Musician finds slice of heaven
When Canadian musician Shane Seward abandoned his life in Alberta to follow a Kiwi girl to Marlborough, he left a promising music career behind as well.
The 27-year-old met Jenny Youmans at a music festival in Canada in August 2010. She was on a working holiday visa; he was in the oil industry and playing music as part of folk duo This Conviction. It was love at first sight - but Jenny moved to Calgary to work soon after. Two months later, they got together again, and eventually Seward sold his house and quit his job. They moved to Ward eight months ago, married in March, and Seward is appreciating his new-found relaxed lifestyle and good wine.
"I've found New Zealand incredible," he says. "Geographically, it's beautiful, the people are wonderful; there's a lot of similarities between Kiwis and Canadians in personality. I just fell in love with it immediately."
When he arrived, he intended to get away from promotion and touring for a bit, aiming instead to find inspiration and write some new material as a solo artist. That did not last long. On his third day in the country he walked into Blenheim's Yealands Estate to enjoy some wine-tasting. They noticed the treble clef tattooed on his neck and asked if he could play for them.
"It was so open and so inviting, and I was like, ‘OK, I guess I'm going to have to do something here rather than stay quiet and write'."
He has found success locally, and now the acoustic singer/songwriter is on a serious mission to rebuild his career and develop a Kiwi fan base. He has a day job, but his goal is to support himself musically. This Conviction recorded and released an independent record while developing a loyal fan base in Alberta, and he would like to do the same in his adopted country, but solo. He has already found one bonus of being a working musician in New Zealand as opposed to his homeland: not having eight-hour drives between towns.
"I'd been playing for a good 10 years in Canada [but] things have picked up a lot faster for me in New Zealand. As soon as I began making an effort to book shows it seemed to all fall together really quickly.
"New Zealand's been a little more accepting of me as well; it seems they're a little more open in this country to new music and new independent musicians. It's been a lot easier here to get work and establish myself than it was in Canada."
Seward will play at Hardy St's 623 In the City tomorrow night, return there mid-August for another round of gigs, including opening for comedian Dai Henwood on August 17; and then play a solo show at the Boathouse on September 14.
He describes his music as alternative modern folk, but says the intensity of his songs and performance are what sets him apart from other folk artists. He does not quite feel the softness and calmness of traditional folk themes.
"I like to think I try and push the limits of how intense acoustic music can be," he says. "I try and push that and make it quite aggressive, vocally and instrumentally.
"Vocally, it's almost like I'm singing rock music over top of folk music."
He has found that moving to New Zealand has "hugely" coloured his writing too.
"Thematically things have gotten a little more relaxed, I guess," he says. "Since I've been here, away from Canada and out of my element moving to a new country, a lot of my new material deals with the feeling of disconnection from everything you're familiar with."
Marriage to the Kiwi girl has also worked its magic on his music.
"I used to write a lot more songs of longing and love songs where you're waiting or anticipating something," he says. "Now that I've found it, there are a lot more themes of contentment."
- Shane Seward, 623 In the City, August 3, 5pm; August 17, 5pm; and August 18, 6.30pm. He will also play at The Boathouse on September 14, 7.30pm, $5 entry. For more, visit facebook.com/shanesewardmusic.
- © Fairfax NZ News