It never ceases to amaze me the number of creative and driven people who use their talents to celebrate Skyrim in original and imaginative ways. In December, I had the opportunity to interview Gekroent, the artist and cosplayer known for her portrayal of Aela The Huntress, and this Friday I had the chance to interview Shane Blair, the LA-based songwriter and performer who recently released the brilliant song, Dragonborn, on YouTube (click here to skip to the bottom of this post to listen to the song and watch the video).
Shane is not only a talented songwriter, he’s an expert on Skyrim, logging over 400 hours into the game. He’s taken his love for Skyrim and created an amazing song that really nails the experience of being Dragonborn in a fun and memorable way. If you’re a Skyrim fan, you’re surely going to enjoy Dragonborn immensely and be impressed with the effort Shane put into this awesome tribute.
Shane Blair Interview With Skyrim Fansite
Skyrim Fansite: First off, I really appreciate you taking the time to be interviewed for the Skyrim Fansite. We try to support the work of artists, and I have to say that I was very impressed with your rap song, Dragonborn. The song was amazing — music and lyrics both.
Shane Blair: Well thank you very much. It took me a while to create, but it was definitely a lot of fun.
Skyrim Fansite: The amount of effort you put into the song really shows. You definitely have a lot of talent. How long have you been writing music?
Shane Blair: Well, I first started writing music in the ninth grade. At that time I was in North Idaho where I grew up. What’s silly is my first recording ever was on a flip style LG cell phone, just because that was the only thing I had that would record. I had a cheap keyboard and I made a funny little rap as my voicemail message machine while playing the tune in one take (as voicemails are). It was pretty silly but that was what started it all. Since then I’ve made lots of different music, including a remake of that voicemail, but I don’t only do rap or hip hop, many others too.
Skyrim Fansite: That’s a great story! What other types of music do you write? Are there any music artists that you draw inspiration from?
Shane Blair: Oh there are plenty of artists that inspire me. I try to be open to as many genres as possible, and it’s my goal to create music in as many as possible. I made a couple Motown style songs when I was young because I was really into Sam Cooke. Then I’ve experimented with 80’s and 90’s style pop music mainly as a joke, but they worked out.
As far as any hip hop influence, I don’t listen to too much, but certainly Tech N9ne and Eminem when I was younger. There’s just so much music out there, but since I moved to Los Angeles last year, I have been listening to a lot of music that makes me laugh such as the works of Lonely Island, Tenacious D, & Jon Lajoi. I think they became an influence to making well done music that is humorous, which is what I’m mainly focusing on at this time. Also I realized — starting with the remake of that original voice mail rap –that it tends to get more popular much faster, and making people smile or laugh is always great.
Skyrim Fansite: Sounds like you have a wide range of musical influences — I think that’s excellent. I wouldn’t think that a lot of artists your age would be inspired by Sam Cooke, and I was surprised you mentioned him. He was an amazing singer and songwriter back in the day. And by the way, Dragonborn definitely has its humorous moments. My favorite was your line about the sweet rolls 🙂 But let me ask you, with your well rounded taste in music and obvious flair for the humorous, what do you find more enjoyable: writing lyrics or composing music?
Shane Blair: Yes, vocally I listen to Sam over and over trying to come close to that level of control. I still do listen to him, and I just turned 23. Though I‘m much better than I used to be… c’mon, he’s Sam Cooke!
Anyway, growing up in a small town like Sandpoint Idaho, I tended to watch lots of movies, like TOO MANY (out of boredom) and I credit that and excessive episodes of Conan O’Brian (whom by the way, I got to be in the audience two weeks ago!) to any humor that I might possess.
And to add to your previous question regarding influences, I forgot to mention some of the more recent projects such as an Irish folk style song about the tales of my best friends in high school, inspired from the work of The Dubliners (I’m currently putting together a video of this song and it will be on my YouTube channel as well). Also I’m just finishing today a reggae Ska style song (that will also have a video) with flares of 311, Sublime, and Peter Tosh. And of course I will be making completely detailed nerdy songs of games and movies in the style of Dragonborn as well (btw just about all that material was memory from just being a huge fan of the game and truly 400 + hours of play time).
As far as which process I enjoy more, music or lyrics? They’re both very different to me… I’d say I may tend to put a little bit more into the music itself — probably tiny details that no one else would care about. Not to throw more influences out there, but you can find me listening to soundtracks by Hans Zimmer or James Horner, etc. So music without lyrics is surely very important to me.
However the lyrics are just as fun in a different manner. The three things I try to do with my voice during the recording of the lyrics is to get every note the best I can for what I’m going for, making lyrics that are either funny, interesting and expressive while matching that beat, and delivering the line in the way that would seem best for that particular word or sentence. All and all, the music part comes a little more easily, but I would hate to separate the two completely.
Skyrim Fansite: It’s nice to be able to gain insight into how an artist such as yourself works. A lot of time a person like me will listen to a song and enjoy it (like Dragonborn), but I may not fully appreciate or conceptualize all the hard work and inspiration that goes into its creation… I did see that you state on YouTube that you put in 400+ hours in Skyrim, and you mention it here. Your love of the game is obviously reflected in Dragonborn, and you know the game extremely well. Are you a PC player or a console player?
Shane Blair: I’ve always played video games (growing up in a house of only woman, you need ’em!). I started on Sega Genesis when I was a wee young lad, then on to the original PlayStation. Once Xbox came out, that’s all I’ve played since. I prefer consoles, but I think gaming in all forms is great.
Skyrim Fansite: I agree with you — gaming in all forms is great. So tell us a little bit about your Skyrim character.
Shane Blair: Well, I started Elder Scrolls with Oblivion and became obsessed 🙂 Another 300 + hours went into that. I was a Nord with Warrior birth sign in that game the whole way through. It was just the most badass to me. In Skyrim, I was the same light skinned, long blonde hair male Nord that I was before… tried to get him to look exactly the same, but the two editing systems were so different.
I play every mission to the end if its an option (as some aren’t). I’m convinced I’ve completed pretty close to every mission, and there isn’t a single AI I haven’t talked to, location discovered and cleared, or “guild” I haven’t completed (goes for both games). Generally, if I have the chance to let someone live in the game, I take it, because you never know if they will come back later with a quest or something else.
Skyrim Fansite: I take it you played the Skyrim DLC addons. Any particular favorite?
Shane Blair: Hearthfire may have been if it had just a little more customization in locations and material, but I would have to say Dragonborn (not just because it’s the name of my song!), but I feel like it was the most detailed with a story that pretty much could stand alone.
Skyrim Fansite: I thought you might say Dragonborn 🙂 To bring it back to your music for a moment, you mentioned earlier that you’re working on more projects. What advice would you give to anyone aspiring to write music?
Shane Blair: I would definitely say put everything you have into it, and not just the song itself, but the process of MAKING the song and making that a possibility for yourself. A lot of people have lots of talent, but don’t have good equipment or anything. Like I said, I started on a voicemail and I’m certainly not famous or successful YET, but now I have great equipment after the years and I’m able to make lots of music whenever I have inspiration.
Don’t get discouraged because you don’t have what the pros have — you will if you have creativity and passion for what you’re doing. There was a time right after high school when I moved to Orlando for school. After the first year I was kicked out because of loan issues (as a lot of kids are), and I had to sell all my music stuff for rent. Though it killed me to do that, I eventually got better stuff later, and I’m back to making people smile with my music. My point is, don’t let bad times beat down your natural abilities, no one can take those from you.
I want to sincerely thank Shane Blair for the exclusive interview he gave to the Skyrim Fansite. It was a true pleasure and I appreciate the incite he provided on the artistic process of making music and doing what you love. Artists and fans like Shane are what makes the Skyrim community great.
I encourage everyone to listen to Dragonborn and subscribe to Shane’s YouTube channel (visit Shane’s page and click the red subscribe button). Dragonborn is the first song he put on YouTube, and he promises more music to come!