Spotlight on Rising Stars: The Forum and SHADESOFBLUE


Spotlight on Rising Stars: SHADESOFBLUE and The Forum

By: JoAnn Snavely

TikTok has an insane impact on the music industry. Some of the biggest musicians and songs of the year were heavily influenced by the social media app this year. If you look at the Billboard Hot 100, many of the songs topping the charts found popularity on TikTok. Because of this, many musicians have taken to TikTok to promote their music. Even today’s largest musicians like Taylor Swift and Lewis Capaldi have been using TikTok to keep themselves relevant. 

From this, we’ve also seen musicians like Måneskin, Maisie Peters, and Tai Verdes gain their fame by promoting their music on TikTok, and their growth was seemingly overnight. 

This week, I took to TikTok to introduce the Herald’s readers to two new musical acts that are on their way to becoming overnight sensations. Meet SHADESOFBLUE and The Forum


The Forum is a 3-piece band from Gainesville, Florida. 

In the interview conducted with the Forum, I spoke with the band’s lead singer Michael Higgins. In opening an interview, I always like to get some background information on the musician(s); I do this because I find it interesting how musicians can have such diverse backgrounds but somehow share an in-depth love for the same thing–music. 

For Higgins, he had two separate moments he could pinpoint, both surrounding his family. The first music-made moment was when he was around 10, “my sisters had iPods and started downloading a bunch of songs to our family computer’s iTunes. So, I started listening to everything they had, and it became like a little family library. Pretty soon I was realizing my favorite artists in this library and listening to more like them.” 

His other memories were shared from something many music lovers can pinpoint–car rides with parents:“My second was being a teenager and having my dad drive me everywhere, so I listened to a LOT of classic rock and [I] started really getting inspired from there.” 

Although both of these sentiments are really powerful for the love of music, Higgins found the real inspiration to create within the walls of his middle school, “the REAL inspiration came from my friends and classmates in 7th grade. A few of them (who I really looked up to) started playing guitar, and I was so interested in learning alongside them and hanging out at their houses playing music. I was hooked.”

When I write these articles, I tend to take a stark focus on live shows. Maybe it’s because I love live musicor because I feel that’s where my spark for music originated. Regardless, I always ask about it. In the case of this interview, I asked what was the interviewee’s first ever concert, in order to gain more musical context, “My first concert ever was a southern rock band from the 1970s called Molly Hatchet – they were playing some town square festival, and I went with my dad. I stood really close to the stage, and it was an eye-opener for sure. They looked so in control and like they were having a blast. I don’t know if I had picked up guitar yet, but I always think back to that show now that I’ve been on the other side of it.”

In 2014band members Ethan Klohr (drummer), Michael Higgins (vocals), and Jake Farrel (bass) found each other thanks to a string of Craiglists listings. They even paid homage to their chance meeting when it came to choosing a band name, “We actually all met on Craigslist back when we were freshmen in college with nobody to play with, so the name is just an homage to that (the forum they met on). 

For inspiration, musically, “We are all over the place with this one. Individually, we all come from different musical backgrounds, so I’ll give you the band answer. We like to model certain sounds and voicing on instruments after Bad Suns, The 1975, The Wombats, St. Lucia, Tears for Fears, Last Dinosaurs, HUNNY…lots to go around.”

In 2017, they released their debut single, “My Chest Is Your Dance Floor”, followed by“Dive” in 2018. Following the success of these singles, they were busy releasing a handful of other singles over the course of the next few years. Most recently, they released the song “Honeypace” back in August:“‘Honeypace’ was a challenge. We started writing it with ZERO idea of where it was headed. Usually when we come in with an idea, we have a general thought as to the structure we are aiming for. Not for this one. We sat on an unfinished song for months, but we loved what we had and were determined to finish it. One day it clicked, and we are excited with how it turned out, especially because about half of it was self-produced in my apartment, which we have never done!” Now, the band is in anticipation of the release of their first song of 2023 titled “Homesoon”; this song is also coincidentally the band’s favorite track they’ve written, “we are always so excited about whatever the next track is to come out. Then we get sick of it and want to write something better, and the cycle continues.”

Obviously, based upon the introduction of this article, this is the “social media edition,” so what better time than now to discuss the benefits (and pitfalls) of social media as an up and coming band, “Since we are considered a local or regional act, it’s all about the friends you make and the growth of your bubble in each city. There is no better way to measure your growth for performance purposes than by looking at your social media – who is a new follower, who is interacting, who comes to the shows after they see your posts? As for TikTok, we’ve certainly reached new people that we never would have. Still working on that one – every manager we have talked to (from other bands) has told us to CONSTANTLY be pushing on TikTok, because you never know what might blow up and who you might reach. It’s a constant goal to keep up on that app, but it has paid off already.”

Although TikTok has helped accelerate their careers in unimaginable ways, they’re still experiencing their fair share of road bumps on the road to success. The band finds some of their biggest struggles to be “reaching an audience, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, more artists than ever can reach a larger audience than ever due to social media capabilities, and music lovers have an unending supply of new artists to discover. On the other, that makes the competition pool HUGE. Every band with a phone is desperately clamoring for views and follows and playlisting – so if you don’t do everything in your power to keep up, it’s easy to fall into the background. It’s certainly a challenge!”

These struggles, as harrowing as they may be, have their upsides. Through those obstacles, the band has grown and learned a thing or two about their music and what they want to do with it. With the overarching idea of their music, they have wishes for their music, “We just want someone to be able to listen to a song of ours and have it mean more than the music. Whether that is attaching our music to a memory (like most of us do with our favorite songs) or being able to help someone express their own related feelings.”

Aside from the overarching plans for their music, just taking a short glimpse into the future, Higgins explained, “As a band, I think these next 5 years will be telling. We are all in our mid-late 20s and the 5 year horizon has us pushing 30–ew–which will undoubtedly bring some changes. Our goal is always to make music as long as it still brings us joy. If we continue touring and promoting and meeting people like we have, who knows? Maybe our network will double in the next 5 years – if we can keep it up, I’d love to.” 

Taking a more focused look at the band in their present state, they’ve played a handful of live shows, most recently playing Stardust lounge a couple weeks ago. In the beginning of The Forum’s feature, I mentioned my focus for live. Continuing the sentiment of loving live music, the band told their favorite part of playing live, “ meeting new people who are excited about the live music scene. Coming from a huge live music scene in college, that’s what initially hooked us on playing live. The energy from people who attend shows as their passion (including the band’s) is palpable and refreshing every night.”

As the band’s hard work and years of dedication are beginning to be brought to fruition, they hope to leave aspiring musicians with food for thought; “GO TO LOCAL SHOWS. REACH OUT TO LOCAL ARTISTS. MEET AND SUPPORT PEOPLE. You will learn more than you ever thought, and you will meet people who might be a huge help to you later. You just never know.”

The Forum releases their newest single “Homesoon” tomorrow, 03/10/2023, be sure to check it out (their links will be posted at the end of the article)!


SHADESOFBLUE  is the presumed name for the musician Pablo.
Pablo’s music journey has been quite the rollercoaster, “I started writing at 14 and making songs at 16, but the whole time I was procrastinating doing what I love for fear of failure. I would start a song and leave it halfway finished in favor of a Netflix show, or going out with my friends. I wouldn’t really try and my whole heart wasn’t in it at first. Then it got to a point where I had to make a choice to dive in fully or leave it… I dove”

That journey comes nothing short of its triumphs. Alongside that journey, there were many musicians and bands that helped fuel that inspiration. Pablo quotes “Radiohead, Frank Ocean, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sufjan Stevens, Elliot Smith, Arctic Monkeys, Jean Dawson, Junior Varsity, and C.Tangana” as some of his many influences musically.

Pablo released his debut single “HEART OF TATTERED SCARS” back in October of 2022, and he most recently released his song “3rd Place” towards the end of January. “3rd Place” seems to be a turning point with his musical production “That song specifically was the start of really finding the work groove with my producer Dylan Buzzgold.” Beyond the new production styles,  “the story behind the song started with me being attracted to this girl I was seeing, but it was complicated and understanding fully that it’ll never lead anywhere.”

Although Pablo’s discography is small in size, it isn’t small in power. He has amassed well over 8,000 all-time streams and continues to develop and grow his fanbase. Being a new musician, he faces his fair share of obstacles, “the most challenging thing about being a new artist for me is just being heard, visibility is so low and a lot of the time the algorithm won’t push your music out. It can be discouraging, but I’m in it for the long run. I want the fans that stay for 5, 10, 15, 20 years.”

With that algorithm being mentioned, given this is a “social media edition,” I had to ask about the inclusion of TikTok and his career, “ There are so many upsides to social media. The autonomy of being an indie artist now is so much greater, you can do it by yourself with the help of social media. You can be an overnight sensation. The downside I would say is more or less in the same vein. Musicians have also become part-time marketers with TikTok, it’s hard to find the motivation to post and be consistent with it. Overall, I think it’s a good thing, a lot of music now is getting the exposure it deserves. For the first time, it’s not really the label’s decision on who gets signed, it’s more in the hands of the people.”

Although Pablo faces those obstacles, he still has generalized goals for what he wants his music to do, “my music is a reflection of my experience. That can mean many things, I’d want people to connect with my music emotionally, so to me that can mean anything, from dancing to crying to partying. There’s a lot of upcoming songs that sound different from each other.”

Continuing to focus on the future, I always like to ask where musician(s) hope to see themselves 5 years in the future. As cheesy as that question may seem, I typically receive a response along the lines of ‘touring’ or ‘living off my music’. However, in the case of Pablo, his response was different, “this is hard for me because I don’t know where I’ll be musically on any given day. I just do what I feel, and if it sounds good I’ll put it out; that’s why I chose the name Shadesofblue, because you’re getting all the shades of blue while listening to my music, from light to darker shades.”

In addressing those “darker shades” of blue, he has a piece of advice to leave for all aspiring artists: “just do it, don’t hold yourself back from releasing and realizing that making music is a journey, and you won’t always make good music, and you won’t immediately blow up. It’s a process. Love it, enjoy it, and be patient with it.

SHADESOFBLUE is planning to release his debut EP HEART OF TATTERED SCARS in the next couple of months, check him out to stay in the loop!

Spotlight on Rising Stars Series: an Author’s Note

This is the seventh edition in the “Spotlight on Rising Stars” series. In the last article in the series, I introduced the Herald to Housing Co. and fanclubwallet. Next week, I will have interviews with Baby Fisher and Medium Build. Until next time, check out the artist(s) links and the link to my ‘Spotlight on Rising Stars’ playlist available on Spotify that is updated with each article release!


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