Sheldon Dukes (bass).
“After moving to Chicago a few years ago from LA, I befriended musicians,” he said. “There were a couple of guys I knew in town and then after that we just became friends and I said, ‘Hey I’ve got this idea,’ and they were totally into it.”
Hague explained that the tribute band is named after one of his favorite Clapton albums, “It has a lot of great hits and a lot of great non-hits too.”
Hague also mentioned his top three favorite Clapton songs which are “Pretending,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” and “The Core”.
Hague talked about the success he has gained from Journeyman, attracting a multitude of fans — with growing success that even Hague hadn’t expected.
“I went into this hoping for the best and it’s been more than I expected,” he said. “The first show we did was kind of hush hush. It was done here in Chicago. 130 people showed up or something and our second show was in Iowa.”
Even though the first show was low key, they had instantly caught the attention of many fans. This led to a sold out show in Iowa and many more people were turned down at the door. From there, Journeyman rocked a number of stages, attracting their largest audience to date at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville, IL, on Nov. 25, 2016, in which 315 attended.
Hague was surprised at the immediate success of Journeyman and at how fast tickets for future shows are selling out.
As he tries to understand his own success, Hague has come to the conclusion that Journeyman has become a favorite out of all the Clapton tribute bands for two reasons. The first, they are willing to travel and play just about anywhere. Second, they are younger than the other bands. Hague reminds people of a young Clapton, one they might have seen before, instead of an older version.
Hague jokingly questioned if he and Clapton are related somewhere down the line, then added, “I look like him from the 70’s.”
Although Hague’s main focus nowadays is covers, he has somehow managed to make a name for himself as a blues guitarist. Hague said it all started in 2001 when he was 17. He had never performed in front of anyone before, but he was chosen to play at the House of Blues in Boston and was named “The Best Young Blues Guitarist”.
“I love the blues. Always been influenced by it,” he said. “I think everyone does at some point in their life. But I understand it and connect with it.”
Along with Hague’s passion and skills, the Narrow Center for the Arts helped kick start his career. Hague has a great relationship with The Narrows and started his career there playing open mics. He is looking forward to returning in the spring to headline the Journeyman show.
“I love The Narrows, I love [Narrows Executive Director] Patrick [Norton]. I go all the way back to the Narrows Center when it was in a different spot,” he said. “It was this little art gallery and downstairs there was this kind of makeshift music venue. There were tables and chairs and a stage that wasn’t very high off the ground [with] very minimal lighting [and] minimal sound equipment. And they had open mics. Occasionally they would book a small show.”
After winning the contest at the House of Blues, Norton called Hague and invited him to play at one of their open mics.
“So I went down and sat in with Patrick. I played the blues or something, and I kept going back every week or every other week or something. And then I was in a little cover band. So we would show up and sit in on the cover nights and play,” said Hague.
Since 2001, The Narrows and Hague have grown both separately and together. Hague has played at The Narrows many times, both at The Narrows old location and their present location. Hague will be back at the Narrows Center as a headliner on March 30th (which also happens to be Eric Clapton’s birthday). Hague talked about why this show will be better than any show he’s ever played at The Narrows before.
“The first time I played The Narrows it was all acoustic. That was just the setup that was there. Last time, I came through with my band, the band I had. It was kind of unrehearsed. It was a good show though. Everyone’s always wanted me to play guitar, play blues, and the last two times I was in there, that’s not what I was doing. So, next time around, it’s going to be all about guitar work and my vocals and stuff. The band I have now is absolutely amazing. Each guy is super proficient with his instrument.”
Since Hague grew up in Massachusetts, many of his friends and fans are anticipating his return to Fall River. Hague is also looking forward to being back, especially coming back a new, more successful man. He is proud to have done what he set out to do when he lived there, “which was do music for a living. A lot of people laughed at me when I was 16, 17, but I’m proud to go back there and headline this venue that overlooks the town I grew up in.”
Hague also talked about growing up in Massachusetts, “I remember myself as a kid, being over in Somerset, playing my guitar in my room non-stop. The neighbors called the cops on me at night. Being a kid from a small town, I didn’t have many friends. I just spent all my time playing guitar,” he said.
Hague is proud of his success. He took a risk by not going to college and playing music instead. Yet, it’s obvious, that this risk paid off for him. He has had success playing original music, but prefers to play Clapton’s songs.
“To be honest with you, I feel more freedom and I feel more comfortable playing Clapton’s music because I’ve been doing it so long,” he said. “I feel much more comfortable playing his stuff than my own original music. You know it’s a bit more naked when you’re out there…so playing his music I feel more free. I play better than I’ve played in years. I sing better than I’ve sang in years. These songs have been in my head since I was 14, 15 years old. So for twenty plus years I’ve been listening to Eric Clapton non-stop.”
Hague acknowledged that he’s also managed to be creative within his tribute band.
“The original part we’re playing, in the tribute, obviously the vocals are word for word. The main guitar riffs are note for note,” he said. “But when I go solo or my keyboard player goes to solo, it’s not always the exact solo that was there, sometimes. So we’re getting to show what we can do through his music. I get the opportunity to showcase my skills, the piano player’s skills, even my drummer gets a solo on a song, so does my bass player, he gets a solo too.”
The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street. Tickets to the Journeyman show can be purchased online HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.