Darkly comic singer-songwriter ready for Amarillo return, grateful it’s not Lubbock
by Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
When comic singer-songwriter Mishka Shubaly first performed in Amarillo last year, he knew right away he’d found kindred spirits.
Shubaly opened his show at Leftwood’s with “Gideon’s Bible,” featuring the line “You’ll see me in hell before you see me in Lubbock.”
“That joke never hits harder than it does in Amarillo,” Shubaly said in a recent phone conversation. “I opened with it … and as soon as I did, I had the crowd with me for the rest of the night.”
The song was inspired by a really lousy gig in Lubbock more than a dozen years ago, Shubaly said.
“I can hold a grudge forever,” he said.
The venue manager asked Shubaly to play two 45-minute sets as opposed to his typical 35-minute one, forcing him to stretch well beyond what he’d prepared for: “The first set was not great, and they just hated me. … (The manager said) we don’t really want you to keep going. Can we give you $50 and just call it? I was like, you know what, you (expletive) contracted me to do 45-minute sets … (and) now you’re going to (expletive) stick to it. I’m going to hate it, they’re going to hate it, you’re going to hate it. He said, We’ll give you $75 to leave. Deal.
“So yeah, (expletive) you Lubbock and hell yeah Amarillo for the rest of my life.”
Shubaly will return to his favorite West Texas city for an 8 p.m. Tuesday show with musician Star Anna at Golden Light Cantina, 2906 S.W. Sixth Ave. Cover is $8; call 806-374-9237.
He’s fresh off the release of his first published book, “I Swear I’ll Make It Up to You,” a memoir about his career thus far, his fractured family life and how he found sobriety through an unlikely path -- running.
“Spoiler alert: I get sober at the end, and I’m OK. But a lot of it is about how I was a real (expletive) drunk for 20 years,” Shubaly said.
That’s the kind of material that has long colored his act. His songs – such as “Depravity’s Rainbow,” “The Only One Drinking Tonight” and “Alcholison” – speak to a hard-lived, never sober life.
Even though he’s no longer drinking, he still finds material: “I don’t imagine that I will ever be one of those people who wakes up and says it’s another beautiful day. … I still wake up, like, oh (expletive) me, again? We’re going to do this again?”
Even without alcohol, he said, there’s still pain to mine, just as he did in his book.
“As I was writing the book, I started to discover for myself why I drank. … I was really reluctant to write anything about my relationship with my father (who abandoned the family when Shubaly was 15), but as I got deeper and deeper into the book, I was like, Oh, this is a huge part of why I hated myself and why I chose to express it through alcoholism.”
Reliving his most painful moments wasn’t easy. Neither was pulling his long-estranged father into the process.
“Spending 2½ hours on the phone trying to reconstruct this argument we had in 1997 – that is a (expletive) miserable time,” Shubaly said.
It was worth it.
“Not to get too New Age-y about this (expletive), but it was a real cathartic and healing thing with my relationship with my father,” Shubaly said. “We’ve worked so much (expletive) out in the last couple of years. We’re friends now. He came to the book release in New York and flirted with all my exes.”