10 (or so) Questions With RENT's Cary Shields

Cary Shields, currently starring as Roger in RENT sat down to answer 10 questions (or so) about his career and upcoming gig at The Cutting Room on September 29th.

How old were you when you discovered an interest in music, and who introduced you to it? Are there other musicians in your family?  How many instruments do you play, and what are they?
Cary: Music was a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, so about six days... My dad was a guitarist and singer and my mother was a dancer. Well, she was an Irish dancer, but I think that qualifies as dance. I started playing guitar pretty early, at about ten, but I've been a hack for most of that time. Only in the last few years have I started approaching something like what I would call a guitarist. I love it. I could always sing pretty decently, so by 14 I was pretty certain I would spend my life as a rockstar, retire at around 24 and raise rockstar babies at my beach house. I, uh... I don't know what happened... but the good news, for me anyway, is that I'm still making a good go of it. Still here, still about as far from retiring as I was at 14, but very happy with my career and looking forward to the next step. And rockstar babies.

Craig: What would you consider yourself first: a singer, a musician, or an actor - and why?
Cary: A singer first and foremast. A songwriter and guitarist second, and somewhere underneath chef I would call myself an actor. Never in polite company though. Which is not to say that I don't love acting, I have since performing in RENT and Taboo developed a huge appreciation for all the work and talent that goes into developing the skills an actor needs. I'm blessed that I have been able to work with the bonafied actors that I have. Some real heavy weights, like Boy George, who I think is a very method type of actor, and um... Well, that's it really, after George, who else is there?  

Craig: When did the acting bug bite you? 
Cary: When I was camping. It was raining before we got there and it always brings out the acting bugs. I just put some ointment on it. 

Craig: Are you looking forward to the film version of RENT and why?
Cary: There's a film version? Am I in it? Nobody tells me anything. But seriously folks, I'm looking forward to it for lots of reasons, mostly selfish. I think it'll reinvigorate the old fashioned Broadway version, bring out some new people and hopefully generate some interest in the performers. There are quite a few super talented cats in the show with really wonderful projects. Matt Caplan, Karmine Alers, Antonique Smith, Mayumi Ando, Josh Kobak, anyway loads of them... I wish them all the success in the world, assuming of course they don't get in my way. Cause if they do.... 

Craig: In between RENT gigs, you starred in TABOO. What was that experience like for you?
Cary: What a trip. Worked with at least three performers that consistently blew my mind. I think they were all nominated for TONYs. I wasn't. I don't keep in touch. It was something to see them all work though. I really had to bring up my game, which is terrific and I learned a lot. Did you know for instance that Rosie O'Donnell is a lesbian? I think I started believing that perhaps I wasn't the most useless actor alive in Taboo. In RENT, everything is sung, and so it's a comfortable place for me to be. In Taboo, with so much scene work it was harder to hide behind my voice and I really enjoyed some of the work I got to do there. I keep calling it work. It's screwing around really. Just rather controlled screwing around. With lights.

Craig: You've been in bands (Thieves Crossing, Poncho) - are you officially a solo act now? Do you prefer writing music alone or collaborating, as you did with Mark Jackson in Poncho?
Cary: I am indeed a solo act now. I worked with Mark for years but we've parted ways now and for better or worse I'm happy about my own projects. I'm in the studio right now (well right now I'm in a cafe) working on my first album since Thieves Crossing, when I was nineteen... Oh God, I suddenly got really depressed just then... So I think I'm ready to follow it up. It's pretty much the live version of old Thieves Crossing songs. No not really. I'm actually very proud of it, I expect it to be great. I don't care if that's a deadly sin or not. 

Craig: What comes first for you - the music or the lyrics? What do you generally like to write about or what inspires you?
Cary: Hehe, I write about girls. Since the first song I wrote for Vickie in high school, I've found it to be an invaluable seduction technique. Is that awful? It is, you don't have to tell me. I've written some great songs this way. I'm inspired by love like I am by nothing else, but that's probably pretty common. I have a song now called Border Guard, it's about my constant harrasment by US customs and immigration, underneath it all, it's just another love song. 

Craig: Who are your musical influences?
Cary: They're endless, my favorite band is Phish, I grew up on the Beatles and the Who and U2 later on. Still love Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers... Hmm, I guess it's not that endless.

Craig: What can people expect from your gig at the Cutting Room on the 29th? Will there be a CD of your music in the future?
Cary: Well Caig, I can hardly see into the future, but there will be door prizes and a raffle for a segue scooter. My band will appear if time permits. In all likelihood there will be a drunken brawl between Matt Caplan and Josh Kobak. It should be great. The guys I play with are top notch musicians, which is a dream for me. The music is from the deepest recesses of my jaded heart and I love sharing it with people. I know what good music does to me. A part of a song can make me break out into tears of joy or shout like a baptist, seriously. I'm doing the best I can to do that to others with my music. It's rocky, bluesy, jazzy... If you can add a y to it, we can play the crap out of it. It's at 8:30 by the way, which is as we all know the time to rock. Well 8:30, 8:45... rock isn't an exact science.

You can catch Cary Shields in Concert on Thursday, September 29 at 8:30 p.m. at The Cutting Room
(19 West 24th Street - Between Broadway & 6th Ave)
Tickets are $10.

photo credit: Karen Tiongson

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