Shivering Songs Brings One of the Country’s Best to the Stage
Listening to an Andy Shauf song is a lot like reading the greatest short story ever written, for the very first time. The time, place and setting appear perfectly in your imagination and for a brief moment, you find yourself surrounded by the characters he’s created as their stories unfold. And that’s not always a safe place to be.
His well-phrased lyrics are structured masterfully, and are at times, so simple and free from clutter that it’s a wonder he’s able to convey any sort of message at all. But like the greatest fiction writers of our time, Shauf is more than capable of using the right words at the right time to get his point across. In fact, he’s damn near a master of it.
“I’ve always loved story-songs,” said Shauf. “A lot of those old country songs tell great stories. I’m also a big fan of Randy Newman. He’s one of the best at using a small space to get a story across. That’s really impressive to me.”
But it’s not only his ability to write clean, tight lyrics that sets Shauf apart from other songwriters performing these days. There are plenty of great lyricists out there, but very few who can warm your heart one minute and make you incredibly uncomfortable the next. In a few short words he can animate all those emotions we’ve spent a lifetime learning to control or suppress.
Of the several stand-out tracks on his most recent album, The Bearer of Bad News (2012), the murder ballad, Wendell Walker, is enough to keep you up at night, reliving the story over in your head as if you where somehow a witness the tragic events he describes.
“When I was writing Wendell Walker, it all just came out in one straight line,” he said. “It started without knowing where it was going. It just happened like that. I don’t always know where I’m going to end up.”
Surprisingly, his personality is anything but dark, especially when talking about his songs and his music. He simply credits his prairie upbringing for nurturing the dark side of his writing, and that’s understandable.
“I think there’s a lot of darkness in winter,” he said, “and I’m definitely influenced by enduring the long prairie winters. Some of my songs get a little dark, and I guess they’re lead by the tone of the music I’m writing at the time.”
Whether he’s wearing his heart on his sleeve or recanting a twisted tale like something torn from the pages of Stephen King’s notebook, Shauf’s gift for storytelling is unparalleled and will no-doubt leave you wanting to know just a little more about the characters he’s introduced.
“I always try to end a story at the appropriate time so I’m not revealing too much by the end of it, so that it’s not overly complete, but just complete enough.”
With a new album “about 90% finished”, those familiar with Shauf’s work can probably expect a slew of new songs in his set list as takes the stage during this year’s Shivering Song’s festival. I’m sure I’m not the only one curious to hear where his writing has taken him over the past few years.
Andy Shauf with Amelia Curran | Wilmot United Church | Doors at 7:00pm | Show at 8:00pm | January 23, 2015 | Shivering Songs