Shane Williams and Warren Bazemore began composing music and playing in bands together while attending college at University of South Carolina. This shape-shifting partnership endured more than 20 years and morphed into a longstanding Americana duo known as Finnegan Bell.
With both guys strumming guitars and contributing vocals, it’s hard to pin down Finnegan Bell’s sound precisely. Bazemore told the City Paper that along the way, the two have been under the influence of many disparate musical forces: everything from singer-songwriter types like Emmylou Harris and Bruce Springsteen to barbershop quartets and big bands.
With such diverse influences, it’s safe to say Finnegan Bell is a dynamic addition to the Lowcountry’s palette of sounds. Still, Bazemore insists that it took countless seasons of hard work and determination to mold Finnegan Bell into something special.
“When we were right out of college, we toured non-stop for eight years, doing 200-plus shows each of those years. In sports, nothing takes the place of getting reps, and for musicians I really believe it is the same. You’ve just gotta get out and do it. In front of big crowds, small crowds and everything in between. It all matters, and it all serves the purpose of helping you find out who you are and what you are capable of pulling off. I think through that process we realized what we are good at, and what we can stop trying to be that we are not.”
This ongoing adventure has also made it easier than ever for Williams and Bazemore to collaborate. “There is certainly a ‘we finish each other’s sentences’ aspect to it,” Bazemore said. “And certainly, musically, we are kind of working off of one shared brain when it comes to the direction of a song, or what feels right and fits the moment. The guys from [local ensemble] Penny & Sparrow gave us a great compliment by saying, ‘You guys sing in cursive.’ That only happens because there is a lot of trust and because there are a lot of shared miles behind us.”
While they weren’t able to add many miles on the odometer during the height of the pandemic, Williams and Bazemore did manage to stay busy building their songbook during the lockdown. As Bazemore recalls, “We took the year and spent a lot of time focusing on writing new material. Since we could not play shows, it gave us an unexpected opportunity to get done the things that often get buried in day-to-day, week-to-week survival routines.”
It won’t be long, Bazemore said, until this latest batch of tunes gets showcased on an album. In the meantime, however, Bazemore is excited about the new recordings that he and Williams have already completed.
“We decided to do a couple of live videos at Coast Records with Matt Zutell and Dries Vandenberg, and they turned out so well that we’re releasing them both as digital singles too. One is coming out on July 9, an original called ‘Camille on Her Death Bed.’ Then, we are releasing a re-imagined version of ‘Fly Me Courageous’ [originally recorded by Drivin N Cryin] on July 23. We stripped both of them down to guitars and vocals and did them in one take each.”
To commemorate the occasion, Finnegan Bell will be returning to the stage at The Royal American this week with a full band on-hand, including Kerrine Gifford [from the group Sweet Sweet] on cello. “It’s our favorite spot to play in town,” Bazemore said. “And the staff there has become family to us over the years, so there’s nowhere else we’d rather celebrate our release.”