The latest from Regina’s Andy Shauf, Sam Jones Feeds His Demons, is the singer/songwriter’s first foray into what you could call a concept album. But judging from his answer when I asked what the story was about, it might also be his last foray into such a thing.
“It’s a story that I made over four songs about a guy and a girl, I guess,” he says. “I wanted it to be really epic and when I finished it, it really wasn’t epic. But it’s basically a little story over four songs. When I made it, I was in a real hurry to get it done, which isn’t the best. It turned out OK. It was an experience. But yeah … yeah, it’s weird.
“That was a bad answer, really.”
While Shauf is being self-critical, let me offer a counter-point: Sam Jones is a good EP. Shauf’s precise folk songwriting is always enchanting, as is his understated singing style.
Some of his qualms with his own work probably come from his perfectionist nature, but some are from the limitations inherent to trying to write a continuing story across several songs.
“Trying to do it in an elegant way, so as not to be like ‘And then he went to the bank! And then he walked home!’” he says when I ask him about the specific challenges when it came to writing Sam Jones. “Trying to make it work and trying to make it sound nice without it being a straight-up narrative with four million words in it.”
The idea for a release like Sam Jones — which you can hear at his Bandcamp page — came from a pair of linked songs on his forthcoming LP. He’s been working on that for a year and half and it’s mostly finished, but he wanted to have something else for the fans before going out on tour, as “a little reintroduction”. He’s hoping the album comes out either late summer or early fall, although that all depends on when he finishes mixing it.
He recorded the album and Sam Jones in his parents’ basement, allowing him all the time he needs for musical tweaks and whatnot.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist. I drive people insane. Doing it myself, I can basically spend as much time as I want on it, fiddle with it until it sounds how I want it to. It also frees someone else from the burden of my driving them insane, trying to redo stuff.”
Not to say he doesn’t work well with others; in addition to his solo material, he’s also setting to work on a second album with his band Foxwarren once he’s done his current tour. At the same time, there are finishing touches that need to put on the debut release from College Kids, a band with Shauf, members of Foxwarren and Library Voices’ Carl Johnson.
“College Kids stuff, those are all Carl’s songs, so I just get to lay down the sweet lead guitar lines and Foxwarren we normally write it them together. They’re all different.”
Those aren’t the only musical collaborators Shauf’s got. He’s brought his parents onstage at solo shows before to sing with him. I ask him if they’ll be making an appearance on the new album.
“No, they won’t, but my dad always makes jokes about them coming tour with me.”
I think that doesn’t sound like a terrible idea. Shauf agrees.
“He drives, I nap. That could be a good deal.”
Andy Shauf plays tonight at the Exchange with Jordan Klassen, Nick Faye and Jayden Pfeifer.