Shane Marstiller: Love of Music Rekindled
Author: Michael Paskevich | Photographer: Mark Staff Photography
Music was on the back burner when Shane Marstiller landed a job as a firefighter on Hilton Head Island five years ago. But his discovery of a vibrant island scene and a classic guitar sparked a personal revival that found him showcasing his original songs at a release party on May 2 at the Smokehouse. “I played in high school but fell out of it in college,” said Marstiller, a 27-year-old West Virginia native. “When I moved here to join the Fire and Rescue department, I bought a guitar (a white 1990 Gibson Les Paul) from a friend, and it was like finding that classic car that you’ve always wanted, That really started me playing again, and one thing has led to another.”
Marstiller soon became one-third of Quick Trixie, a rock cover trio, featuring bassist Josh Kirk, a Bluffton elementary school teacher, and drummer Travis Goudy. “We’re all weekend warriors with day jobs, but we’re a party band that’s energetic and really has a lot of fun playing together.”
Ongoing gigs in Bluffton and on Hilton Head led Marstiller to start writing his own songs, and a solo performance last October at a “Swampfire Showdown” at the Smokehouse drew positive attention from Swampfire label founder and Cranford Hollow front man John Cranford.
“He came up to me afterwards and said he’d like to record some of my stuff which, of course, was an honor, because he’s made such a name for himself,” Marstiller said. Months would pass while Cranford Hollow toured regionally and as far west as Colorado, but the two musicians got together again in February and finally got down to work at Swampfire Studios on New Orleans Road. Bass player and pianist Will Snyder was enlisted to round out the sound and mix Marstiller’s music, and Snyder shares production and engineering credit with Cranford on “Counting Down the Days,” a three-song extended play (EP) release with Marstiller on guitars and polished vocals and Cranford on drums.
The title track is a big-beat rock shuffle with a country twang, courtesy of honky-tonk piano work from Snyder, and Marstiller’s lyrics are a tribute to the rigors of often-lonely life on the road. “It’s about being away from somebody for so long that you’re just counting the days until you see them again,” he said, recalling a Quick Trixie journey to a series of shows in Florida. “It’s basically about the drive back home.”
The ensuing “Big Mouth” features a generous chorus and catchy hooks, a lush sound and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. “It’s about saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, which I think stems from being married,” Marstiller said with a smile. The debut effort concludes with a poignant mid-tempo tune, “Last Goodbye,” which describes the uncertain nature of relationships and not knowing when they’re destined to end. “I stepped outside myself to write it, and it has nothing to do with my own life,” said Marstiller, who is happily married to Jenna, a Hilton Head librarian.
Marstiller has yet to play his EP at Fire Station 5 inside Hilton Head Plantation where he works on a big red ladder truck during emergencies, but he credits fellow fire and rescue personnel for a crucial boost in a now-burgeoning sidelight career. “In all honesty, I probably couldn’t have done it without them,” he said. “When you start a band and you do a gig where nobody shows up, the bar probably isn’t going to book you again. But about 50 people from the department showed up for our first [Quick Trixie] show, so it looked really good; and they keep supporting us, which means so much.”
He remains enchanted and perhaps a bit mystified by the recording process and the crucial studio contributions from Cranford and Snyder. “I just went in there, played my songs and a few days later they would send me something which sounded good and so different. I don’t know how many hours they put in, and it was like going to school watching them grow the tracks. They had their fingers in everything and, in five minutes, they were doing stuff on computer that would take me a month. That’s why it’s great to work with people who are so good at what they do.”
Publicity savvy Cranford even spent a day helping Marstiller put up posters touting his EP release party at the Smokehouse. Marstiller is thrilled to become part of the area’s expanding live music scene. “What’s amazed me is how supportive everybody in the music community has been,” he said. “Everybody knows each other and, if you succeed, everybody succeeds. The only thing we have here is friendly competition; in a bigger city, I know it would be much more cutthroat instead of everyone trying to pull each other up.”
He envisions ongoing shows with Quick Trixie mixed with solo performances as he continues to write new songs for potential studio projects down the road. “I was writing a new song on the way over, and now I want to do another recording someday,” Marstiller said. “You know how that goes—I’ve got the bug.” And, of course, he will keep working ten 24-hour shifts per month as an island firefighter.
“I’ve got no illusions of being famous or anything,” he added. “I just want to keep making music that I hope people will listen to and have a good time.”