Aaron Schilb’s hearing began a steady decline as an adolescent. Caused by an inner ear disorder called “Otosclerosis,” the result was degenerative hearing loss — eventually forcing him to wear hearing aids. With a love for music from a young age, doctors, audiologists, family and friends alike pushed him to quit music and pursue something that wouldn’t potentially damage his hearing further. He did no such thing. So whether it’s a silly song or driving rock and roll, Schilb’s music isn’t meant to be heard…it’s meant to be felt.
“Embracing the struggle as a near deaf musician.” What drew you to create music?
I grew up in a family of musicians (both parents and both brothers), but funnily enough I always said that I was going to be the only one who didn’t go into music. I wanted to be the outlier — the different one. Well, I guess that didn’t quite turn out how I had planned! I was drawn to actually write music because the music I was playing in cover bands didn’t interest me. It’s gone back as long as I’ve played, I never enjoyed playing someone else’s music as much as I enjoyed creating my own.
Favorite piano piece to perform?
Piano isn’t particularly my strength as a performer (like the guitar), but I’m proficient since it was my first instrument. So if I’m picking a popular piece of music that I actually do enjoy, it’s a song from the Charlie Brown Christmas album by the Vince Guaraldi Trio called “Christmas Time is Here”. I would play it on the street pianos in my hometown of Columbia, Missouri in the middle of July and change the lyrics to “summertime is here, lots of naps, and beer!”. Entertaining people has always been my favorite aspect of being a musician.
Having a musical family, how have they supported your career choice?
My upbringing definitely influenced my understanding of music and taught me the discipline of working hard, but I received pushback from my family when I told them I was leaving home to pursue music professionally. With the exception of my dad, the church music pastor, everyone else in my family had traditional day jobs and music was more of a hobby for them so naturally they wanted me to find the financial stability of a regular career, but like I said before, I wanted to be different. Since living in Nashville, however, my family has come around and understand that I’m not just some dumb kid seeking stardom, my first goal as a self employed musician was to pay my electric bill with money I made playing shows and I’ve been working without a traditional job (and still paying rent on time!) for about a year and a half.
Nashville Tour Stop
Nashville Tour Stop is a live music event with songwriter rounds and bands. From classic country to 21st century pop…
The job I’ve created for myself is a concert promotion business called “Nashville Tour Stop” — I organize live events for various bars, venues, restaurants, and hotels in Nashville (and as far away as New York City). So the beauty behind my business is that when I book an event for Nashville Tour Stop, I can book myself!
The doctors said playing music would worsen your hearing loss. You play your guitar so it reverbs on your chest. “Rock and Roll Degenerate” is the story of following your passion. What do you hope others who are dealing with medical issues take away from your song(s)?
“Rock & Roll Degenerate” has a special place in my heart because it’s a song about not listening to others and deciding what’s best for one’s self. I knew early on that giving up music wasn’t going to be an option so I went on to study music theory and composition in college (eventually changing my major to English because of the writing and poetry classes). This was all in an effort to create the life I knew I wanted to live. Whenever I meet someone who has dealt with or is currently dealing with medical issues I try to encourage them to find what’s important to them. Music gives me a reason to live and to work; it gives me goals and keeps me focused. Being differently abled as as someone who’s almost deaf, it doesn’t mean I can’t play music it just means that I had to find a different way to make it happen. Leave it to a creative type to find a creative solution to a problem.
Studying music theory and composition in college. Songwriting for 15 years. What haven’t you done musically that you hope to accomplish?
This is the million dollar question, no? There’s so much I would like to accomplish as a both a musician and as a promoter, but to keep my answer brief, I’ll spout of one for each!
As a promoter, I want to work with Nashville’s next big artists and bands (whoever they may be) — I want to book them at the Mercy Lounge and The Basement East and Exit/In (all three are killer venues in Nashville). Those were the rooms I wanted to get into when I first moved here.
As a musician, I want to make people happy with my music. It’s corny, I know, but that’s what it boils down to. I can still go back and read articles from my local hometown newspaper about the shows my band would play in 2011 and I was always talking about how cool it was to see the audience smiling and singing along with the music I’d written — there’s never been anything more musically and emotionally satisfying than knowing I’ve affected someone’s life in a positive way.
Getting your start doing open mics. You said Columbia Missouri was one of your favorites — what made it special?
Columbia, Missouri was special because it’s my hometown. It’s where my career as a musician started. There was a bar/venue called Eastside Tavern right in the heart of downtown Columbia that did an open mic every Wednesday night. They had $2 beers and gave you free pizza if you signed up to perform and since I was so poor back then I wasn’t just doing it to play songs… I was working to earn my dinner!
But in all seriousness, the crew of people from all kinds of backgrounds would show up and support one another every week without fail. It was the first time I got a real view of what a supportive community looked like. The community feel is why I fell in love with Nashville. It’s a big city with a small town feel. When we go into venues or bars we see our friends, our fellow songwriters, sitting at the bar stools and singing on stages and for a moment we don’t have to be the important person, we want every single one of our friends to find success.
Weird Al first musical hero. Which song of his is your favorite to cover and why?
I have absolutely adored the music of “Weird Al” Yankovic since I was a kid. Beyond the level of silliness and outrageousness, his writing is impeccable. It’s so smart. Every word is important. Despite his weirdness, he’s a lyrical genius and his music still influences my work to this day. If I could write a silly song with Weird Al I’m pretty sure that would be the pinnacle of my career. I’m also a big fan of a few other musical comedians: Bo Burnham and Garfunkel and Oates to name a few!
“It’s cool to sit by a fan.” Can you share a fun fan memory?
I love telling this story but you need a little bit of the backstory! Starting in 2014 I have been writing jingle music and commercial segment music for podcasts, the first of which I got placed on was called “The Unbelievable Podcast” and the subsequent spin-off show “The Unbelievers Podcast”.
So, I went to a venue here in Nashville that was 21+ and when I arrived the doorman asked for my ID and when he looks at it he paused and looked up and asked “Aaron Schilb…? Aaron Schilb from the Unbelievable podcast? I LOVE your music man!”.
I just couldn’t believe that 1) he listened to their podcast and 2) remembered me! It was a special moment knowing that someone, somewhere had heard my music and actually liked it. Talk about validating!
Nashville Tour Stop podcast with Mike Dunbar. Inspiration for the concert promotion business podcast?
Nashville Tour Stop began as a writers round in a south Nashville bar that I worked with a friend in exchange for free dinner/drinks twice a month but it quickly evolved into multi-venue, multi-night event with hundreds of performers every month. We were doing upwards of 30 hours of live events per WEEK at one point! But with the venue closures and shutdowns due to COVID-19 I’m running bare bones and doing one show at the venue where we first blew up, Belcourt Taps, each week.
The Nashville Tour Stop podcast came out of my crazy workaholic brain not being able to take a break during the shutdown — I needed some work to do! I met my co-host Mike Dunbar backstage at The Ryman Auditorium when we were background extras on CMT’s ‘Nashville’ and we’ve been friends for years since then. Mike’s a smart guy and just a blast to talk with so picking him as a co-host was a really easy choice. We interview songwriters, artists, and industry professionals to give people a peek behind the curtain into what the lives of people inside the music industry machine are like.
Normal brain vs. 2020 Brain. Trying to navigate the unknown upstream without paddles. What’s life been like during the pandemic?
Life during the pandemic (like everyone) has its ups and downs but because I’m such a workaholic, I’ve been able to keep busy by creating work for myself. Outside of working though I enjoy cooking, journaling, and rewatching old TV shows like Frasier, The Office, and Friends (I’ve actually watched way too much TV to list it all and honestly it’s a little cringey to think about how much I’ve watched, but hey, there’s not much else to do!) . I also call to talk with my Grandma Schilb damn near every day just to say “Hi!” — we always have a laugh.
I’ve also thrown myself into doing things I didn’t really do before the shutdowns started in March. I’ve been teaching myself things like the basics of video editing and graphic design. I’ve also been re-reading some of my favorite books! I just got a fresh hardback copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s been my favorite book since I was a kid.
The pandemic also gave me the time to get my health back on track. I’d let myself split a bit with the bar foods and drinks and such. Since March 2020 I’ve lost about 20 pounds by eating healthier and going on long, long walks!
#WalkaWalka to document your walks. How have the walks helped you during the quarantine?
Walking wasn’t what I thought I’d get recognized for during the quarantine, but here we are. In the height of the shutdowns I was walking between 8–12 miles every day and documenting where I’d go with an Instagram story tag called #WalkaWalka as an homage to Fozzie Bear from The Muppet Show.
As of August 2020 I’ve walked over 600 miles through the greater Nashville metropolitan area. Centennial Park to The Grand Ole Opry and everywhere in between. There were days where I would do ‘walking tours’ of my friends houses and wave at them through the windows when I’d walk by.
#WalkaWalka was never about getting back into shape, it was just something to do…and it turned out I really enjoyed it!
Strangest thing you’ve found on a walk around Nashville?
Ha! The strangest thing I’ve found on a walk was a weed grinder on a park bench. I didn’t realize what it was at first when I sat down but my natural curiosity piqued and I opened it up to find it filled with pot! (No, Grandma, I didn’t take it.) Someone was certainly upset when they got home and realized they’d left their stuff on a public bench!
Aaron Schilb on TikTok
Aaron Schilb(@aaronschilb) has created a short video on TikTok with music original sound. A TikTok video of a TiK Tok…
TikTok & Parody of Kesha.
I wrote the TikTok parody with my friend Koli Kohler. She’s a wonderful songwriter friend of mine here in Nashville and she’s got a brilliant comedic sensibility with her. I’ve written lots of my funny songs with her! We wrote the Tik Tok parody song all about the popular video streaming app TikTok (which neither of us used) so we had to do ‘research’ to figure out how to write jokes about it!
New single, “Millennials” is a parody. Writing a song about yourself as part of a group that has been referred to as ‘dumb’ by the things they do. What is the ‘dumbest’ thing you’ve done?
OOF. How much time do we have? I’ve done so much dumb stuff in my 26 years, but one story that comes to mind was 9th grade when me and two of my friends went to the church we attended back then (the same church my dad worked at) and climbed up into the steeple! We found access through a 3rd floor bathroom and had to climb through the rafters of the 75 year old church to get up into the steeple itself. We made it up unscathed but on our way down my friend guaranteed that he was spotting me as I climbed down and … nope … he missed my feet and I crashed 15 feet through the ceiling of a classroom. The only thing that stopped me from going all the way down was catching myself on one of the wooden support beams holding up the drywall ceiling.
Needless to say I didn’t have a great time coming clean to my dad about the property damage! But hey, I was 15, what else do we expect from three rowdy 15 year old boys?
“Be kind. Everyone is fighting a hard battle.” What’s ahead for you musically this year and next?
Musically my plans are very much so focused on comedy and parody writing. It seems only appropriate that my musical career has taken this turn given that “Weird Al” Yankovic was such an influence on my writing. The Nashville Tour Stop podcast will continue releasing episodes each Thursday and we will continue hosting our live show at Belcourt Taps on Sunday evenings.
Most importantly, I’m staying focused and recharging because I know that when life returns to normal, I’ll be coming back swinging. This coronavirus pandemic is Spring Training for me — I’m getting warmed up to play in the big leagues when we come back. Whether it’s promoting shows with Nashville Tour Stop or playing comedy music to the live audiences, I’m not going anywhere.
Aaron Schilb: Near Deaf Singer/Songwriter
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