Jen Schaffer and the Shiners hail from Toronto via Montreal, Hamburg, Calgary and the UK! They are purveyors of original soulful folk/roots music with lush harmonies and heavy bass.
Jen Schaffer is the lead singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist, who came to music via a stint as a public defender in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio, where she gained a love of alt-country songs and a heightened social conscience. Her self-penned works, which have garnered praise from the likes of Ron Sexsmith, speak of love, struggle, involvement and injustice and are sharply focused through the lens of her own life journey.
The Shiners are Simon Law, the band’s drummer, keyboardist, background vocalist and producer, who is also a Grammy winning songwriter of Back to Life, and original member of Soul II Soul; Astrid Foster on bass and sweet background harmonies; John Teshima plays guitar, both electric and acoustic – he also plays keyboards and adds background harmonies; Jonathan Marks contributes background harmonies as well as playing violin, viola and mandolin.
Having played the Mariposa Folk Festival this past Summer, in July of 2016, the Shiners are back in the studio recording their second full-length record, Games We Play, due out in 2017.
THE BACK STORY
Montreal-born and raised, Jen spent some time living in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio before finally settling in Toronto, where she now lives and performs. She discovered songwriting in the middle of a career focused on social justice and giving voice to the marginalized in society. As a state public defender in Ohio, she worked on a battered woman homicide case that not only changed self-defense law in that state but also her musical journey. This experience resulted years later in her first song, For Teresa, and the recording of a four-song EP released in 2009 called, Angel Ridge.
Her musical incarnation as a singer-songwriter came on swiftly and with great passion – in the last few years she’s been writing, performing and recording her own original roots music with her band The Shiners. Jen’s own musical style evolved out of a childhood steeped in The Band , Jimmy Cliff and a later immersion into the world of bluegrass and alternative country. The end result is soulful acoustic country roots with harmonies, syncopated beats and a deeper bass. Collaborator and band mate Simon Law (a.k.a. The Funky Ginger and member of Soul II Soul) has added a soulful vibe to these original works and the band always contribute with love and skill to the arrangements.
The music has kept on flowing, with many more songs since For Teresa….that now comprise a full-length recording, Fate Line. The band released this first full-length album in November of 2014. The 12 songs are all Jen Schaffer originals, showcasing depth and insight as a songwriter, as well as the band’s eclectic talents. There’s a duet on Fate Line with indie pop songstress and Juno nominee Emm Gryner, and contributions from Blair Packham, Arlene Bishop, Bob Foster and Sarah Foster.
As a lyricist, she has been honing her own distinct voice – crafting mature and empathic songs that bring to life personal yet universal stories. In the song After a Fall Jen says “On a trip visiting a good friend in North Carolina I was moved by the mountains and sounds around me, including my friend’s rooster crowing at all hours of the day! I wrote this song – a reminder of the many wake up calls we can receive throughout our lives.”
The Snatching of Hannah Twinnoy is a haunting, cautionary re-telling of the first woman killed by a tiger in England.
Other songs explore more existential themes like the centrifugal forces of life on the album’s title track Fate Line… “It cuts through imagined victories, Over all those stubborn ghosts haunting me, My fate line…”
Lyrics to all the songs are featured in the Music section of this website.
Simon Law, the drummer and keyboardist in the Shiners (Grammy winning songwriter of Back to Life and a member of the UK’s Soul II Soul), produced Fate Line, giving it a soulful 70’s sound with rich harmony singing, deep bass and funky beats.
The Shiners, her dedicated band – collaborators, Woodford enthusiasts and friends one and all are: Simon Law on drums, keyboards and background vocals, Astrid Foster on bass and background vocals, John T on guitar, keyboard and bass, and Jonathan Marks, on violin, mandolin and background vocals.
Musical highlights to date
- Played the Mariposa Folk Festival in July of 2016.
- The successful launch and release in January 2016 of the single Sunday Morning, New York City, and its accompanying video. (NOW Toronto Magazine listed the release party as a “Critic’s Pick” music event).
- Jen and some Shiners played holiday tunes at the Riverdale Share Concert at the Danforth Music Festival in December 2015 and 2016. The Share is a wonderful local charitable event in Toronto. Jen did a bunch of media promotion for the concert on Toronto television and radio.
- Internationally-known Canadian songwriter Ron Sexmith says the material on Fate Line is “very strong” and counts himself “a fan of Jen’s songwriting.”
- Recording the band’s debut full length album at Jeremy Darby’s Canterbury Music Company with guest artists Emm Gryner , Blair Packham, Arlene Bishop and Bob Foster.
- Performing live on CFRB’s Rock Talk and Montreal’s CJAD and getting played on CBC! Opening for Blair Packham and The Jitters at The Rivoli. Performing this past year at the Mariposa Folk Festival Showcase in Orillia.
- Musical road tripping to Montreal, Tobermory, Kitchener and the outer regions of my mind with friend and inspiration Arlene Bishop. Sharing the stage at the Justice for Children and Youth Benefits with the likes of The Lowest of the Low, Dave Bidini, some Barenaked Ladies and Mia Sheard.
- Getting lovely kudos from Fred Tackett for our live rendition of his beautiful Little Feat tune, “Fool Yourself,” and singing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with Ron Sexsmith in memory of Levon Helm.
Jen’s latest musical endeavour as composer and singer on a couple of tunes from Simon’s recently released EMI Production Music recording, The Funky Ginger – Toronto Tapes. This production music project of eclectic and soulful grooves includes the song, Fille Vendredi, co-written and sung in French and English by Jen.
In addition, Jen and all the Shiners will be playing on Simon’s solo album, Look To The Sky, coming out from Dome Records in the UK in the June of 2017. Watch for that!