From playing tweener sets at Folk Fests around North America, to acting in big budget films like Sin City 2, to selling out the Winspear, Shakey Graves’ road from soap-box folk star to indie darling has been a trajectory encouraged since childhood.
“It all feels like one thing: before Sin City, I’d been playing music for 10 years; I’ve been an actor ever since I was a kid,” he says. “My family always raised me to sort of seek value in life, seek happiness, and artistic endeavours were bred in the family and they weren’t off the beaten path. If you do it [art] well and with enough intention, you can make it a life’s work.”
And the scope of Shakey Graves’ artistic breadth shows. His live shows are chock full of witty banter between songs, ghostly melancholic songwriting, and a humanistic vulnerability—it’s a show that has always treated his fans in Edmonton, regardless of rain or shine.
“I think it [Edmonton Folk Festival] was the first folk festival I ever played, and I had an incredible time. I had to do some of those workshops that I’d never done, and I got thrown into the fire, into a blues jam, and I’m a very nervous jammer. It got really strange. But that festival opened up myself to a bunch of people that have now become lifetime friends.”
From a live show that saw him using a suitcase for a drum to, now, touring with a full band, and putting out Can’t Wake Up,a 13-song album that sees a bit more production and experimentation sonically than audiences are used to with Shakey Graves, he assures that “it’s still hinging on that classic folk storytelling” of his earlier work.
It’s those ghostly obscurities, those Shakey Graves growls, and those soft melodies, that will always be familiar to his fans. And it’s these themes that he tends to explore—the occultist, ghostly, and mysterious forces—that he says aren’t too far from what most are interested in as well.
“I think humanity in general has an overwhelming and morbid interest in supernatural forces, in either mainstream religion or esoteric thinking,” he says. “I’m no different; I’m fascinated with the mystery of existence and I seek answers in vague ways. I end up asking a lot of the questions through my musings in paper.”
While the mainstream has this innate interest in these themes, often it takes an artist to shed light on these typically darker ideas, and Shakey Graves does so with grace and humour, and it’s always a treat for his following in Edmonton and beyond.
“You know, or I could write “Hot for Teacher” that’s a deep occultist song.”
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