The crowd at Otis Campbell’s was just letting out as Aaron Evers was driving around late one night last year taking photos of the streets in Downtown Washington.
He was looking for an image that his band, Shotgun Creek, could use on its new CD cover. Pointing his camera south up Elm Street as streetlights illuminated the deserted road lined with old, multistory brick buildings, he knew he’d found what he had been looking for. The band agreed.
Evers’ photo of that late-night Elm Street scene is featured on the cover of Shotgun Creek’s new album, “Town of My Past.” And the image featured on the CD itself is another photo Evers took that night, looking north down Lafayette Street toward the railroad crossing and riverfront.
“The song ‘Town of My Past’ is about looking back on your hometown, your formative years — first bike ride, first kiss, first girlfriend, first car . . . all those really good memories,” said Evers. “And even if you still live where you grew up, the town isn’t the same. There is a line in the song that says, ‘Up on Main Street where the lights shine bright, we went on and on until the light was gone, gone, gone.’ It always reminded me of a small town street lit up at night.”
For one of the five band members, fiddle player Xavier Koenig, Washington is the town of his past. He grew up in Washington — attended Fifth Street Elementary and graduated from Washington High School in 2003.
For Evers, who plays bass guitar in the band, Washington is where he works. He grew up in St. Clair and currently lives in Union, but he is employed as a network engineer for the Bank of Washington, working out of its downtown branch on Main Street, one block off of Elm.
People who follow the local music scene may be familiar with Shotgun Creek. The band, which plays mostly around the St. Louis metro area, has been booking more gigs in Franklin County.
Just last weekend the band performed an afternoon set at Fricks Market in Union. There’s an old-time loft area overlooking the sales floor, and the band played from noon to 3 p.m. as customers shopped.
They play semi-regularly at Otis Campbell’s, and already have four dates booked for this year — Saturdays, March 24, June 2, Sept. 8 and Dec. 15, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night.
Watch for them to play at the Fine Art Fair & Winefest in Washington this spring, Saturday, May 19, from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
And at the Franklin County Fair in Union Saturday, June 9, from 8 p.m. to midnight.
‘Red Dirt Music’
An original country music band from the St. Louis metro area, Shotgun Creek has been writing, recording and performing their unique brand of Midwest country music since 2014.
Koenig described the band’s sound as “more traditional, Red Dirt music.”
“Shotgun Creek’s music is straight from the heart — and as real as the Missouri roots that influence it,” Evers added.
“We pride ourselves on writing songs that make folks happy — make them want to dance,” said Evers. “We feel that music is a way for us to help people forget about their problems while they are listening.”
Along with Evers and Koenig, who also plays rhythm guitar, the band includes Shane Speer on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Mike Prost on lead guitar and lap steel and Shawn McSparin on drums. Evers, Koenig and Prost all provide backup vocals.
The band writes their own music, which begins mostly with Evers and Speer laying down the “backbone” of the song — lyrics, chord changes, tempo.
The rest of the band helps build each song from there.
“We come in with a basic idea — lyric, vocal melody, chord progression,” said Evers. “I don’t know what I want for lead guitar part or what makes sense for fiddle . . . so everybody has the freedom to write their parts.”
The first original song the band wrote was “Whiskey and the Gin,” which is the lead track on “Town of My Past.”
They had performed it back in 2014 under a different name, but kept working on it after that.
‘Town of My Past’
“Town of My Past” features eight songs, the newest of which is “Crazy Ways.”
“All of the songs on the album are real,” said Evers. “They are written about real life — real feeings. They’re about love, fun, making mistakes, getting wild, settling down, and nearly all of them are influenced by growing up in a small town.”
The band released it in October 2017 while they were performing a show in Minnesota.
That is the farthest they have ever gone for a performance. Most of the band’s shows are around the St. Louis metro area, although last summer they opened for Wynonna and the Big Noise in a show, Concert Inside the Walls, at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City.
Shotgun Creek also has opened for Dwight Yoakam and Frankie Ballard at Ozarks Amphitheater in Camdenton, and for Dylan Scott at the Blue Note in Columbia.
“Town of My Past” is the second recording Shotgun Creek has made. The first was a five-song EP (extended play) titled “Rusted Rails and Bars,” which they released in 2016 with a photo of the nearly 130-year-old Bruns Bridge on the cover.
The historic St. Clair area bridge was destroyed and washed away by floodwaters in spring 2017.
For that EP, the band worked with a recording student for two of the songs and recorded the remaining three songs on their own.
For “Town of My Past,” they opted to work with a professional studio, engineer and producer. They hired Artisan Studios and producer Kevin Hamilton in Granite City, Ill.
Hiring a producer for the album brought a level of objectivity to the project, said Koenig, noting the band was too close to the music to have a clear perspective on which songs were the best.
“They will have their own ideas and outside opinions, he said. “They can see the whole thing objectively.”
“It really was important that we work with an outsider to pick the songs,” Evers added. “We didn’t want to influence the process with our own preferences.”
“Town of My Past” is available for purchase as a CD at any of Shotgun Creek’s performances.
Digital copies are available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music and YouTube.
Evers: Self-Taught Bass Guitarist
Evers, son of Leslie and Larry Evers, St. Clair, grew up in what he describes as a musical family. His mom was the youngest of 15 or so children and it seemed like everyone played an instrument, he said.
“At family reunions, there was always music,” he remarked.
As a child, Evers took formal lessons in saxophone and piano, but it wasn’t until he was in high school that he picked up a bass guitar. A friend was thinking about starting a band and asked Evers if he could play bass.
“I guess I can figure it out,” Evers remembers telling him.
He bought his first bass guitar at a pawn shop.
“I didn’t know anything about basses, just went in and bought this old harmony bass . . . bought a set of strings at a CD store in Washington,” Evers recalled. “The first time I tuned it, I hit the note on the piano and hit it on the bass until it sounded right, and went from there.”
That high school “band” never really materialized, but Evers learned how to play bass guitar in the process. He went off to college and earned a degree in computer networking technology.
“I’ve thought about a career in music a lot, but it seems like it’s about impossible to do, so I’ve always had a regular job,” said Evers.
Several years ago he answered an ad for musicians on CraigsList, and that led him to playing bass guitar for Shotgun Creek.
Koenig: From Guitar to Violin to Fiddle
Despite growing up in the same county, Koenig, son of Mary Koenig, formerly of Washington, never knew or met Evers. They were four years apart in school and lived too far apart.
They met for the first time last summer when Koenig joined the band.
Unlike Evers, Koenig doesn’t come from a musical family, but he had an interest in playing music from the time he was young. He took guitar lessons (left handed) from Ron Roskowske, but after about a month he moved on.
Around the fourth grade, Koenig started playing violin in the school orchestra.
“They forced me to play right-handed. I wasn’t all that good for about a year or two, but then I started taking private lessons, and all of a sudden it clicked,” said Koenig.
That led to him revisiting the guitar in high school, and this time around he picked it up easily.
Koenig received a scholarship for music education and music performance from Webster University. For a few years he worked as a union musician, playing in regional symphonies whenever they needed an extra person.
Then one day, he realized he didn’t want a career in music education so he took a couple of years off before going back to school to earn a degree in computer science.
Now, like Evers, he works as a network engineer for Magellan Health.
With Shotgun Creek, Koenig has gone back to his knowledge of violin as a fiddle player.
“It’s the same instrument, just playing in a different style,” he explained.
Why Play in a Band?
With successful careers as network engineers, neither Koenig nor Evers is playing in the band for extra money, although that is always a plus.
They play with the band, because they love music.
“Music is a great outlet for almost everybody,” said Koenig. “You get in the car, you turn on the radio. It’s all around us.”
And for people who know how to play an instrument, they aren’t satisfied just listening to music; they want to play it themselves, he explained.
“And there’s nothing like being on stage,” said Evers. “It’s so great to get up on stage and have the music, the amplifiers behind you. There’s nothing quite like it. I think people who are creative and can play music, it’s just in your blood.”
“When you are given a certain skill set and you can use it to its full potential, there’s something personally rewarding deep down for doing that,” he said.
For more information on Shotgun Creek, follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ShotgunCreekBand/.