Andy Shauf was in high school when he first discovered songwriting. “It was empowering,” he recalls. “I realized, ‘why play other people’s songs when you can play your own’?” Not long after, unable to land a job in the summer before his graduating year, Shauf, who grew up as part of a musical family in rural Saskatchewan, decided he would “stay home and make a record,” eventually selling it to his peers for pocket money.
While he’s relieved the album no longer exists (“it’s still pretty embarrassing”), the impulse to make and share his music had taken hold. Upon graduation, Shauf worked odd jobs, but only to support his life on the road. “I was always touring,” he recalls. “I have always toured. I would get in the car and go and play for months.”
Now nearly 29, Shauf is making a name for himself thanks to his quirky, imaginative approach to songwriting and a distinctive voice that has drawn comparisons to Elliot Smith and Paul Simon. In 2015, he signed with Arts and Crafts in Canada and Anti- in the U.S, and is gearing up to launch his latest full-length album, The Party, in May.
“My focus in on the day-to-day, song to song – to just keep writing.”
While he is hesitant to call it a concept album, Shauf, who “prefers writing in stories” more than in “personal narratives,” says each song is centered around a party and focuses on mundane moments and an awkward cast of characters – from a girl who dances alone and un-selfconsciously in the middle of the room, to a guy who steps out for a smoke but can’t find his lighter. “I think they’re all awkward, because they’re filtered through my personal awkwardness,” says Shauf, who admits he’s shy.
Shauf is also the first to admit that he’s controlling when it comes to making music. That’s the reason he scrapped the first iteration of The Party, which he started recording with a band in Germany in 2014. “Those sessions didn’t go very well,” he says simply, explaining his decision to start again – alone – at Studio One in Regina, the city he currently calls home.
As with his 2012 LP The Bearer of Bad News (created in his parents’ basement over a four-year period) and his 2009 EP Darker Days, Shauf plays all the instruments, with the addition of strings played by Colin Nealis. “It’s just easier for me to work by myself and to come to a conclusion that’s mine,” he says of his solitary creative process. Shauf’s desire for solitude ends onstage, however: he tours with a band (they’re currently in the U.K. opening for the Lumineers) and appreciates when his audiences connect with his music.
But while he’s proud of his latest album, Shauf is clear he won’t let success distract him from what matters most: writing and recording. “My goal right now is to just try and get better each time I make an album or write a song,” he says. “I think you would drive yourself crazy if you were trying to achieve different levels of fame or whatever. My focus in on the day-to-day, song to song – to just keep writing and to try and keep having ideas for new songs.”