By Eleni P. Austin

Rick Shelley hails from Walla, Walla Washington, but he’s been part of the Desert Rock landscape since the mid ‘80s. He first made his bones as frontman for the gritty Glam Metal/Punk band, RagTag, which included gifted guitarist James Danielson, drummer Eric Turner and bassist Nick Oliveri. Then on vocals and rhythm guitar for Blues Rock band Woodshed, which also included James and Eric, with Dean Oliveri taking over bass duties from Nick.

He jump-started his solo career about a decade ago and began playing around the desert before branching out to L.A., Orange County, eventually embarking on a West Coast tour that took him all the way up to Portland, Oregon. He’s recorded two critically acclaimed albums, 1909 Miles and Hope Wrapped In Razor Wire. In the last few years, he’s shared the stage with celebrated British Folk-Rocker, Jasmine Rodgers, award-winning singer-songwriter, Travis Meadows, Country legend Jann Browne and the Hi-Desert band Adobe Collective.

He recently booked a flurry of shows, so it seemed like a perfect chance to have him answer a few burning questions:


ELENI: You moved to California to Washington state in your late teens, at that point, your musical touchstones were Motley Crue and Van Halen. These days you seem to revere storytellers like John Prine, Lucinda Williams and Todd Snider. Can you tell me about how your influences?

RICK: Oh, I still like the music I listened to as a teenager. I think that gets tattooed on us somehow. Those were the bands we all tried to emulate, when I first started playing. To be honest, I don’t know how to explicitly explain how my music tastes evolved. Maybe it was that I just started listening differently, or for different things in a song. I remember hearing the Shawn Colvin song, “Shotgun Down The Avalanche,” for the first time when a sound guy was setting up a P.A. system. I had to ask, who is that, because I just loved the song. More recently, the algorithms turned me on to Sierra Ferrell via Instagram. I’ve also been lucky enough to have friends that shared music that they found interesting. Because of them, I revisited, and learned to admire artists like Elvis Costello. It took me a bit, but I eventually got it. There’s just been a constant flow of music that I’ve been influenced by over the years. It simply changed my taste, and thus, I began to walk upright!

ELENI: Once Woodshed sort of faded away, you spent the next 10 years away from making music, mostly concentrating on family. writing again, did inspiration come easily?

RICK: No, not really. I just wanted to play again. Once I got started, I needed a set: 30 to 40 minutes of songs I could play. From there, I just kept going. Ultimately, I just wanted to write a decent song that I enjoyed singing. 2015-2017 are probably the most productive years I’ve had as a songwriter.

ELENI: You recently played an interesting gig at the La Quinta Museum, can you tell me how that came about and how it unfolded?

RICK: Some friends heard me play a couple years ago at a music night in La Quinta. It was an open mic thing held at the La Quinta Artisan Studio, hosted by my friend, musician Bob Hamilton. Ken Jackson, one of the folks who saw me, passed my information along to the La Quinta Museum. They invited me to play and talk at one of their creative series events. I played some songs that I’ve written over the years and talked about the inspiration and process behind them. It was a really fun experience.

ELENI: It’s been seven years since you released Hope Wrapped In Razor Wire, do you have plans to return to the recording studio any time soon?

RICK: I’m sure I will make more records in the near future. How soon, is still a question for me to figure out the answer to.

ELENI: Finally, as an avowed record nerd, I have to ask, if you were trapped on a desert island and could only listen to 10 albums, what would they be?

RICK: 1. Steve Earle, I Feel Alright

  1. BR549, BR549
  2. Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
  3. Rolling Stones, Exile On Main St.
  4. Keith Richards & The X-Pensive Winos, Live At The Hollywood Palladium
  5. Todd Snider, Live: The Storyteller
  6. Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True: Deluxe Edition (featuring the original album, outtakes and solo demos, a live show and soundcheck)
  7. John Prine – anything really, too hard to choose. I would be happy with any of his records.
  8. Dave Alvin, Out In California
  9. Tim Easton, American Fork


Rick Shelley will be at Desert Beer Company Friday, May 31st from 6pm to 8pm 77770 Country Club Dr. Suite D. Palm Desert Spaghetti Western, Saturday, June 1st from 7pm to 9pm 50048 Twentynine Palms Hwy, Morongo Valley and Palm Springs Cultural Center, from 5:30 to 7:30 2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs.