Andy Shauf: introverted, brilliant and not a murderer
MUSIC by Devin Pacholik
Regina Folk Festival
When folk singer-songwriter Andy Shauf is on stage, his ethereal voice silences rooms. That’s fitting, because I’ve spoken with Shauf before and it’s pretty damn clear he prefers quiet. Interviewing him is challenging, given his modest and meek manner. He’s not rude — if anything, he’s an attentive and humble listener. But journalists like people to talk.
Knowing Shauf’s nature, I prepared stupid questions to make him talk. I think it worked. When I spoke with the 28-year-old artist ahead of his upcoming performance at this year’s Regina Folk Festival, Shauf opened up about his anxiety and hinted at a new album called The Party. Here’s our conversation.
What’s it like being the most adored folk musician in Regina?
[Laughs] I don’t know about that. Um. Yeah. Next.
Do you have any response to the fans that will flock to you at Folk Fest?
I’m excited to play Regina again. I get to play for the hometown crowd.
Where does the storytelling aspect of your songwriting comes from?
I started doing the storytelling thing because before, I was trying to write stuff about my life and things that happened to me. I realized I ran out of interesting things to write about myself. I decided to try to make characters and write about them.
Are there any characters you identify with?
I guess I identify with pieces of most of them. The ones I’ve written so far are kind of extreme.
Tell me about the extreme ones.
The characters react to things in ways I would react. Unlike Wendell Walker [from the 2015 album The Bearer of Bad News] — she murdered a guy. That’s a little extreme.
You don’t have any tendencies in that direction?
[Laughs] I don’t have any murderous tendencies that I’ve run into.
You come from a musical family. Could you touch on the influence of your parents?
My parents were really active in music when I was growing up in the church. They would travel around a little and play shows and I would be the drummer. I was between eight and 12 -years -old. There was always music around our house. My dad plays piano really well. He plays by ear. That gave me the confidence to figure things out.
What can audiences expect from you at Regina Folk Fest?
It’s going to be a full band — a five-piece, including piano, bass, drums, violin and myself. We’ve got songs from the new album called The Party that’s not released yet. We’ve been playing [the songs] for most of the year — I’m pretty well done it. I just have one more vocal track to do and it’s off to the mixer. I’ve been recording quite a bit [during] my time off at Jason Plumb’s studio. It’s been nice — a little safe haven when I’m not driving around the country.
What’s that lifestyle been like for you?
Honestly, I’m not the best traveller. I’m not good at figuring out things to do. I mostly sit in the van and wait for the show. Looking forward to August in Saskatchewan. After the Folk Festival, I have some time off.
If you had a metal band, what would the title of your band be?
Um. Oh god, I’ve had good answers for this in the past.
You’ve been asked this before?
Well, no. I mean, I’ve come up with great metal names, but I can’t think of any.
Can you talk more about the upcoming album, The Party?
All the songs are about little things that happened at a party. I guess it’s a concept album. It’s a little bit loose. There’s a couple of reoccurring characters.
Is it possible to make a living as a Canadian folk artist?
That’s a great question. I think that it is. I hope that it is. Right now I’m busy enough that I’m staying afloat. I’m hoping to be able to make a living at some point.
You seem to have an affinity for Saskatchewan’s history. Specifically the video for “I’m Not Falling Asleep” uses historical footage. Do you have a sense of pride?
I think so. Everyone from Saskatchewan knows it’s a pretty special place. Meeting lots of people on the road reminds me how special my friends are back home. You wonder why you survive the winter every year when there are other options out there, but the crazy winters warm everyone’s personalities.
Andy, would you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?
I am most definitely an introvert.
[Chatting voices in the background can be heard on Shauf’s end]
What’s that like for you?
Um, it’s a little difficult. There’s a lot of anxieties that arise from doing what I do and travelling. And not knowing what you’re going to do. I have a weird personality. I’m pretty relaxed — or I seem relaxed. I’m probably 90 per cent stressed all the time.
Are you stressed right now?
Oh no! You’re doing great though.
Mostly, it’s just dumb things. During the day, I’ll think about things that aren’t related to anything. Walking into a restaurant stresses me out. I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now and it’s stressing me out.
When are you not stressed?
I don’t know. I guess when I’m by myself. I like the solitude.
There’s nothing wrong with that but it is strange given your lifestyle. How do you deal with that?
I just don’t. I think a lot musicians are good at making connections by talking to people and being big in a room. I’ve done it the opposite way. I just be myself and play and hope people will catch on to the music. Does that make sense?
Yeah. It does. Now my heavy metal band question seems really stupid.
[Laughs] Well, I’ll keep digging for the perfect name. I’ll text you later.
Andy Shauf did not text back with a name for a metal band.