Picture this, it’s a balmy Saturday afternoon. The wind is just right and there’s a storm brewing in the distance, but there’s still some time yet to play outside. It’s a good day. It’s a call your crew, grab your bikes and head out the door for some good vibes kind of day, which is just about how it went down for Shenell Baker on this day in particular. She and her “Lowlife Bikes” crew (a unique-as-hell, custom-made, low-rider bike shop) made a plan to rally and ride, and we got the invite.
Immediately upon arrival, we were greeted with hearty handshakes, hugs and an overwhelming sense of family and camaraderie. Legit, so much fun!
After some low-rider cruising, bike-swapping shenanigans, we parked under a shade tree and had a chance to get to know the multi-faceted Shenell Baker a bit it better. Born on the north side of the Big Island, Kohala, Hawaii (“where everyone knows everybody”), a young Shenell grafted her love for music over the ravages of addiction and wayward youth, and set herself on a trajectory of healing and marked success through music. She says of her earlier start:
“Music saved my life. I was a complete drug addict. If it wasn’t for my son and my music I’d probably be doing the same thing, or I’d be dead. Music is what’ll save you… and it brings everyone together. Black, white, purple, yellow, green… we all vibe.”
Shenell’s first introduction to the music industry started with a “little band” called the Rolling Stones. Not a bad way to cut your teeth, in my opinion! While working at the Hilton as a runner, she was approached and asked of her interest in working behind the music scenes. Without a pause, she jumped on the offer. From there, her career in music production flourished. When asked to name-drop a couple of her favorite artists she’s worked for, she started counting them off with bands like Collie Buddz (who she considers “family”), Ian Young and Black Uhuru; her most favorite being Wyclef. She says of Wyclef, “That was my pinnacle!”
After 18 years in the business, Shenell’s creative wheelhouse is a multi-faceted affair: musician, lyricist, DJ, producer and an elemental backbone component of Deuterman Productions. There’s nothing she’s not into, music-wise, and there’s not an instrument she can’t play, “… except for a saxophone, or wind instruments in general,” she says with a big Shenell Baker laugh. That’s not her gig, and that’s cool too. She says of her many projects, “I’m an artist! I do everything, so I can never label myself as one thing. I like getting my hands on everything!” These days you can find her in the recording studio laying new sound and writing music for many of the artists you hear on radio today.
An overtone to the interview, which could hardly go unnoticed, was her sense of “crew” and her responsibility to pass on the blessings that helped improve her life.
Now, with many years in the business and a crew that works by her side, she feels an immense responsibility to empower the people around her to strive for greatness. “I don’t care if they climb higher than me. I’m proud. I want them to do better than me. If the opportunities come for you, don’t let them pass you by. Go for it! …As far as my boss goes, Robert Deuterman, he works side by side with us. And that’s what it’s all about. He’ll pick up trash with us. We respect him. He works hard and we’re good.” *throws up a shaka*
She says the production crews and the people who work behind the scenes are the hardest working people in the industry: “The people who promote the shows aren’t the one who make them happen, it’s the people behind the scenes: hospitality, door crew, runners, stagehands, audio crew, light crew, barricade builders, garbage pickers, porta-potty cleaners, bartenders, etc… These are the people who work their [butts] off. Nobody ever thanks them, but they’re the ones who make the concerts and festivals happen.” There’s no question she believes in the words she speaks. There’s a heartfelt sincerity to her message.
Shenell believes in the power of music, hard-working people and good vibes.
When we asked what it was about the Lowlife Bike crew she enjoyed most, she spoke of the hard work on the road. She echoed what many of us have lamented. She doesn’t want to hang out in smoky bars and spend her hard-earned money on booze and bad decisions. Shenell says on the matter, “I want to be outside with good vibes and good people. So we ride our bikes …” Her laughter is hearty, comes deep from her belly and it’s peppered between each of her thoughts. There wasn’t a moment in her interview she didn’t express deep conviction for her lifestyle. She’s casual and cool; even her voice has a melody to it. As I reviewed the audio recorded from our meeting, I found myself chuckling along with her. As an artist, she’s core. Her roots are music and family. As a person, she’s just plain rad.
We asked her where her favorite place to listen to music was and we couldn’t have loved her answer more:
“The best place to listen to music is COCOA BEACH! You can have the most donkest bands playing and you’re still going to have a good time! It doesn’t matter if they’re good or not, you’re still going to have fun in Cocoa Beach, regardless!”
For more information on Lowlife Bikes, visit them online at lowlifebikes.com.