Jake Shafer Has Taken An Interesting Road From Lincoln County To Nashville
There isn’t a single road that goes from Lincoln County, Missouri to Nashville, Tennessee. Jake Shafer might know that better than anyone.
A 2004 graduate of Troy Buchanan High School in the small town of Troy, Missouri, Shafer actually grew up in the even smaller town of Moscow Mills, Missouri.
His hometown had a population of a little more than 2,000 people by the time he graduated high school. Now, 2,000 people might be out on Broadway when he’s playing his guitar at AJ’s Good Time Bar in Nashville.
It’s been an interesting road for the 32-year old Shafer from rural Missouri to the country music hotbed. It’s a road that has included show choir, baseball, basements, the New York Yankees, the Gateway Grizzlies, Fast Eddie’s, high times, low times, karma and chance.
Now, Jake Shafer is ready to make the best of whatever comes his way.
I recently caught up with Jake for an interview as he drove from Lake of the Ozarks to St. Louis. You can’t help but smile when you hear Jake tell the story of how he ended up in Nashville. It’s inspiring and that’s just how he wants it to be, Not it a way like he’s going to try to sell you a self-help book or seminar, but in a way that he can’t help but shake his head at his luck. Having the gift for gab that comes from growing up in a small town helps too.
A Baseball-Playing Troy Bolton
Let me go back to how I know Jake. I’m a 2002 graduate of TBHS myself. Not having any musical talent myself and not much (if any) athletic talent, I am a bit in awe of people that have either. Jake is someone that has an abundant amount of both.
Think of him as a baseball-playing Troy Bolton.
Nowadays, people my age know one thing for sure. When you see Troy or Lincoln County in a headline, it probably isn’t going to be a good thing. Then, we knew two things; Monty made the best burgers and those Shafer boys sure could play baseball.
Outside of the gymnasium at TBHS, there was a wall with pictures of notable athletes in the school’s history and their accomplishments. Jake’s older brother Adam was one of those athletes on the wall for his accomplishments on the baseball diamond. While I was in high school, Adam was a pitcher for the River City Rascals on the independent Frontier League.
Jake and his younger brother Aaron were both All-State baseball players for Troy during their high school careers.
While at TBHS, Jake was also a member of the TBHS Express Show Choir. Express was known as one of the best in the country and competed in competitions around North America. Express’s 2004 show opened with Jake singing alone on stage clad all in black as the rest of the choir entered behind him.
It’s an experience he credits for his performing ability today.
Upon graduation from Troy Buchanan, Nebraska offered Shafer a full-ride scholarship based on his vocal talents. He would have become a Cornhusker, but the offer didn’t include the chance to play baseball.
Jake opted instead for a baseball scholarship to Missouri State University. He’d go on to get drafted by the New York Yankees 2007 MLB Draft.
After two years of minor league baseball, the Yankees tried to change Shafer’s mechanics. That change led to Jake coming down with a case of what’s commonly called “the yips.” It’s what led to Rick Ankiel’s demise as a pitcher in the majors.
“All of a sudden I couldn’t play catch anymore. If you were 60 feet away from you I might as well kick it to you, but if you were 350 feet away from me I could hit you in the chest every time.” said Shafer.
Shafer would go on to play parts of three seasons with the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League before hanging up his spikes for good.
He still keeps a championship ring he won during his first season in the minors. He did come close to selling it early on, though.
“I had a guy offer me $5,000 for that ring,” Shafer said, “and then $5,000 sounded really good in my mind but my mom told me no.”
That ring now sits in the center of the mantel at Shafer’s house.
“Someone’s Trying To Tell You Something”
After retiring from baseball, Shafer settled in the Lincoln County area and went about his life. He still played acoustic shows at bars around the area and occasionally with bands. He also went into business with his brothers.
Shafer Brothers Baseball operates a training facility in Moscow Mills and fields competitive youth baseball teams. The brothers also operate a non-profit organization. It was that endeavor that led to what Shafer’s parents call his “mental breakdown” while he calls it his “mental breakthrough.”
Shafer was at a softball fundraiser in St. Paul, Missouri when a little girl asked him if he wanted to buy a raffle ticket. He pulled out the $20 bill he had intending to buy one. His roommate Jason, came up behind him and gave him $40 to buy two. Sure enough, that little girl announced Jake’s name as the winner.
Jake didn’t know what he’d won, he didn’t bother to ask what he was buying a raffle ticket for. When they told him it was a “money tree,” he told them to just donate it back to the charity. The organizers insisted that he take the prize he had won.
The “tree” ended up having $1,000 on its branches. Jake told everyone there that if they came to his show later that night around the corner that their tabs were on him.
“I’ve always said that the money I make playing music is for my friends and I mean that,” Shafer said.
Drinking is cheap in rural Missouri. After paying the tab and letting the servers pick out a gift from that tree, Shafer had $750 left over of his winnings.
On the way home, Shafer and his roommate talked about his good fortune.
“So I’m driving home with my roommate and he said “I’ve never seen karma turn around that fast. Someone’s trying to tell you something.”” Shafer said.
Island Hopper Songwriter Fest
That “something” happened to come from a chance meeting Shafer had on a vacation he took a couple months before. He was at place called Crabby Bill’s in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida when he first heard Carrie Welling perform. Specifically, he was coming back from the bars with drinks when he heard her.
“I walked around the corner to where we all were sitting and she was playing an original song. It absolutely stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t stop listening. Just the way she wrote and how creative these songs were.
Shafer and Welling talked after the show and that turned into him going to see her play a couple months later when she came through St. Louis to play at Evangeline’s Bistro & Music House in the Central West End.
The two would stay in touch and Shafer told Welling of his own musical aspirations. She suggested he check out the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest in Fort Meyers, Florida.
Shafer had mentioned the festival to his roommate and Jason suggested Jake look into that on the ride home from St. Paul.
When he looked into a flight to Florida, rental car and hotel room that total came to $743. Jake decided to go for it. A $7 Bloody Mary to calm his nerves before boarding the plane brought the cost to exactly $750.
Once in Florida, Jake connected with Carrie Welling. He didn’t realize that she was one of the festival’s featured artists for the weekend.
“I felt like such a dummy,” Jake said about his lack of research.
Being around the songwriter’s and playing in “jam sessions” stoked the musical fire that has been burning in Jake since those show choir days.
Moving To Nashville
He found out that through his job designing basements he could transfer to a company just outside of Nashville.
Jake jokes that plenty is happening for him musically since making the move to Nashville, but he hasn’t been at his new job long enough for the insurance to kick in.
One of those musical happenings came just five days after getting to town. Jake was sitting at AJ’s Good Time Bar on Broadway when he decided to wander to the second floor of the three-story bar.
There playing an acoustic set was Rickie Lee Tanner, another Missouri native who Jack remembered from seeing him play a show back at Dog Prairie Tavern in St. Paul. Tanner also knew of Jake and the two got to talking. Tanner asked Jake to play a song or two while he stepped away for a minute.
After playing a couple songs, Jake went to the bar and the bartender told him that he should give his number to the guy at the end of the bar.
“Well, he’s not really my type,” Jake said.
The guy at the end of the bar was the person who booked the musicians at the bar.
Jake said that he couldn’t commit to a regular gig at the bar with his new job, but he would be happy to fill in whenever needed.
He would get a call later that evening to set up his first paying gig in Nashville. It wasn’t until after playing his first songs there that he found out the “AJ” stood for Alan Jackson, whose name is on the ticket stub from the first concert Jake ever attended.
After getting paid for the first session at AJ’s, he made a point to call his parents and tell them that the guy they saw at Riverport all those years ago was now signing his paychecks.
“I Couldn’t Have Been More Of A Stereotype”
Three months in, Jake is now settled into his house south of Nashville.
What he thought would be two weeks between moving south and closing on his house turned into two months. With living 45 minutes south of Nashville and still playing shows around the St. Louis area, Jake drives a lot of miles.
He recently got his Jeep Grand Cherokee back, which he is quite thankful for. During the time his car was being worked on he was driving his dad’s old silver dented farm truck around. He realizes the irony of an aspiring country singer driving around Nashville with a bible on his dash and a gun under his seat.
“I couldn’t have been more of a stereotype,” he said.
More Chance Encounters Lead To More Opportunities
Another chance encounter turned into the gig that will bring Shafer to St. Louis on Tuesday night. He’ll play a set in downtown St. Louis at Tin Roof as part of the Southern Outlaw Music Review Presented By Southern Comfort. along with Lewis Brice, Jesse Kramer and Drew Dixon.
We didn’t have time to get into the whole story that led to Shafer joining the trio for the show, but the details I did get make me think that the full story definitely gives the singers some outlaw street cred.
Country music fans may recognize Lewis Brice from the music video for “I Drive Your Truck” which was the 2014 ACM Song of the Year for his brother, Lee Brice. Lewis released his self-titled EP back in July and, like Kassi Ashton, has seen his name on several lists of country artists to watch out for in 2018.
A Journalism major at the University of Georgia, Drew Dixon’s music has been described as a mixture of soul, gospel, R&B, and blues.
Jesse Kramer rounds out the bill at Tin Roof with his soulful sounds inspired by Joe Crocker, Amos Lee, John Mayer and Chris Stapleton among others.
Just as a single road doesn’t lead directly from Lincoln County to Nashville, a single road doesn’t lead back either. On the way from Nashville to St. Louis for Tuesday’s show, Shafer made a stop in Kansas City to see a friend.
The spunky blonde Jake stopped to see was a friend Jake made during one of his first shows in Nashville when she took over his microphone to sing along to Miranda Lambert. It wasn’t until later in the evening, after the group had been hanging out for awhile, that Jake was informed his new friend was Codie Alan, a radio personality in Kansas City.
When I talked to Jake he was just leaving Lake of the Ozarks, where he had stayed the night with friends. He met those friends when his former band, Country Line, played their wedding.
That connection led to Jake booking a show this summer at Shawnee Bluff Winery & Vineyard in Eldon, Missouri. He’ll be opening for a band that’s won six Vocal Group of the Year awards.
Jake Shafer is finishing up his first single with Red Ridge Entertainment, “Just One More”, and has plans to release it independently in the coming weeks. The song will feature Carrie Welling.
Shafer is in a better place than he said he has been in years. He credits that and his faith for his apparently new-found ability to run into these unique experiences and opportunities.
Speaking of that, Jake recently had an interesting encounter at Loser’s in Nashville.
Shafer was sitting in the crowded back room of the bar when he got up and bumped into a guy, spilling a bit of the stranger’s drink. He offered to buy him a drink, but the guy said not to worry about it.
He only realized later on that he had offered to buy Kid Rock a drink.
Sounds like a country song.
Brought to you by Mills Apartments