Shining Country Stars

How local country virtuoso Billy Shaw Jr. and wife, band manager and country music social media whiz, Jessica Northey-Shaw make it work

Numerous love stories can be heard in the music of the Old Pueblo. Love Notes explores what happens when "Till death do us part" meets rock 'n' roll. This week, meet vocalist and fiddler Billy Shaw Jr. and wife Jessica Northey-Shaw who hosts and gets Billy's band on Tucson's stages.

How they met: Jessica Northey-Shaw met Billy Shaw Jr. during a busy six weeks in her life that took her through 10 states for her job as a country music social media personality and consultant. Billy's band at the time was playing at local country hangout The Maverick, a show Jessica would have missed had her friend not forced her to go out.

Jessica was Periscoping Billy's set for social media and the two were both tagged in the post, becoming Facebook friends and starting to chat.

"For me, she was just a super fun, outgoing person," Billy said. "She was like a personality, just a big, walking personality."

Jessica chuckled, sure she overwhelmed him a bit at first, though she found herself in awe of his abilities.

"He was on stage and he played 'Devil Went Down to Georgia' and I was like, 'Oh my God, mind blown,'" she said. "I thought, this guy is really great."

Billy had been doing social media for his bands since he was working in information technology. Jessica offered to share her expertise with him and the two formed a strong friendship.

The couple moved in together after a couple months of dating, finding it impossible to be apart from each other. Billy would propose to her with an original song live on country station KIIM-FM.

Inspired by the city of Nashville, often referred to as the Athens of the south, the pair made their wedding a Greek/country party at the Maverick, complete with bridesmaids in togas with boots.

"Instead of 'yee-haw' it was 'op-haw,'" said Billy.

"Then I changed it to 'op-shaw' because his last name is Shaw," Jessica added.

How they make it work: The pair credit their relationship's success to their constant communication, and being best friends.

"We communicate so much and we both want to see the other person succeed," Billy said. "There's not a role that needs to be held. We both want each other to shoot for the moon and it doesn't matter which one of us it is that's having success."

Though they have plenty of playful arguments, they don't stay angry with each other long and make a point to laugh about it. No one tries to "sink in their feet" and they trade off on who wins.

"We're different enough to learn from each other and you know it's right when it doesn't feel like you gave up something to get something," said Jessica. "It's not compromises where neither party gets what they want. It never feels like a compromise. If he's happy about it I feel good."

Billy said that they manage their work life balance by setting aside time specifically for themselves, taking mini vacations or not booking gigs for certain dates dedicated to them.

"We pick out days ahead of time," Billy said. "This day we don't have anything going on, so that is our day and we won't schedule anything else."

How they rock: Billy Shaw Jr. brings Nashville quality tunes to Tucson, featuring a talented group of musicians hand-picked by the couple for their country passion and skills.

With the recent addition of local bassist Amy Munoz and local singer/songwriter Octavia Oliver, the pair says the band is the best it has ever been. Mentoring younger artists is important to the couple, and they are especially excited to get more women into the country music scene.

Billy plays several instruments, including fiddle, mandolin and harmonica, and he sings.

Jessica is manager, responsible for booking shows, getting the band paid, graphic design and public relations. She recently started to learn tambourine to provide some more percussion in the band.

"I'm looking from band to brand," she said. "So, I have to be the one to call some tough shots."

Jessica and Billy also write a lot of songs together, often coming up with song lyrics in their conversations. Billy's got a list of one-liners waiting to be made into hits.

Billy credits his wife's involvement for much of the band's success.

"We wouldn't be where we're at without her because she truly is a manager and everything else rolled into one," he said. "She's the bulldog. Literally, this has happened: She's been the 'Oh hey Jessica, these guys don't want to pay us tonight,' and she'll go into their office for 10 minutes and come back out with our check."

The band regularly plays throughout Tucson, including shows in Marana, like the recent Marana Fall Festival.

How they roll: The country power couple stays busy with work, music and raising Shaw's son, Matt, so some of their favorite times together involve relaxing at home, cooking and watching movies.

Music is their main passion, and they said that's really how they spend most of their time together.

"We do discuss a lot about music, what songs to play, what to add next, new and old," said Billy. "We are always talking about music."

Jessica and Billy talk every day during his long commute to work and throughout the day to recommend songs or debate a lyric.

Power of music: The couple consider music to be their introduction, the way they found each other. Once that opened the doors to a fast friendship, love followed quickly.

"Now that we're together I don't remember what it was like to be without him," Jessica said. "It's strange, I don't remember not feeling whole before, because I know I didn't feel whole, I didn't feel like this. Unconditional love feels pretty cool."

What's next: Billy is excited to have been accepted to the Centurions, a fundraising group for local children's charities, late last year, and is in full fundraising mode leading up to their big event on April 25.

The band will be playing all four days of the rodeo next week and are the official after-party band. They will also play a Valentine's show Friday on the Salud Patio at Starr Pass.

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