Balancing work and pleasure with Fulton Street
Those who can’t do, teach.
Or so the old adage goes, in any case. Certainly it doesn’t apply in the case of Shannen Wick, lead singer of seven-piece soul titans Fulton Street. In addition to her commitments with the band, Wick also happens to moonlight at a school, working as an instructor in Indonesian, and though maintaining that balance does sometimes prove difficult, it certainly goes a long way to proving that she is as much a doer as she is a teacher.
“You’ve got really late nights and then you’ve got really early starts the next morning,” Wick says. “That can be such a struggle. But you know, it’s the best of both worlds. It’s like leading a double life.”
Given her powerful singing voice and broad technical knowledge, it’s rather surprising that Wick hasn’t elected to teach, y’know, music. But she argues that keeping work and pleasure separate is important: a good way of compartmentalising her life and avoiding the clash between what she loves and what pays the bills.“When I was working at this school last year, one of the guys, he was in a band. And I’d say to him, ‘I find it interesting that you don’t teach music.’ And he’d always say, ‘Nah, music is just for me.’ I get that now. ’Cause teaching can be pretty exhausting. It’s nice to have the music outside of school.”
That’s not to say that Wick plans to keep those two plates spinning at the same time indefinitely mind you, and she has always harboured the dream of making music full-time. But she’s a realist as well, and she understands that embarking on a career as a musician comes with its own distinct trials and tribulations.
“I think if we could make it work [playing] more frequently, then yeah we definitely would do that,” she says. “But I was having this conversation with someone recently: sometimes you’ve got a tonne of gigs then nothing for a bit. It’s all about finding balance. If we could do that more frequently…” She pauses. Thinks. “But we’re all kind of juggling different careers and pathways. We make the best with what we’ve got.”
Luckily, Wick has a host of co-conspirators by her side. Though one might imagine that scheduling gigs for a seven-piece group – a seven-piece group in which all the members work full time, no less – would be some kind of logistical hell, Wick finds the process is made so much easier thanks to the eagerness of her bandmates. “The boys are pretty good. They’re really responsive. They love playing gigs. They’re my yes men,” she laughs. “When I tell them, ‘Gig on this date,’ they’re always like, ‘We’re in.’ They’re just a great bunch to work with. They’re really reliable. I don’t have too many issues in trying to organise them.”
Thank God Wick has found her people then, particularly given the Fulton Street lineup doesn’t even always stop at seven. The group’s membership can sometimes swell to the size of a small militia outfit, and they are unafraid to overcrowd the stage when they can.
“People always go, ‘How do you manage seven people?’ And it’s like, it’s not just the seven of us. We’ve got two or three extra players, and we often add two or more horns depending on what the event is. I think our single launch was 17 people onstage or something. It gets pretty crazy.”
As a result of that same craziness, during a Fulton Street show the stage frequently becomes a kind of danger zone, with injuries and accidents abounding. But, as they always say, pain is the name of the game, and Fulton Street’s joyous, infectious strand of soul rock has enough love in it to far outweigh the bloodshed that sometimes goes down onstage. Well, most of the time.
“I don’t how many times I’ve bashed someone in the back onstage,” Wick laughs. “I think it was our first gig ever and I was dancing and I just turned and went ‘whack,’ right across my bandmate’s face. He never forgave me.”
By Joseph Earp