Andy Shauf is soft-spoken and gentle on the phone, perhaps exactly what one would expect from an artist known for intimate shows and self-reflective lyrics. Pretention? Not a drop. Maybe its the big brown eyes or a kind of naked honesty that earns him comparisons with other lyricists like Elliot Smith and Dan Mangan. But don’t be disarmed by his nostalgic, prairie charm. He’s a creative wellspring. While on tour with Evening Hymns, Shauf informs me that he’s been picking up the drums for part of their set.
Montreal Godzilla (MG): Drums?
Andy Shuaf (AS): I can play a lot of different instruments. I don’t know if I’m particularly good at any of them. I try at least. I bought a clarinet and I learned how to play that, so how hard can the other ones be. I bought a trombone and that was pretty wretched. When you hear someone who is good at trombone, it’s so nice. For me, it sounds like blowing spit down pipe.
MG: What was it like getting out your album Bearer of Bad News (2012)?
AS: I recorded in my parent’s basement in Regina. I took about a year and a half to get it all finished and I wrote for it for three years before that. I’m happy to be finished with it. There was a point where I never knew if it would be finished. It became very daunting and my friends and my girlfriend at the time tried to keep me focused on the end goal. They encouraged me. That kind of helped me through it was a pretty frustrating long ordeal.
MG: Are you going for any particular ambiance with the songs? Do you have a method for approaching songwriting?
AS: People usually say that it’s pretty sad when I play. There’s a lot of sad songs on the album. I didn’t intend for it to be like that. I tried to write nice songs.
While making the album, I got into the storytelling part of things. A few songs on the album are big stories. Wendell Walker — I pretty much sat down at the piano one day and wrote it out, one draft and that was how it ended up. It’s a long story and it came out really easily. The other two are Jerry Was a Clerk and My Dear Helen. Those are linked together. Those were something I really wanted to do I wrote Jerry first and it took a long time for me to do the other part of the story. Every song is different to write.
Usually I have an idea lyrically, but sometimes I don’t. The music shapes what it’s gong to be like. I have had ideas for song and when I sit down with the music it completely changes the direction of it. I think it is going to be happy, lights on, and then the music can completely change that and I change the lyrics to fit. The music shape the words, the words will shape the actual idea.
MG: Given that it took years to write, did it start out as a different album?
AS: Yeah, I changed. I started writing for it in 2008 and if I had been able to release it in 2008 it would have been a completely different thing. It wasn’t any life changing event that made a change, just evolution of my songs and my abilities as a musician. I think I wrote 100 songs between when I started and finished.
MG: 100 songs? What will happen to those other 90 songs?
AS: The other 90 songs? Those will probably never see the light of day. My writing process is to record and write at the same time. I have 90 recordings that will never show anyone for good reason.
MG: Where do you turn for inspiration?
AS: As of late music, or current music, I’m inspired by the Dirty Projectors. I always kind of dig into the past looking for things. I listen to a lot of Beatles. That’s cliché, I suppose. They’re kind of the masters. Pretty much the White Album is my go to album for inspiration. It’s perfect pop.
MG: Do you have a favorite Beatle?
AS: I saw Paul in Regina. It was cool and a little cornball. I’m not going to lie. But it was cool just to see a Beatle play. Paul’s my favorite.
MG: Anything in the works?
AS: I’m working on a new album. I got a grant for recording time through a venue in Cologne (Germany), so I’ll be recording in Dresden in January. I got a grant for recording time through a venue in Cologne. After this tour, I’ll go home and hammer out some last-minute songs. It’s my first time going to Europe, so I think we’re going to do a little tour around Europe and the UK.
Andy Shauf is playing with Misteur Valaire, Les Jupes, Groenland, The Lemming Ways, and Elliot Maginot at Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur E.) on Thursday Nov. 21, at 1 p.m. Free and with Panache and Evening Hymns at the L’Esco(4467 St. Denis) on Friday Nov 22, at 6:55 p.m. Free.