Shakey Graves became known for his one-man band set up and most of his 2011 self-released debut album Roll the Bones features him playing solo. This set up originated after he grew tired of having to borrow kick drums and high hats in order to perform. His solution consisted of a modified suitcase that functions as both a kick drum and a tambourine stand built by a close friend.
His unique style of performance led to him being asked to be the official “busker” for the Edward Sharpe and Mumford & Sons Railroad Revival Tour in 2011, where he played music for patrons entering each venue.
His follow-up EP The Donor Blues was released in 2012, and features a collection of recordings from 2009.
After being courted by multiple labels, Shakey Graves signed with Dualtone Records. When he began working on the album, he added other musicians to his recording process and live set, including multi-instrumentalists Patrick O'Connor, Jon Shaw, and Chris Boosahda, who produced the album. Three songs are duets with ex-Paper Bird member Esmé Patterson. The album, titled And the War Came, was released on October 7, 2014.
Shakey Graves then began touring as a three-piece band. The band made their television debut on October 14, 2014 on Conan, and then appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, performing "Dearly Departed" with Patterson. The band performed their next single, "The Perfect Parts," on Late Night with Seth Meyers. On May 6, 2015 the band performed on Austin City Limits.
In September 2015, Shakey Graves won the Best Emerging Artist award at the 2015 Americana Music Awards.
On February 9, 2012, Lee Leffingwell, the Mayor of Austin, proclaimed a "Shakey Graves Day." Every year on February 9 through the 11th, Shakey Graves offers all of his music, including unreleased albums The State of Texas vs. Alejandro Rose-Garcia, Story of My Life, As Per Request, and West of Calgary on Bandcamp for pay-what-you-want prices.
On June 30, 2017 the band released The Donor Blues and Nobody's Fool as a collection titled Shakey Graves and the Horse He Rode In On on vinyl and streaming services under the Dualtone label.
Shakey Graves released a new album, Can't Wake Up, on May 4, 2018, on Dualtone Records.
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