Hailing from Little Falls, Minn., Michael Shynes was living a pretty normal life as an artist, creating new music and trying to make a career as a local singer-songwriter work. Then, this past summer, Shynes’s audience grew unexpectedly to extend way beyond the state and across the world.
It all started when Shynes recorded music for Komodo, a Polish pop music group, through a job-for-hire website. Although Shynes knew who the vocals were going to, he didn’t know what the group would be using them for.
Komodo put the vocals Shynes recorded in a remix and music video of “I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight” by Cutting Crew. The song soon became a hit in Poland — so much so that Shynes was asked to perform the song with the group and made the daylong trip across the world, not knowing how things would go when he got there.
“I was just thinking, ‘Man, I traveled 20 hours each way for four minutes. This whole trip is about these four minutes, so I better sing it good,” Shynes said. “I felt really good about how I sang. I was surprised because I thought I was going to be really nervous, like shaking hands nervous. I’ve never sang for 50,000 people, I’ve never sang for 20,000 people. I’ve maybe sang for a few thousand people at most, but I just was incredibly calm. You know, ‘You came all this way, there’s no sense in letting nerves get in the way and you’ve sang it so many times you know you can sing the song.’ So I just went out there and sang it well.”
In Poland, Shynes says he was treated like a star. He went on his first press tour and felt welcomed by Komodo, despite some language barriers.
“They didn’t all speak English, but there’s that sense of humor that’s universal. One of the guys was super physically comedic, like I was like he could have been Charlie Chaplin because he would do all this physical comedy,” He said. “So even though I didn’t speak his language, he was making me laugh all the time. Then there was like the type A guy in the group who was making sure everyone was there when they needed to be, and then there was my guy Jonasz who was basically was my translator and kept me up to speed on everything that was going on.”
Although Shynes had a solid career as an artist in Minnesota, he never expected to be a pop star in the United States, and certainly never would have thought he’d become famous across the world, so all the attention he was getting in Poland and in the United States took some time to adjust to.
“When you get used that persona of being kind of a starving artist guy, it’s almost uncomfortable when really good things like that happen. Like it’s hard to just snap and be like, ‘I deserve this’ or ‘I paid my dues for this.’ It’s almost like ‘This is weird, like I’m really getting treated well.’” Shynes said.
Now back home in Minnesota, Shynes has also noticed that the work he did with Komodo has also given his career as a local musician a step up — something that has changed his perspective on how he works as an artist.
“It’s just kind of raised my profile over here as a product of people taking everything that I’m doing I think a little more seriously. I mean they saw that video of me singing in front of so many people, to the point where now we’re looking at different venues to play,” Shynes said. “I was a guy standing in a winery on a Sunday playing songs in a corner. We’re just trying to get rid of that stuff and put our faith in that we can take the original music and keep pursuing that angle to do, not necessarily what happened in Poland, but to start taking some risks.”
But even with all the success Shynes has had this summer, he isn’t forgetting where he started, including some of his generous fans he became close to this year. They believed in his music and helped fund his upcoming album, The Current, the River and the Undertow.
Shynes used the money to go to Nashville and record a studio album with his own producer — something he had always dreamed of doing. The Current, the River and the Undertow will be released on Jan. 11 at the Paramount Theater in St. Cloud. Shynes also plans to keep working with Komodo on some of his own songs, with the possibility of his own contract with Sony, but for now, it’s all about doing what’s best for his music.
“I tell people I’ve already taken it further than I ever thought it was going to go, so now it’s all icing on the cake. Every good thing that happens now, I’m able to feel very blessed.”
Simone Cazares is a student at Saint Paul College. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.