Get to Know: Jude Shuma
A couple of weeks ago, I finally caught up with Chicago musician Jude Shuma, after being impressed with his set at The Empty Bottle back in December and hearing good things about him from other local bands. We first met up on a Thursday evening at Sip coffee shop, but decided to move to the bar across the street, where we ended up chatting over a different type of brew. While hanging out with Jude, I not only got the scoop on his creative process, his influences, and news about his upcoming release, but things also got a little philosophical and weird (in the best possible way). Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the charismatic singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and part-time exterminator that is Jude Shuma.
His grandma's guitar and his parents' records got him into music
"I found my grandma's guitar under my mom’s bed... started playing it, had a few lessons and then I bought a little 8-track recorder. From there, I just kinda… I wanted to write songs, so I started writing songs and kinda laid down one track, and then laid down the next," Jude explains when I asked what got him into music. Now, more than 15 years later, Jude says he's collected more than enough instruments and gear to start his own home studio, saying, "It’s kind of been like a ball and chain, cause you have all this gear and you need the space and the studio to record. Living in an urban area like Chicago, it’s really hard to find a space…you can get a rehearsal space with other bands, but then you’ve got fucking metal bands next door to you and you can’t record an acoustic guitar. So it’s been kinda like, the past four years I’ve been bouncing around and finding new spots." More to come on his home studio later...
As far as his sound, Jude credits records from the 60's and 70's with influencing him, saying, "I’ve inherited like 700 vinyl from my mom, dad, and my aunt and uncle. All those records, it’s all like the 60's. I’ve been listening to a lot of T. Rex. Anything out of the 60's and 70's and like that whole movement. Music was a lot simpler and more melodically driven those days."
His next album focuses on the bittersweet, the baritone, and Boogie Nights
Right now, Jude is working away in his home studio trying to wrap up a new album, with a targeted release date in the spring. Talking more about the new material, he says, "I started singing in a lower register, where a lot of the other stuff I sing in a higher register, it’s more of a falsetto. Now I’m kinda starting to embrace my baritone." In addition to his shift in vocal range, Jude says he's adding in horns, violin, and synthesizers to these new songs, but he's still trying to stay true to the indie, low-fi sound. "I’m using a tape machine, doing everything on tape. Everything is analog so it has that white noise and saturation to it," Jude added about the recording process.
Talking more about the album's theme, Jude says, "I’m gonna name the album Sugar Mountain. [That's] not released yet, but that’s gonna be the name. I’m pretty stoked on it. I’m obsessed with sugar…My mom had diabetes when she was pregnant with me, so I feel like there might be a correlation between how much sugar I intake every day. It’s more just that we live in a world of vices and turmoil and chaos every day. And sugar or whatever your sweetness... it’s bittersweet…"
Jude also confirmed that although he's written and recorded about 20 songs, only 6 of them have made the final cut so far, including tracks called "Lemonade" and "Cosmic Feeling." "There’s one called 'Boogie Nights,' Jude continues. "You seen Boogie Nights? It’s an ode to that film and the ridiculousness of that film," saying he imagines his tune "Boogie Nights" to be the song that was supposed to play after the final scene of the film, as the end credits roll in.
He splits his time between recording and killing rats... in Billy Corgan's old house
"It's Billy Corgan's old house, totally random...it’s in the garage, they built a room inside the garage. There’s two doors and it’s completely isolated. So like it’s 4 in the morning…I’ll stay up til 5:00 AM, smoking cigarettes, and there’s no circulation in there...there’s no windows. I’m just baking it in there, smoking weed, and just recording. The tape machine is all fucking cracked out, all the microphones are just saturated in smoke…it’s good," Jude revealed about his home studio.
"The studio is called Rat House studio, because I have rats," he continues, admitting he's had to get a pellet gun and live trap to keep the rats out of the studio. "If you wanna put it in a nutshell, my time is split between recording music, and then killing rats," Jude admits, while also adding that his growing tally of rat exterminations does get to him sometimes. "I don’t eat meat, but this is different…I don’t want a rat walking in my house. I feel like there shouldn’t be a difference, like you should cherish the fact that it’s got a heartbeat, but I have the conscious thought before I shoot it," he says. Jude joked that he may write a song called "Rat King" as an ode to all of the fallen rats of his studio. "I feel like it’d have to be a Leonard Cohen style song. You know like, spoken word," he added.
He prefers producing and recording to playing live
"I find more pleasure in…and I like touring and playing live, but I find a lot of pleasure in recording and producing. Like sitting in the studio for hours...I kind of like look at myself as more of a Harry Nilsson. Check him out, that’s one of my possibly all-time favorite artists. He did the same thing The Beatles did. The Beatles hustled their ass and played live for how many years, and then they just cut it and just recorded records. I feel like I get more out of sitting in the studio, being creative," Jude gushed while chatting about his love of producing.
While he loves producing, at the moment he acknowledges that he can't really take on production work for other artists, although he wouldn't rule it out in the future. "I think once I finish this record, I’ll be more in control. People open studios, and then they can’t chose who they get to record there because they need to accept business to keep the money flowing. I wanna be able to be a little picky. I want to work on music I like. I’ve had homies hit me up and it’s like I dig their music, but it’s time," he says. Although he plays live shows with three musicians called Blaze, Blade, and Church, Jude currently plays everything from drums to bass by himself in the studio, saying that he often finds himself running back and forth between instruments.
Jude also chatted about challenging himself as his own producer. "You ever heard of Brian Eno? He had a deck of cards for the recording studio, and whenever you hit a rut, you pull out a card and flip it. And it will tell you something to do, like one of them that I pulled once was like 'be extravagant' in your vocal performance. So I’ve been doing that too. I’ve been a little more extravagant and obnoxious…super obnoxious. I'll start singing in different voices," he revealed.
He's been on HBO, ABC, and the CW
Or at least, his songs have been used on TV shows on those networks. Nowadays, it's very difficult for an artist to make money off of their recorded music, with the rise of streaming services. Sync licenses for TV shows and movies are one of the best ways for musicians to get paid for their recorded work, and luckily for Jude, his music has appeared in a handful of new shows. "I got three licenses, in the last month, which is dope and came out of nowhere. It’s a show on ABC called Quantico, this show on the CW called Riverdale, and then an indie film called Can’t Say No. So that kind of helped boost me back up, like OK, I’m making money off music now and I can eat beyond bread. I live off bread and avocado," Jude revealed about his recent success.
He also talked about his first ever license, for a show on HBO, admitting he thought he was being catfished at first. "I thought it was a joke. The girl hit me up on Soundcloud. I was like for real? You’re a music consultant for HBO? But it turned out to be legit. It’s gone to show that it’s working, like whatever’s happening is working. I didn't have a lot of publicity on the last release, and now between those two shows that already aired, I’ve seen jumps in [plays]," Jude said.
He doesn't have a back up plan
Speaking of success, Jude has dedicated everything he has into making his career in music take off, even if that means getting shit from his family members. "I had a conversation with my dad…I’ve had this conversation with multiple people. A lot of people don’t want you to be where you are. They want to glorify you and support you like 'wow, I’m stuck at a 9-5 hating my life.' Fuck 9-5, but those same people don’t want to see you succeed to a certain extent because then they’re really questioning themselves. They wanna put you into the 9-5 world so then it justifies their own life and their own existence. Like 'do what I’m doing so then I feel better about what I’m doing.' My dad and I sat down and talked and he was like yeah you know, do you have a plan B? I was like no, there is no plan b," Jude says about the struggles of being a musician in a corporate-driven country. He adds, "If I take two eggs out of my basket, instead of having twelve, I now have ten. Those two eggs are gonna go to something else. I need to give my 100 percent to one thing and I’ll succeed. I’ll do it. It might not happen overnight, but I’m gonna go all in. If I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it right. Cause if you half-ass it, you’re not gonna succeed. Then it’s a hobby."
He continues on to say how much it bothers him that society only seems to correlate worth with wealth. "It sucks that in America that we sort of have a direct correlation between somebody’s worth and the size of their wallets. Like if somebody’s making more money we hold them in a higher light or higher tier than other people. Like you see someone super poor…maybe he made the conscious decision to be poor and live on the street, but if you discredit that human being immediately... I’ve sat down with homeless people across the country. I’ll sit there and I’ll smoke a cigarette with them. You can hear a crazy story about somebody, and your life can just get a little more enriched."
Diving even further into the subject of choosing to make a living in an artistic industry, Jude says, "Life without art would be really boring. And if you don’t try, you’ll never succeed. One of my homies from back home just like stopped doing music. Friends that I really thought had more talent than anybody I knew, they’d write amazing songs…they’d be like 'yeah, I don’t wanna do it.' The music industry kinda sucks, and you’ve gotta play the game, you know. You have to be somewhat chauvinistic."
He's got the gift of gab
Throughout our chat, the topics sometimes strayed off to completely random topics, including the Georgian language and Mark Wahlberg's dick (to be fair, that came up while talking about Boogie Nights). While we talked about a slightly less scandalous subject like our favorite Chicago venues, the eviction of the legendary Double Door came up. Jude mentioned he heard rumors that Double Door's space will be turning into a Baby Gap, continuing, "If that does become a Gap Baby, or whatever it's called, that’s just a red flag that gentrification has ended, that point…it has started and it has ended. Ukrainian Village is coming into pretty hard gentrification right now. The crime is skyrocketing too. You're not safe anywhere in this city. Doesn't matter where you go. I don’t know, everything’s fucked."
Jude also brought up technology and the global market that we have at our fingertips as entrepreneurs and consumers, saying, "I think our lives have been so pivotal. Like the span of time in human life. If you look at like the coming of the internet and globalization, and the way everything has now become a global market and the way in which everything and everybody is now intertwined. We can communicate…there are no borders now. It used to be super limited. Your news would be your newspaper or word of mouth. Now you can go on the internet and check news for every single country, every single place in the world. We are like hitting a place in human history. What a time to be alive."
Jude acknowledged these tangents, saying , "Yeah, I'm a talker. I feel like that’s one gift I have. Music is maybe number one...actually number one might be the gift of gab. My girlfriend gives me shit about that all of the time. I’ll walk up to a coffee shop counter. I’ll be like how’s your day and it just opens up."
Oh, if you're wondering, Jude officially broke the record for longest interview in ANCHR history, with a running time around an hour.
As he mentioned, Jude is currently spending most of his time in the studio for the upcoming record, Sugar Mountain, but he says he'll move onto album artwork and booking a summer tour as soon as it's finished. Stay up to date with all of the Jude news by liking his Facebook page, and listen to his latest EP, Biggest Hits, here.