Andy Shauf’s long road from the Prairies

Andy Shauf Nov 2016 new photoAndy Shauf had been riding a slow wave of appreciation for the first 8 years of his career. That has changed significantly since the release of ‘The Party’ in 2016. Shauf has been winning the hearts of club and festival audiences in North America and Europe for years, as he has committed to a rigorous touring schedule. The Party brought critical acclaim including a prestigious Polaris Prize nomination, as well as multiple Juno awards. Shauf, who grew up in rural Saskatchewan, recently moved cross-country to Toronto, has worked with music legends including Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. 

At the start of his spring tour, Shauf’s van was broken into and all of his gear was stolen. Fans and fellow musicians helped out to enable Shauf to continue the tour. Shauf appears at festivals in Halifax and Quebec before reaching the Lower Mainland. We caught up with him on the phone, as he made his way to the airport to prepare for a cross-country weekend and talked about the impact of the nasty theft, his crazy touring schedule, and a few other topics

Paul Hecht: We’ve all read about the unfortunate robbery episode in Atlanta and how your peers and your fans stepped forward to help you out. Has there been a silver lining to this nasty occurrence?

Andy Shauf: It’s pretty shocking to wake up and see that pretty much all of your gear is gone. But everybody pitched in and helped us out. We had just started the tour and weren’t sure how we would continue. But between borrowing gear and people giving us money, which was really nice, we were able to scrap some things together pretty quick and finish the tour. It’s nice to know that people have your back.

PH: You were born in Estevan, grew up in Regina and now you are in Toronto. What’s the biggest difference between small town Saskatchewan and Toronto?

AS: Toronto is pretty overwhelming at times. I live in a really busy neighbourhood on a very busy street. When I used to leave my house in Regina, I’d see two or three people walking on the sidewalk near my house. Now I see 300 hundred people and it’s really overwhelming. But there is a lot to do here and a really great scene of musicians. It keeps me on my toes. In Regina, it was easy to get lazy.

PH: What was the music scene like growing up in Saskatchewan?

AS: It was a lot of punk music; DIY touring; Coffee shops and all-ages gigs. I played drums in bands and eventually started playing solo and booking shows with bands that I know from back in the punk days.

PH: You’ve been gigging quite a bit recently, around the world. Any Favourite venues you have played?

AS: The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville was special and the Chicago Theater is one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever been in.

PH: Were you able to pause and appreciate it, or are you just focused on your set and then you’re gone?

AS: It mostly just rushes by. You don’t really get that moment to pause and say, whoa this is really cool. Sound check. Eat. Play the show. Hope the show is going well.

PH: You’ve been to Europe quite a bit recently. What has the response been like and what do you see as some of the differences between European and North American audiences?

AS: Europe has been getting better pretty much every time we go. It’s nice. You do get treated a lot better by venues. They cook for you and actually want you to be there, in America, some places it seems like it’s a burden for them (the venue) to have you. Audiences are similar. Some are quiet and listening and others are wild. It’s pretty much the same here, audiences really vary from town to town.

PH: What was it like working with (Wilco front man) Jeff Tweedy (Shauf appeared on Tweedy’s solo record) and what did you learn from working with him?

AS: It was pretty weird to have one of your heroes listening to your records. When I went out there and we were recording, he was really experimenting and trying different things to figure out parts. It kind of reassured me that everybody’s just kind of searching, even your heroes are just trying to figure out what works.

PH: What’s your take on Social Media?

AS: I’m not that into it. I get its role, but I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I use Instagram a bit. I had an old label that used to yell at me, “you need to Tweet more. How else are you going to grow your following.” And I was like, um, can’t I just write songs and hope that people eventually like them.

PH: You’re playing a workshop on Sunday. What do you get from playing in the informal festival workshop environment?

AS: It’s fun. It’s fun to play on other people’s songs and hear what other people are doing. Most of the times at festivals we don’t even get time to hear other bands play. Just to be exposed to other songwriters and bands is pretty cool.

Andy Shauf brings his understated, provocative pop poetry to the Vancouver Folk Festival main stage Sunday, and will also appear at a late Sunday afternoon workshop.