We had the good fortune of connecting with R.O. Shapiro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi R.O., why did you pursue a creative career?
I often joke that I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. An early love and knack for performing, combined with an amazingly supportive and encouraging family, meant that from before I can even remember I assumed I was going to be an artist. Actually, for my entire childhood and adolescence I thought I was going to grow up to be an actor (and who knows, maybe someday I will.) In fact, the only difficult career conversation I ever had with my parents is when I announced that I had decided I was going to change gears and leave New York City and the casting call grind in exchange for the life of a touring songwriter. Not the biggest left turn in the world, but from their reaction you would have thought I was dropping out of law school! They rebounded very quickly, and are still my biggest fans and supporters; they’ve even joined me for parts of some tours in the Pacific Northwest. All that to say, my life has been and always will be dedicated to the performing arts, and I have my family to thank for it. I’m very lucky.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I was in college, I was a member of a folk music chorus, structured like an a cappella group but with instruments, called “Tangled Up In Blue” (after the Bob Dylan song.) I had always loved American folk music and singer/songwriters growing up, liek Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon, etc, but it wasn’t until I was a part of this group that I really gained a deeper knowledge of the genre, and got a taste of the catalogues of John Prine, Townes van Zandt, Joni Mitchell, and the like. After rehearsals and concerts, we would crowd together in the dingy living room of some off campus house or other, and pass a guitar around, sharing old obscure sad songs, ironic 90s rock covers, or if we were lucky, a new original with lyrics still clumsy in their freshness. I absolutely adored these evenings, and never wanted them to end; I was always one of the last to crawl to bed. That crackling energy, that human intimacy, is what I am constantly striving to recreate with my music. I like to write songs that are authentic to me, and that touch on the experiences and feelings that we all share. I always say, we are all more similar than we are different. I love the community that a performance creates, people coming together to reflect on and celebrate life, in all its magic and tragedy.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, I moved here last January just a few weeks before Covid lockdown, so I still feel like I’m learning about the city myself. I do love going to the beach with my dog, a sweet Catahoula mix named Joni Dog Mitchell, so a hang at Ocean Beach or Del Mar North Beach are always on my itinerary. Pair that with a burrito from Colimas or a banh mi and iced coffee from Saigon Sandwiches Deli, you got yourself a real nice time. My partner and I live in North Park and we love just walking around the neighborhood, especially when the walk ends at Cantina Mayahuel or Polite Provisions. I also take classes and lead wheel throwing workshops at Mud Lily Clay Studio just down the street, and would love to share that experience with someone visiting. And we’re members at the Zoo, so spending an afternoon there is a no-brainer.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’ll dedicate my shoutout to Helene Leonard, the director of “Stages,” the community children’s musical theater program I was a part of growing up on the East End of Long Island, NY. From the ages of 9 to 17, I performed in nearly 40 productions with Helene, an amazing opportunity and a huge reason why I feel so comfortable on stage to this day. After 30 years of directing shows, and providing a crucial space for kids like me who didn’t always feel like they fit in at school, to experiment, and grow, and hone their craft, Helene recently announced she was retiring, dropping the curtain on “Stages” for good. I am so grateful for her and the community of theater weirdos she fostered, and I only hope I can pay it forward one day with an arts program or camp of my own.
House concert – Kendall Rock Guitar in studio – Shelby Bohannon San Diego streets – Troy Paul Bloom
Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.