Shane Koyczan: Saying It His Way
“The most satisfying trails are not the trails you follow but the trails you blaze” -- Shane Koyczan
When my teenage daughter first began mentioning Shane Koyczan to me, I didn’t think much of it. The fact is, teenage girls tend to run on tangents -- loving something or someone one one day then hating them the next. Suffice-it-to-say, I figured “this too shall” pass and went on with my normal business following her and my brief discussion on the matter. Later that evening, however, I changed my tune.
Isabel sent me a Youtube video of the spoken poem, To This Day written and performed by Shane Koyczan and animated by eighty-six volunteer animators -- many of them students. The poem was shared with her by one of her teachers. It discusses both the short and long term effects of bullying. The delivery and message are flooring. If you have not seen, heard or experienced it, make time to as it will clearly explain and magnify the impact of bullying on children and our society.
Since that point, I’ve become hooked on the work of this champion word poet, four time author, wise, young sage and yes, also a Canadian. (Need anymore proof of the pertinence of finding out what’s in Canada’s water? I think not.) Shane Koyczan’s newest digital album Debris is just as moving -- my favorite word poem being When I Was A Kid. I urge you to find a quiet spot to listen to it and breath his words in. It will change the way you view your day, your life and make you feel as if you can reach back into your past and touch it.
Where that all comes from is for you to learn through my interview with Shane below. He is a man of both “few and many” words -- all valuable and powerful.
What is your personal mantra?
Set goal, achieve goal, repeat.
What is your purpose as u see it?
I’m not sure. I think about it too much. For a long time, I felt very isolated and alone. The goal I set out was to find connection with people. I remind people that you are emotional creatures even though we live in a world that refutes this as being “OK.” Support people in being emotional creatures. There use to be a sense of community. Not today. People suffer from “disconnection” despite our many machines. We need to get that back.
Share the biggest irony in your life.
I can be very candid with a large group of people, but in private, that’s difficult for me. One-on-one situations are a challenge.
What do you want people to gain most from your work?
The personal connection. Give them a sense of belonging. We are approaching eight billion people on this planet and most of them are lonely.
Who motivates or inspires you? Why?
It’s not “who” but “what.” An emotion, such as regret, can be a powerful motivator. As I get older, sometimes I think that I should dance more. Time can either magnify things or obscure it. I talk about the prevalent memories in my work -- the ones that have stayed with me as opposed to the obscure ones.
Explain your “aha” moment.
There are times when I think to myself, “How can I keep this up?” There is no pension for this or retirement plan that will keep me comfortable in my golden years. I’m constantly still wondering if I am ever going to settle down and get a real job. My life is chaotic. Being a ‘touring artist’ is not romantic. It’s a lot of stress. I love being able to support myself in what I do but there is a lot of pressure there as well.
Are you happy now?
Sometimes. I don’t think happiness is a sustainable state of mine. ‘Pure happiness’ all the time would be numbing.
What has been your biggest challenge so far.
Accepting being an artist. Taking that step off the plank to pursue art. It’s a scary step.
Ten years from now, how do you see your life.
There are lots of things I want to do. I’d love to make films.
Name something that you do badly that you love to do anyway.
Share a social cause you feel passionate about.
Saving the environment.
How do you want to be remembered?
With a glass of wine. When I’m going, it is not going to matter to me. The world will spin without me.
As Shane Koyczan will be commencing on a tour throughout Canada and the United States beginning September 17th through October 9th, 2016, might I recommend you make a point of joining him along the way. It will be an unforgettable experience -- well beyond what any Youtube video or digital version can provide. And all of the work being performed will be original. The fact is, the only thing that may be remotely unoriginal and applicable to Shane Koyczan’s work and life, in my opinion, is the age-old saying my grandmother cautioned me with...she’d say, “Watch out for the quiet ones as you never know what they are thinking.”
Truth-be-told, had I understood what that statement really meant, I would have sought the Shane Koyczan’s of my youth out and struck up plenty of conversations. Thankfully, those conversations are being had with our kids today in ways that they are able to hear and connect with -- new trails being blazed making humanity that much more “human.”
Many thanks to Shane Koyczan and Thompson Artist Management for making this interview possible