Friday, April 13 at 8 p.m.
Haven Social Club (15120A Stony Plain Rd.)
$15 at yeglive.ca
Shane Koyczan is a man of so many words, after 13 years of sharing them, he still has plenty left.
While most know him from his ode to Canada “We Are More,” which he performed during the opening ceremonies for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, his catalogue reaches far deeper. With nine albums and three books already under his belt, Koyczan’s stream of intensely personal poetry won’t be stopping any time soon.
“I tend to write every day. It’ll come in waves … I don’t worry about writer’s block per se. I more just prepare myself for the flood that’s about to come,” he says, noting that in case of desperate times, there’s always a writing back-up plan.
“I have a file called ‘purgatory’ where all the stuff I write that never gets used goes. And if I’m ever stuck for an idea, I just pull out the purgatory file and go, ‘Oh yeah, that!’ ”
Through his ever-expanding catalogue of personal reflections, emotional outbursts and political commentaries, Koyczan gives his audience a direct line to the workings of his own mind. It’s an unusual career path, but Koyczan’s articulate examination of his thoughts has been paying his bills for nine years — making the emotional outpouring of his writing worth it.
“I don’t want to mislead people — a lot of those years were pretty lean,” he says with a laugh. “It’s one of those things — if you’re going to do it, you have to really do it. It’s really going to be a job.”
Koyczan’s performances have taken a variety of different forms since he took his first steps into spoken word poetry, moving from solo performances to a three-man collaboration called Tons of Fun University (T.O.F.U.) to poetry performances he combines with the music of his band, the Short Story Long. Koyczan classifies the combination of song and poetry as “talk rock” — a term coined by former T.O.F.U. bandmate Mike McGee — laughing that he’s angling for the recognition of spoken word poetry from The Junos. But while poetry can be a solitary search through Koyczan’s own thoughts, he says the music allows him to plug into the source of his inspiration.
“I write to music, so certainly when I’m writing and feeling those feelings, the music is definitely present. And then to perform live, it gives me that step to really step back into that place where I was when I wrote it,” Koyczan says, adding he has to work harder during solo performances to bring himself back to the emotions that drove him to write the poem.
“I think that’s the most important thing about being a spoken word performer: when you perform a piece, you really have to remember why you wrote it in the first place. You want to feel that feeling again. And music helps me to do that … With the band, as soon as I hear that first note I get it — I get the emotion and I’m right there.”
Koyczan says spoken word poetry is the most direct way he knows to say what’s on his mind, and that’s exactly how his work comes across: an unfiltered snapshot of his inner self. Every day he gathers more material, and his writing lays everything bare for audiences to turn his reflections back onto themselves.
“(Writing) is a way to get through the emotions and get to the core of where I’m at and recognize those things within myself,” Koyczan says. “It’s therapy — it’s cheaper than therapy.”
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