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Andy Shauf Infuses True Crime Into Candy Pop on Norm

When Toronto-based musician Andy Shauf got here to New York final month to play songs from his new album, Norm, which was launched final week, he mentioned he was engaged on his confidence. The soft-spoken 35-year-old has been performing for audiences for many of his grownup life, they usually’ve been getting greater ever since he was nominated for a handful of Juno Awards and the Polaris Music Prize and a tune of his wound up on Barack Obama’s summer playlist in 2020. However being on stage nonetheless has an air of hazard. “I’ve a tough time with criticizing myself whereas I’m singing one thing. Being, like, Oh, you missed that word,” he says in a bustling resort foyer a couple of hours earlier than the present. “You’re utilizing your physique as an instrument. It might solely do what you’re asking of it. It’s a kind of issues that it’s important to hold coming again to, and feeling snug with simply exhibiting how the factor that you’ve got works.”

Over the course of some idiosyncratic and complex albums the place he performed almost the entire devices himself, Shauf has developed a fame as Canada’s wry and downcast reply to Paul Simon, working his method from small golf equipment in Saskatchewan to grand theaters and pageant phases. In dialog, Shauf describes his character as being “just like the cat who hides beneath furnishings,” and although a shy singer-songwriter can really feel a bit like a contradiction, he clearly relishes the problem of working by the music on stage. 

“These songs are onerous, and I actually attempt to push myself right into a vocally uncomfortable place. There’s numerous falsetto,” he says. “I’m excited to only play them and be a bit of bit susceptible, and see if my instrument’s working.” 

Courtesy of Andy Shauf.

Later that evening at Brooklyn’s Union Pool, Shauf and his acoustic guitar awed the gang, and elicited a couple of laughs when he bought to a line about that feeling whenever you’re certain you forgot to lock your entrance door. Shauf has a knack for these kinds of observational particulars, and he approaches writing lyrics a bit like writing fiction. Idea albums following a set of fictional characters speaking for a dozen or so songs have develop into his calling card, and the final two, The Neon Skyline and Wilds, each chronicled the identical group of regulars at a bar as they struggled with their love lives. 

His new album began coming collectively throughout the pandemic, whereas, like many people, Shauf was watching numerous true crime. The sensation that he had targeted an excessive amount of on the tales the final time round pushed him to vary his strategy. “I bought this synthesizer and I used to be taking part in round with synth melodies that had actually lengthy notes and have been spacious,” he says. “It simply felt actually snug to be again in a spot the place I used to be letting the melodies breathe organically, and I wasn’t making an attempt to stuff all these phrases into the small areas.”

At first, he was making an attempt to maneuver away from his earlier work, aiming to jot down one thing and not using a idea—no plot, no recurring characters. “I used to be making an attempt to jot down simply, like, a standard album, and I used to be gonna name it Norm, as in a group of songs that aren’t associated to one another,” he explains. It didn’t go that method, and Norm turned a collection of wistful songs that observe a relatable but distinctly unsettling protagonist named Norm as he hones in on a love curiosity. Norm turns into a car to discover emotions of insecurity and social nervousness, with twists reflecting a few of these true-crime favorites.

“At first look, it looks like that is only a regular one that has common issues happening of their life—misunderstandings and awkwardness and no matter—however in case you pay attention nearer to what’s occurring on this story, there’s this unhealthy factor occurring,” he says, mentioning the tune “Phone” for example. “For those who take heed to it casually, it’s a pleasant love tune about somebody who desires to speak on the phone.” The second verse reveals that the narrator is already watching from the bushes exterior of the home.

He says “Phone” was an early tune on the album, and it began as a lark earlier than the remainder of the story shaped round it. “Once I wrote that tune, I wrote it as a joke as a result of I used to be in a relationship the place I didn’t wish to speak on the cellphone!” he says. “Yeah. So, I wrote this tune as a—in case you take heed to it as soon as, you’re gonna suppose it’s in regards to the cellphone. For those who take heed to it twice, it’s perhaps a couple of stalker.”

Shauf’s earlier music targeted on social interactions between individuals at bars and events, so it is sensible {that a} change on the planet’s circumstances would shift his songwriting strategy. Over time, Shauf’s ambitions for the document bought a bit of bigger when he stop consuming and likewise began eager about unreliable narrators and faith. “There’s a number of views to the story. There’s the God perspective, there’s Norm, there’s one other character,” he says. “It’s a little bit of a puzzle, however there’s nonetheless numerous house in it the place I don’t actually spell out what occurs. In the long run, I believe in case you pay attention carefully, you’re gonna get fairly near an understanding,” he says, although he was aware of constructing one thing that might go down easily. “If you’re purely listening to it for the enjoyment of the music, you’re not gonna catch any of that.”

In late 2021, Shauf returned to touring, making up numerous the reveals that had been canceled due to the pandemic. He hoped touring whereas sober could be simpler, however discovered that it was tougher than he anticipated to be round individuals after a lot isolation. “I assumed that it might be very easy. Like, consuming at all times made issues actually sophisticated. You’re waking up with a hangover on tour, and it’s important to play a present on the identical day,” he says. “However now there’s numerous sophisticated emotions round simply being round individuals once more usually.”

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