'A Change of Tune' Interviews Andy Shauf
It's taken two years for Canadian singer-songwriter Andy Shauf's The Bearer of Bad News to reach the States, but now we can finally hear why this Saskatchewan crooner is being hailed as "the next Nick Drake." Without a doubt, Shauf's folk is the kind of folk that makes you pause. If you're a fan of lush, contemplative songwriting, this interview and music are recommended for you.
Joni: So congrats on your new record [The Bearer of Bad News]! Or should I say “new-ish,” since it was actually released a couple years ago. I guess it is a re-release, since it was originally released in 2012?
Andy: [Laughing] “New-ish” is right. Yeah, it’s a re-release. The reason we decided to do that was because we didn’t officially release it in the States. I guess we really didn’t officially release it anywhere. We did the ol’ iTunes shuffle.
How did you start getting into music? Was it a 6-year-old Andy Shauf thing where your parents were playing Bob Dylan and Neil Young vinyls, or was it something were you didn’t want to become a musician but eventually go into it?
Yeah, my parents were really musical, or are really musical, I should say. I was always singing in church and doing all that stuff, but I never really liked to sing. I was kind of forced to sing, so I kind of started not liking it when I was a teenager. But then I got interested in girls and started writing songs on the guitar, using my great knowledge of the guitar and power chords.
Did you all ever consider making a family band out of it, like The Partridge Family or Brady Bunch kind of thing?
[Laughing] I think there’s an alternate universe where that actually happened.
So you started getting into music to meet girls. Did that work out for you? Did music help you get the girls?
[Laughing] No. No, it didn’t.
Is it working for you now?
So what do you need to do to get females knocking on your door?
I think I need to add stability to my life. [Laughing]
Tell me about The Bearer of Bad News. How did it come about?
The Bearer of Bad News is a collection of songs that I wrote over a period of four or five years, and then I recorded them in my parent’s basement over a period of about a year. So it was probably the longest time I’ve ever taken on one single project. Some of the songs are story songs, which are mostly pretty dark. Some of them are personal songs, and they’re not so dark, although they might seem like pretty sad songs. I actually wrote that record from a pretty happy place.
Is there a reason why you chose to record in your parent’s basement? Was it because of simplicity, was it cheap, was it because of good acoustic vibes?
I did that because I ran out of money and moved back in with my parents. And they let me do it. [Laughing] They let me move back into their basement, so that’s what I did. It was out of necessity, really.
I assume in the liner notes it’ll say, “Thanks Ma’ and Pa’?”
I think they got a shout-out. They definitely got a shout-out on the old pressing, but I hope they got a shout-out on the new pressing. I can write their names on the new records, just Sharpie them in. [Laughing] Actually, if you listen to the record super closely, you might hear them walking around upstairs. I had one song way back where my dad had to sneeze, so his sneeze was caught on my song.
The AV Club had this to say about you: “Andy Shauf is really cute, but that’s not what makes him such a captivating performer. Think of him as Canada’s modern answer to Nick Drake.” Kudos on being called cute, but how does it feel to be named “Canada’s next Nick Drake?”
Um, that’s nice. [Laughing] That’s a nice thing. That’s quite the compliment. I’m not going to claim I was a huge fan of his in high school, but I listened to the Pink Moon album a little bit, and he’s pretty good. [Laughing]
What are you listening to right now?
I’ve really been into the band Alvvays, with that “Archie, Marry Me” song. That’s been stuck in my head recently. Also give a little shout-out to Zachary Lucky. He’s a country guy from Saskatchewan.
What about the Canadian music scene? What’s one good thing and one bad thing about it?
It’s small, and everybody really knows it each. We’re all kind of pals. Playing Canadian festivals is kind of like a high school reunion or something. You see all your buds. I don’t know what I would change about it, but I guess there is a pretty big gap in Canada, just geographically, from the West side to the East side. There’s not a lot of people in the middle, so those are the main groups that bands get associated with, I guess. That’s kind of a bummer, since I don’t know as many people in the East as I do in the West. I’m working to change that for myself.
You just released a new music video for one of the record’s tracks, “I’m Not Falling Asleep,” and the video features old stock footage of Canada in the 1920’s. Where did that inspiration come from?
My manager lives in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, which has archives, and he suggested we look into film archives based on Saskatchewan. I thought it was a pretty interesting idea, so we went through tons of footage and picked some of the more interesting parts of the history of Saskatchewan. It was a little bit of farming, some Ukrainian history of Saskatchewan and its tuberculosis institute, which is abandoned now and supposedly haunted.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been rehearsing with the band to get ready for the tour. What’s next immediately on my schedule is sleeping ‘cause I’m exhausted. [Laughing] But yeah, the tour starts now and goes until South by Southwest. There’s a new record in the works, and it’s almost done.
What’s something that people might not know about you or your music?
I own all ten seasons of Friends on DVD, and Netflix just added all of those, so it made my DVD’s useless. You can’t even sell them! [Laughing]
Andy Shauf's "new-ish" record, The Bearer of Bad News, comes out February 3. For more emerging artist news (and even some ticket giveaways), follow 'A Change of Tune' on Facebook, Twitter and Insta. Hear new music from Andy Shauf on 'A Change of Tune' this Saturday at 10pm EST on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.