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Sound paintings (RR musician wins award)

Local musician Don Shearer holds his 2019 New Mexico Music Award. Shearer won for his song “Deep Woodsy Walk” in the contemporary music category. Shearer also writes the “Bum Steer” column for the Observer twice a month.
(Stephen Montoya/Rio Rancho Observer)

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Local columnist and musician Don Shearer has worn several identities throughout his creative life.

The latest feather in Shearer’s creative cap is a 2019 New Mexico Music Award for his song “Deep Woodsy Walk” in the contemporary music category.

“I suffered the inevitable childhood curse of having my mother force me into taking piano lessons, which I loved,” he said.

But soon, Shearer said, he turned his full attention to the drums, amassing at one point a 12-piece set, which was homage to Led Zeppelin drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham.

Now all grown up with a kid of his own, he still finds the time to tinker in his passion for music, only instead of the drums, he’s back to playing the piano.

“As I got older, I just had this feeling that I wanted to compose some stuff,” Shearer said. “It’s kind of hard to compose on a drum set, so I veered back to the keys and went from there.”

Shearer said he became fascinated with electronic keyboards because of the amount of sound effects they could produce.

“As I got more comfortable with the technology, I began writing a lot of stuff,” he said. “I call them sound paintings, because I will use something visual and try to make a sound to signify it.”

Shearer said he also dabbled in comedy music because of all the sound effects he had at his disposal via his keyboard.

“For the bulk of my experience, it’s been writing instrumental music,” he said. “That’s what this award I just received is for, contemporary instrumental.”

Shearer jokes that people aren’t knocking down doors to get to his music, but in retrospect, he has multiple awards to show for his efforts.

Over the years, he said, he has amassed a collection of unique sounds that he fiddles with until he finds what he thinks that emotion or image would sound like.

“That’s my main thing to do in terms of composing,” Shearer said.

Some of the song titles on his independent release back up his philosophy. Songs like “Strange Terrain,” “Life in Trees” and “Spooky Shadows” all point to images Shearer said were inspirations for his music.

“I structure my songs a little like pop songs…they have A sections, B sections, bridges, choruses, stuff like that,” he said. “I also use instruments as the lead vocals instead of vocalists.”

Shearer said New Mexico’s landscape is one of the main reasons he moved here from the East 17 years ago.

“Really, the landscape here is the top-level inspiration,” he said. “It’s all about being able to see these distances and see how small my own little human problems are in the midst of this grandeur.”

As far as plans for the future, Shearer said he is always composing and finding inspiration.

“I just do this because I felt the calling of music from a young age, so I plan to continue doing this because it’s what drives me,” he said.

For more information on Shearer’s work, go to or email