Aaron Beavers on John Popper, the Duskray Troubadours and Shurman

About a year-and-a-half ago, Aaron Beavers was considering whether to put away his guitar for good and get a day job.

“I didn’t know if I was going to continue doing it anymore,” Beavers said. “I was really burnt out.”

The reason for the burn out was obvious. Beavers and his Austin-based roots-rock band, Shurman, had been playing 200 shows a year across the U.S. for nearly a decade. He was at a crossroads and desperately looking for a sign.

“I wanna just do whatever it is I’m supposed to do,” Beavers said was going through his head at the time. “I’ve been banging pots and pans since I was a baby. Music has been my life. I came home to my wife and told her. She said, ‘I can’t believe you’re even talking like that.’ Maybe I’m just not meant to do this. Give me a sign.”

It wasn’t but a day later that a sign came in the form of a phone call. Blues Traveler singer and harmonica aficionado John Popper wanted to get together with Beavers and write a song.

On their last tour, Shurman opened for Blues Traveler at The Fillmore in San Francisco. It was the last night of a West Coast tour and Blues Traveler were tired, so they told Shurman to take as much time as they wanted during the opening set, Beavers said. It was a chance for Shurman to break out some new material.

“John was backstage listening. He approached me after the show and said, ‘I heard the new songs. I’d love to record those tunes.'”

Beavers knew that many times artists will say things but never follow through. But on this occasion, Popper kept his word. A few months later, Beavers, Popper and guitarist/producer Jono Manson got together to do some writing.

“Popper. That alone, writing a single song, would have been the greatest story of my life,” Beavers said.

But the collaboration didn’t end there. Popper was so excited about the project, he financed an entire album out of his own pocket. Now, what started as just an idea backstage, has grown into a full 50-date tour.

John Popper & The Duskray Troubadours, including Beavers and Manson on guitars, kicked off their tour earlier this week in Seattle. The new all-star rock band will be playing The State Room in Salt Lake City on Mar. 7.

Prior to this tour with Popper, Beavers had taken the longest time off the road that he ever has, in part because he became a father for the first time. He and his wife recently welcomed a new son, Lennon, into the world.

But in taking some well deserved time off, Beavers learned an important lesson….taking a break every once in awhile does a world of good.

“I kept thinking, ‘You can’t take a break. This is what you do,'” he said. “I found out I’m going to be the kind of guy who needs to get away for a month, get in a canoe and be in a river and continue to be sane.”

Not only has Beavers been rejuvenated by his collaboration with Popper, but his time off has also allowed Shurman’s batteries to be recharged. The band has gone through several lineup changes over the years, but Beavers said today Shurman is as strong as they have ever been and this June hope to release their best album ever. “I’m really excited about this material,” he said.

Working with Popper helped Beavers learn a lot about making records, he said. For the new Shurman album, which will include 12 tracks, Beavers said the band listened to a lot of Jimmy Reed after they were finished in the studio each night. He let the melodies take control on the new songs. “Every night after the studio we just drenched ourselves in R&B music.”

The subject material for the songs also shows Shurman’s growth as Beavers tackles deep topics like the real story of a man who was found to be innocent by the court system after he had already been executed.

“This project isn’t about trying to get a (record) deal. This time everything is done in-house. I’m really proud of the record. It shows a lot of growth,” he said. “It’s been a good year for me. It was just really great to be home the last few months. Something traveling musicians don’t get to do. I think (being home and starting a family) is what really changed me and motivated me. Motivated me with the Shurman record, changed the focus and songwriting for the better.”

And of course, Beavers also credits the project with Popper for giving him new motivation.

“All kinds of doors have opened that have never been open before. Music is flowing through me and around me like a river. I’ve just been soaking it in. It’s been an incredible experience the the last two years.”

If you can’t wait for the State Room show to see John Popper & The Duskray Troubadours, they’ll be performing on the George Lopez show on March 1.

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