Talk-rocker puts his words to good use
It wasn’t too long ago that Shane Koyczan revealed his heart –– the joys, fantasies and failures of growing up in small town Canada.
Born and raised in Yellowknife by his grandparents before moving to Penticton when he was a young teen, Koyczan was that shy kid, picked on for his lack of a voice.
He eventually found it through writing, and after taking creative writing courses at the former Okanagan University College (now Okanagan College), he would go on to become a world champion slam poet, author, recording artist, and purveyor of We are More, with the biggest audience of his career so far, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games’ opening ceremonies.
Two years have passed since that grand fanfare, and although his career has reached otherworldly proportions, Koyczan hasn’t forgotten who he really is –– he still tells us through his words –– and he has helped a lot of kids conquer their own issues of being bullied or maligned.
“The pressure of the last two years really just comes down to honesty,” Koyczan, told The Morning Star recently, while looking out the window at the flat and lake dotted hinterlands of Manitoba on the drive back west.
“I find there is a lot of false posturing in this business. There are a lot of ‘Are you OK?’ and ‘I’m fine’ when we’re really the opposite. Some people think that vulnerability is a false armour and I like to do something to pull through that spirit and show that vulnerability exists, unless it’s a serial killer like Hannibal Lector standing in front of me.”
Koyczan will put his words to good use in celebration of poetry month when he and his band, The Short Story Long, come to Vernon Tuesday.
He is donating $1 from each ticket sold back to the five Vernon area school district secondary schools in support their respective dry grads, and will also donate double the proceeds to the school with the most tickets in their name.
“Mikkal Waters, who is producing the show, came up with the idea and I was happy to support it,” said Koyczan, adding Waters, also a musician, and Charles Reuchelle, on cello, will open for him and Short Story Long at the Performing Arts Centre.
And that’s just one of the many ways Koyczan’s words have gone beyond, well, just words.
With one of Koyczan’s latest projects, Instructions for a Bad Day, a joint collaboration with some Vancouver Island students to end bullying receiving national attention, his current talk-rock tour across Canada features new material from Koyczan and Short Story Long’s recently released album Remembrance Year. It’s the band’s third recording, although Koyczan says their debut album has since disappeared into the ether.
“On (Remembrance Year), you see the evolution of the group. I am really proud of it. We pay respect to those moments that accumulate over the year –– it’s about remembering the days out of the year where everyday things happened.”
Not one to constantly be journaling, Koyczan says he often internalizes his thoughts before he writes them down.
“I usually write after the end of a tour. I formulate a complete thought from just a fragment, it’s not as developed, about the stories that happened and go from there.”
In the Short Story Long, Koyczan has a co-conspirator in guitarist Maiya Robbie, whom he often shares songwriting duties with. The group is rounded out by keyboardist Olivia Mennell, stand-up bassist Jesse Lee, and cellist Jordie Robinson.
“It’s give and take... Maiya sometimes writes a piece of music that works well with a piece I have, and vise versa, it works nicely,” said Koyczan.
Besides the release of Remembrance Year, Koyczan will also see his third book, Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty, in bookstores Wednesday. He describes it as a collection of poetry featuring more instances of life.
“I am constantly being asked when my new book is coming out. As a poet, you constantly have to work on it,” he said.
Koyczan is also preparing to stage his very first international Fringe Festival show in the birthplace of the Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland.
“I also want put the next album out. It’s a lot of work, but I love to work,” he said. “I think of that George Burns quote, ‘I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.’”
Those who purchase tickets to the Vernon concert through the Ticket Seller can state which school they would like to make the donation to. (Participating schools include Charles Bloom, Clarence Fulton, Kalamalka, W.L. Seaton and Vernon Secondary.) Tickets purchased by family or community members are also eligible to purchase their tickets under the school’s name, and as well anyone that has already purchased their ticket and wishes to have it designated to a particular school can call the Ticket Seller at 250-549-7469 and do so retroactively.
The Short Story Long’s performance starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25/adult, $20/student, $5/eyeGo (in person only) and also can be purchased by visiting the Ticket Seller box office at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, or order online at ticketseller.ca.