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Columbus musician goes from rapping to reggae in band Shrub

Columbus-based reggae band Shrub. Credit: Courtesy of Jay Shawberry

Columbus-based reggae band Shrub.
Credit: Courtesy of Jay Shawberry

In an attempt to shine light on local music, The Lantern’s “Columbus’ Own” is a weekly series that will profile a new Columbus band every week. 

Reggae band Shrub is making waves in the Midwest music scene.

Jay Shawberry, also known as Jay Shrub, vocalist and founder of the Columbus-based band, said music has always been something he wanted to do. Circa 2009, Shawberry said he was rapping and producing music in his basement when he realized he wanted to go further.

“I put an ad on Craigslist and found a guitar player who’s also a producer within 10 minutes of putting the ad up,” Shawberry said.

Shawberry then hired additional studio musicians and started creating Shrub’s first EP “Señorita,” which was released in February 2010, according to the album’s iTunes page.

“At the time, we didn’t really have a band, it was more of a studio thing,” Shawberry said. “When (the album) came out, we were happy with the product so we decided to get all the studio musicians together and go play live shows.”

Shrub played its first live gig in March 2010. Since then, Shawberry said he and rapper Jason “Lyrical” Woodward are the only remaining original members.

“The personnel in the band just (kept) changing over time and it feels like now we have the right formula,” Shawberry said.

When he was a student at Bowling Green State University, Shawberry said he developed an interest in reggae music while working at a record store.

“I had always been a fan of the (reggae) stuff on the radio like UB40 or Jimmy Cliff,” Shawberry said. “So I had heard reggae but now I was listening to things I’d never heard of before (at the record store).”

Shawberry said his interest heightened when he saw reggae artists Burning Spear, Buju Banton and Beres Hammond perform at Nautica Pavilion in Cleveland in 1997.

“I could not believe what I was feeling listening to this music,” Shawberry said. “(Hip-hop) was what I was into up until that point, and then one day, it completely changed.”

After that concert, Shawberry said he “just fell in love” with the genre.

“It’s not even the roots thing or just dancehall or dub or anything like that; it’s everything about (reggae) that I love and appreciate,” Shawberry said.

After various changes in Shrub’s line-up, Shawberry said he was excited to have bass player Benny Coleman join the band in 2013.

“(Coleman) plays bass and the kid loves reggae as much as I do and you get to that point where (the band) is starting to come together now,” Shawberry said. “You find people that have common interests and that’s the key to making the sound we want.”

Coleman, a first-year in jazz studies and bass performance at Ohio State, said he first got into music because his dad is a drummer.

“One of (my dad’s) best friends … is a really wicked bass player so I kind of got into it through him,” Coleman said. “Then when I had to pick up an instrument in middle school for orchestra class, I picked the upright bass and then started playing the electric bass around the same time.”

Coleman said he was first exposed to reggae in high school and he has been listening ever since. In February 2011, Coleman saw Shrub perform for the first time as the opening band for Rebelution at Newport Music Hall.

“When I started out, I was just checking out the band, I wasn’t even trying to get in as the bass player necessarily,” Coleman said. “They just invited me to come see a rehearsal and we got along real well so we just went with it.”

Since Shrub began performing live shows, it has performed with several other reggae artists, including Badfish, The Dirty Heads and Yellowman, according to its website. Shrub also opened for The Wailers in January.

“All around, the best (band to perform with) has been Badfish, they’ve been so cool to us,” Coleman said. “We played the House of Blues Chicago with them and they’ve taken us to places that we haven’t been and shown us to a lot of new people.”

Badfish is a Sublime tribute band that was formed in 2001 by a group of students at the University of Rhode Island, according to the band’s drummer, Scott Begin.

“(Shrub’s) music meshes well with our style so having them on is always a pleasure for us,” Begin said. “They’re a great band and a great group of guys so it always ends up working out pretty well.”

Shrub released its first full-length album “Highceratops” in September, and Shawberry said the band is working on creating new music.

“(Within) the next month, we’re going to start hitting the studio and working on another EP because we really like some of the new stuff we come up with,” Shawberry said.

Shrub is scheduled to perform 7 p.m. Saturday at The Basement with Passafire, BALLYHOO! and Pacific Dub. The Basement is located at 391 Neil Ave. and tickets are available for $12.

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