In this unusual Nomad Futurist podcast, Nabeel and Phil chat with Rob Shanahan whose phenomenal journey as a rock and roll photographer, drummer, and keynote speaker shines a light on the importance of being oneself, having an open heart, and fearlessly connecting with others in the pursuit of one’s dreams.

Shanahan grew up in Minnesota where he got his first drum kit at age 10 and his first camera at age 13. After obtaining a degree in accounting and finance, he decided to go for broke and loaded up a van with his drums and photography equipment and headed for LA in the late 80s.

He hit the ground running doing headshots for musicians, actors, and real estate agents. Many become friends who opened doors. This included an introduction to Paiste Cymbals, where he was invited to photograph a huge roster of drummers. He considered this “a golden ticket,” allowing him to shoot A-List drummers like Alex Van Halen, Stewart Copeland, and Sheila E. One thing led to another.

Sheila E. had been on the road with Ringo Starr and introduced Shanahan who was invited to join the tour as a photographer.

“…. his publicist called and said, Ringo wants to know if you want to jump on tour and start doing photos. Of course, you don’t check your schedule. You say yes!”

Shanahan ultimately became Ringo’s personal photographer. Ringo wrote the foreword for Shanahan’s first book of photography, VOLUME 1 which highlights many rock legends. In addition to his technical prowess, Shanahan, who is a humble fan and great listener, has the rare ability to make his subjects feel comfortable and capture the essence of a personality. 

“I’m very open. I love people. I love photographing people. I love connecting with people.”

Some of Shanahan’s music connections led him to the technology world. He was introduced to a VP at CenturyLink who was so captivated by his story that he was asked to deliver a keynote presentation for the company.

“…It was a life changing moment…. telling the story on stage, sharing the rock and roll photos and bringing people along on the ride was extremely rewarding!”

The talk was such a success that Shanahan has become a sought-after speaker in the tech space. Audiences are inspired by his extraordinary stories and passion, coupled with his positivity and humility. 

Nurturing his own positivity has been a lifelong practice.

“30 years ago, I took it upon myself to make health and fitness one of the top priorities of my life… I cut all the negative stuff out.”

His advice to the young:

Be yourself. Stay true to your heart. Find your passion.”

His parting words for those who are further along in their journeys:

“Never look back. The past has happened. You can’t change it. You can’t alter it. Everything is forward…moving forward.”

Rob Shanahan’s photographs have appeared in numerous international ad campaigns, galleries, records, books, and magazines around the globe. He is also embracing his new gig as a keynote speaker, getting rave reviews, and looking forward to many more events.  

VOLUME 1 is his first published collection of music photographs, with foreword by Ringo Starr. This acclaimed collection is a who’s who of music icons and is sure to please both photography and music fans alike, with 100% 5-Star reviews across all platforms. 

Shanahan has also appeared nationwide on many TV and radio shows and has been a guest on dozens of podcasts. He also produced and hosted a podcast series for Guitar Center Foundation, and for 8×8 in the IP tech industry. 

​Since 1993, Shanahan has been drumming with the Hollywood Stones, the premier Rolling Stones tribute band. His sensitivities as a musician have made him the first call photographer for many of the world’s top artists. He lives in Venice, California, with his wife, daughter, and two cool Bengal cats. 

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