Surf Shacks 036 – Sean W Spellman

Sean is a creative nomad, an artist in the truest sense of the word. In the past few years he has driven cross country more than two dozen times documenting his journey in paintings, drawings, photographs and song. He calls Rhode Island home for now, where he spends part of the year. The spot he lives in is the guest house of his good friend who always envisioned owning the property. He said something like “Sean, if I ever own this place, you get the guest house.” And here they are. The rest of the year, Sean travels with on tour with his band Quiet Life and lives in Cali – or wherever the wind takes him.

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Sean W Spellman. I write songs, make paintings and try to surf and eat good food as much as possible. 

Where are you from and where do you live now?

Well, I was born in New London, CT, but grew up on the Jersey Shore. Right now I’m in Westerly, RI. I like it here. The past few years I’ve been fortunate enough to split my time between California and Rhode Island. 

How has hurricane season been treating you so far?

Man, last week was so good. Got more waves in three days than I had in the past 3 months probably. The water is super warm too!

What are your favorite parts about Rhode Island and the area in which you live now?

Most of Rhode Island is pretty mellow, which I dig. South County has a lot of salt ponds and agricultural land. Lots of great bike riding and beach walking.

Tell us more about the property you live on and the guest house situation.

When I was living in Portland, OR I would come back to New England to visit my folks a few times a year and whenever there were waves I’d surf with my buddy Ryan. One day we were driving by this house and he said “I’m gonna buy that house one day and I’m going to need someone to rent the cottage in back.” A year later I had moved out of PDX and was kind of living in my van and Ryan called me. I was somewhere in the middle of the country on tour, and he said “I bought that house, when are you moving in?” I drove to Westerly after tour and have been around town ever since.

What are your favorite parts about the house?

Its a creaky spot. Lots of insects get in, its not really insulated. It was built in 1950. It’s got a lot of character, I love it. Mostly, I love how close it is to the beach.

What do you do for a living?

As many things as possible.

What do you enjoy more: painting or playing music?

I enjoy them equally. I’m figuring out a way to sing and play while painting with my feet.

You seem to travel a lot on the road. What are some of your favorite destinations?

Right now these are my favorite places in no particular order:

Block Island, RI
Asbury Park, NJ
Oakland, CA
Santa Fe, NM
Asheville, NC

Let’s say you’re hitting the road for a cross-country adventure tomorrow, what’s in your travel bag?

Brushes and paint and stuff.
Those Indian food packets from Trader Joe’s.
Soap that’s fine to use in a river.
A weird cheap camera.
Essential oils.
I’d bring that great canvas shirt that Huckberry/Taylor Stitch makes but I think I lost it somewhere in Canada the last trip.

What do you want people to know about Rhode Island?

I’d like open-minded people to know that RI has some real hidden gems and like any place, you’ve got to get out and find those things. We are within reach of a lot of great cities and it’s still a super mellow place, at least in South County and by the coast.  I want more hippies, artists, musicians, and just generally curious and creative people to move here because there’s a great spot off of Rte 1A by the beach for a tiny-house/Airstream community.

What do you not want people to know about Rhode Island?

That New Englanders are still salty as hell.

Any parting thoughts?

I’m calling my solo record “Westerly” because I love it here so much.

/ Photography by Read McKendree

See more of Sean’s work here:

Sean W Spellman

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