In addition to Newark’s Home Grown Café and Argilla Brewing Company, music has taken independent folk artist Shane Palko to Thailand, Australia and South Africa, among many other places.
Palko, 29, expects to be on the road for about half of 2018. He left for his current tour through Latin America, which started in Pennsylvania and extends to Panama, on Dec. 8 and plans to return home Feb. 26.
For Palko, music is a way to share ideas and bring people together.
“We want to give to our neighbors, because right now the political climate is not great, and so what we want to do is just play shows for free and be here with the people,” said Palko, speaking by phone while traveling between Honduras and Nicaragua on Tuesday.
He’s been making the journey with two friends – bass player Tyler Yoder, a Newark resident who has his own band, Milieu Lust, and drummer Evan Stout – and writing almost every day. Palko expects to perform at least two concerts in each country, about 30 concerts total, by the end of the trip. His goal is to keep the international concerts free, using funds raised at his U.S. performances.
Palko, who grew up in Landenberg, Pa., and intends to build a home there someday, came to music at a young age and initially formed a band with two of his brothers. He counts Newark-born band Boysetsfire as influential for showing him “music could be a way of communicating ideas and not just pretty sounds.”
Palko didn’t expect to be touring his music all over the world. He attended the University of Delaware, where he studied human services and writing. When he is in the area, he works as a socioenvironmental education specialist at NorthBay Adventure Camp in North East, Md., which puts children in touch with the environment.
Throughout all his work is a celebration of place.
“I’m really fascinated by the way people connect to an area, and how it’s important to have a home and an appreciation for the place that you’re from,” Palko said.
The idea to travel as much as possible came when Palko was a teenager. One summer, he said, he filled in as a drummer with a Christian band touring Thailand. Because of his young age, he didn’t venture far from the group. But, “mesmerized by all the life and culture,” Palko said he vowed he would return with his own music as soon as he was old enough.
He began putting out one album per year starting in 2009, and each year tries to return to as many countries as possible, plus a few more.
Palko’s latest album, Madison Drive, is named after his “favorite neighborhood in Newark.” Known as one of Newark’s rougher areas, Madison Drive is where Palko chose to live for four years.
“I think Madison gets a bad rap in the Newark area, but I absolutely love that place,” Palko said. “There’s so many different kinds of people living there, and we had so much fun getting to know people.”
He didn’t intend to write a Madison Drive album, but when it came time to record new work, he realized he had 30-plus songs inspired by the place. The album was recorded in his Madison Drive home on an eight-track tape machine.
The album’s “Staring Out The Window” – a rhythmic, melancholy tune featuring guitar, bass and drums – brings Palko’s worlds together. The music video for the Madison Drive song was filmed during a recent trip to Uganda.
His travels will continue later this year with music projects in Tanzania and Uganda.
“There’s not really much I need. I have my guitar and I can throw some shirts in the guitar case,” Palko said. “It’s a pretty simple life.”