An Ottawa singer is on top of the country music charts in Europe.
Kevin Shaw is using a backdoor approach to making it big in the Nashville music scene -- he's going overseas to sell his music in Europe.
The Ottawa singer knows that Nashville is cluttered with wannabe stars and controlled by marketing executives, so he's hoping to break out of the pack by succeeding elsewhere.
"For me, I hope it's a matter of being in the right place at the right time," he said.
The move seems to be paying off. Shaw may not yet be a name in the United States, but on European airwaves he's doing well. Real well.
His first two singles both charted in the top 10, with the song "Flatbusted" reaching the No. 1 spot. In April his first solo CD, "The Road to Wellsville," was released to the European market, and as of June the European Top 100 Country Chart listed Shaw as the No. 5 most-played artist on European radio.
During one impressive stay on the charts, his "Flatbusted" single was sharing the charts with songs by the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, George Strait, Vince Gill, Randy Travis, Diamond Rio, Brooks and Dunn, Lee Ann Womack and Travis Tritt.
Shaw is pretty modest about the whole thing.
"It's a catchy song," he said of his "Flatbusted" single.
But the Ottawa singer is also aware that his name among a litany of Nashville's elite performers is sure to attract some attention.
"Being played alongside the Dixie Chicks is a way to start selling," Shaw said. "Hopefully, it will grow and come back here. At least it's a way to play the game."
Shaw's already picked up several honors, including being voted "Future Star" at the Fourth Annual European Country Music Awards, and garnering nominations for "New Male Vocalist of the Year" and "Rising Star," at the 1999 Online Country Independent Tracker Awards Show.
Because of the costs of bringing over Nashville superstars, European marketers tend to be supportive of newcomers, Shaw added.
"They want to get performers into their own back yard, so they are very supportive of independent artists," he said.
Shaw is marketed by the Comstock label. Comstock is small compared to Nashville labels, but its niche market is European radio stations, so artists like Shaw often receive as much airplay as Tim McGraw or Shania Twain.
He's also represented by Gary Bradshaw at Western Heart Promotions. Bradshaw has helped guide the careers of such performers as Mark Chesnutt, Chris LeDoux and Ricochet.
Shaw started playing a decade ago. He and his Tough Guys band have played the smoky club scene covering a variety of tunes from Alan Jackson and Johnny Cash to The Doors, Eric Clapton and Van Morrison. They actually started out as a rock band before adapting to the country scene.
"We were trying rock 'n' roll, Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp tunes, and then we deliberately started trying to make a country album," he said.
Shaw also started writing his own music. He read books on the subject, and he joined the Nashville Songwriters Assn., often taking trips to the country music mecca to attend workshops. The end result is his new CD, which is all original material that he wrote with writing partner, Kurtis Marozas.
"It started out as a hobby, but now we do it with a purpose," he said.
The music is a real family affair. He has a brother-in-law in the band, and his wife, Sheila, sang back-up on the locally produced CD.
The singer differs from most performers in that he prefers to write and record music instead of touring, but that will change in 2000. Shaw is slated to do a benefit concert in February in Belgium. Later in the spring he is scheduled to do some shows in Norway and the Netherlands.
And though he isn't earning much money up front, Shaw admits there are other benefits to playing across the Atlantic.
"It's cool to go and have a free vacation," he said with a laugh.
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Country singer Kevin Shaw, of Ottawa, has released a new CD, "The Road to Wellsville."
The CD is available at Hastings Books Music and Video, 1900 23rd St., and on the Internet at www.kevinshaw.com.