Brittany Shane's musical career began inside the Regent apartments in 1997. She was a sophomore at UW-Madison, majoring in English literature.
"There was a guy who lived just across the hall, and I could hear him playing guitar through the door," says Shane. "After I met him, I asked him to teach me how to play. He said he would in exchange for a pack of cigarettes."
A decade later, Shane is one of the top singer/songwriters of the San Francisco music scene. She's a regular at Bill Graham's legendary Fillmore. Her latest EP was produced by Zach Smith from the '80s band Scandal ("Goodbye to You," "The Warrior"). The bands she's shared bills with lately have included the Indigo Girls, Travis and the Wallflowers.
It's a California dream come true for this Baraboo native, who's been attracted to the City by the Bay ever since a high school trip there.
"I didn't know how I would ever get to San Francisco," says Shane. "But I was determined to find some way."
Since her musical baptism inside the Regent, her development as a singer/songwriter has steadily progressed. She attended open-mike nights at the Rathskeller during her junior year. She placed an ad in Maximum Ink to avail herself as a vocalist. She was soon fronting a short-lived band called Subversion.
"We played Dudley's once," she says.
Shane performed in those days as Brittany Safranek. "When I got to San Francisco, a lot of people had trouble spelling my last name, so I started using my middle name as my last name."
Shane recorded two full-length CDs before she left Madison in 2000. Her second CD, Moravian Star , was released at a Steep & Brew show on State Street that year. Her Madison backing band included Jay Iverson (Electric Automatic) and her brother, Dustin Safranek. She's looking forward to her July 3 show at the King Club for the chance to play with both of them again. "It's our reunion," she says.
After graduating from UW-Madison in 1999, Shane worked for a year as a receptionist to save money for a San Francisco move.
"I really wanted someone to go with me, but no one could do it. My aunt had a friend in Danville [on the east side of the San Francisco Bay] who told me I could stay with her for a while. So I bought a one-way ticket and made the move."
Three months later, Shane had saved enough to rent "a tiny box" of an apartment in San Francisco. She started playing solo acoustic shows at a neighborhood coffeehouse and joined a female songwriter collective called the DivaBand.
In 2002, Shane married a guitarist named Bob Spector, who makes his living editing television commercials. Spector and Shane began performing and recording together. Their 2003 album, Decked Out , was named one of the Top 20 local releases of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle .
"That kind of put me on the map in San Francisco," says Shane.
Meanwhile Spector had met former Scandal guitarist Zach Smith through a professional contact. Spector increasingly called upon Smith to make music for the commercials he edited.
Last year, when Spector and Shane began working on their follow-up EP, Smith agreed to produce it. He lined up experienced session musicians (whose credentials included Norah Jones, Foo Fighters and Aimee Mann) to play on the EP.
The five songs on Shane's new self-titled EP, especially the lead track, "Better," are the kind of polished pop-rock that would be rotating on stations like Magic 98 if Shane were backed by major-label promoters.
"Lyrics are very important to me," says Shane. "I always felt like I was a poet before I was a musician. I like using the imagery of darkness and light."
The last song on Shane's new album is called "Sunsets in Bloom." "I wrote that song when I first moved out here and I was just blown away by the sunsets over the ocean."
The song is Shane's favorite composition - evidence that her California Dream still burns bright.