You’re at a small gathering with a group of old friends — there’s alcohol aplenty, an abundance of cigarettes and well established chemistry between all attendees.
Normally, this would be a recipe for a nice night. However, there’s something a little off — few are talking and the only conversation comes from the couples fighting in nearby rooms. The host is on edge and chain-smokes to cope. There’s sexual tension and apprehension, and nobody is having a good time. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone.
Saskatchewan singer-songwriter Andy Shauf, originally from Bienfait, Sask., knows this situation well. Even if it’s just in his mind, the idea is focused on in his newest album, The Party. Despite the realness that the party concept gives the record, Shauf insists that the people and events are fictional.
“They are mostly just made up, I think the characters are familiar, but I didn’t base them on anyone that I know. I did a lot of projecting myself onto different scenarios,” Shauf said.
This is probably a relief to those close to Shauf, as The Party has received a great deal of attention. Since its release in early May, the neurotic, loose concept album has been on the forefront of musical discussions in Canada and abroad.
It even gained enough traction to be placed on the prestigious annual Polaris Music Prize Short List — a placement shared with only nine other Canadian artists. Regardless of the positive acclaim received from the album, Shauf said he was nervous throughout the entire evening at the Polaris Gala.
“The [Polaris] Gala was kind of cool. I was excited about it. When it actually came to do it, I was pretty nervous. I had a stomach ache all night, which was pretty annoying and right when it was announced who won it, my stomach ache went away. It was super weird. I guess I was super stressed,” Shauf said.
However, this isn’t to say that Shauf is ungrateful for the attention — in fact, quite the opposite.
“It’s super cool. It’s nice to have some people’s ears. For me, it’s been really gradual you know, it’s been a lot of years of playing shows and building up a small audience and having more people come to shows. It just feels like I’ve been super busy and every once and awhile you see things get a little better,” Shauf said.
Shauf is one of few Saskatchewan artists to make the Polaris Short List, one other being last year’s winner, Buffy Sainte-Marie. Shauf identifies that Saskatchewan and, moreover, western Canadian artists are quite under-represented in the national context.
“I think that a lot of music that comes out of Regina goes unnoticed. I think a lot of, and I don’t want to start any beef or complain, but what gets covered is music based from the west coast or east coast, but even the west coast not as much as eastern music does. Vancouver is sort of a bubble, and the prairies get skipped over a lot,” Shauf said.
A desire for a change of pace and to be closer to the music centre of Canada, Shauf recently relocated to Toronto. Despite the big move, Shauf insists that he is a Saskatchewan boy at heart.
“I still identify as a prairie guy — I don’t think I’ll ever get away from that because it’s pretty ingrained in us. I think it influences me as a person, in how I act and what I grew up with, but I don’t know if it played that much of an influence in my songwriting,” Shauf said.
Andy Shauf will be returning to Saskatoon on Oct. 7 to play the Broadway Theatre as a stop in his cross-country tour. For students planning to go to the show, Shauf provided little information on what to expect, leaving an air of mystery.
“Well, we’re going to play songs off my last two albums. It’s going to be a quiet evening. That’s about it,” Shauf said.
Tickets are $27 each and are available at broadwaytheatre.ca.
Photo: Colin Medley / Supplied