Singer/songwriter Andy Shauf’s dark, rustic tales of the Canadian prairie blend folk with sophisticated pop, reflecting his upbringing in Regina, Saskatchewan. Citing influences like Wilco, Elliott Smith, and Neil Young, Shauf’s hushed, lyrical songs have a keen focus on arrangement, while his lyrics are literate and down-to-earth, offering deep-focus portraits of the emotional lives of his characters. After making his debut with a collection of demos released in 2009 as Darker Days, Shauf made his commercial and critical breakthrough with 2016′s The Party, a painstakingly created song cycle following the events of a single evening at a house party. He followed it with 2020′s The Neon Skyline, another concept piece about lost love and one evening at a small-town bar, and 2023′s Norm was a song cycle that explored the complexities of divine and earthly love.
Andy Shauf was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada on June 21, 1986. His parents were evangelical Christians who ran a music and electronics store, and equipment that went unsold often ended up at the Shauf house. Andy became part of the family’s Christian rock group as he learned to master a variety of instruments, including guitar, piano, bass, drums, and clarinet (the latter being one of the reasons woodwinds often pop up in his arrangements). As a teenager, he played drums with a Christian pop-punk band called Captain, but his disinterest in spiritual matters led to him quitting the group.
Preferring to work on his own, Shauf set up a studio in his parents’ basement and started recording his songs by himself, playing all the instruments and handling the production and engineering. He self-released a set of early material under the title Darker Days in 2009. He spent the following two years painstakingly recording his first proper album, Bearer of Bad News, which he released in late 2012. The record was critically well received, and over the next two years he expanded his touring range throughout North America, eventually heading to Europe as well. In January 2015, Bearer of Bad News was re-released by the Portland, Oregon-based label Tender Loving Empire, belatedly expanding his reputation in the United States. His follow-up was constructed in a similarly intricate manner, with the initial 2014 full-band sessions later being scrapped in favor of Shauf’s preferred method of recording and arranging each instrument himself. The result was 2016′s The Party, another literate, detailed pop gem that saw a U.S. release via the Anti- label, with Arts & Crafts handling the record in Canada. The album was short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize, an annual award honoring exceptional Canadian recordings. While he didn’t win, the attention helped boost Shauf’s public profile, and he was able to relocate to Toronto and build a better personal studio.
November 2018 saw the release of Foxwarren, the debut album from a side project featuring Shauf and several musically inclined friends from his college days. In early 2020, he issued his fourth album, The Neon Skyline, another smart and inventive concept piece. Shauf wrote 50 songs before settling on the 11 that told the LP’s story; 2021′s Wilds brought together rough recordings of nine more of those tunes, including some that reflected a different narrative arc than that of the finished product. 2023′s Norm was a song cycle that follows four characters sorting out their feelings for others – one of whom happens to be God. The album found Shauf exploring different sounds, with arrangements inspired by jazz, vintage R&B, and disco; Neal Pogue, who’d previously worked with OutKast and Tyler, The Creator, was brought in to mix the tracks recorded at Shauf’s home studio. ~ Timothy Monger & Mark Deming