Koyczan to take Lougheed on emotional tour
Shane Koyczan plays the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre on Friday at 8 p.m. Kaare Iverson Photography/ Supplied
If the spoken word has a rock star, his name is Shane Koyczan
The Yellowknife native broke on to the world scene during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, since then he has toured relentlessly and his Youtube videos have been seen by more than 16 million people.
On Friday, Koyczan will perform at the Jeanne and Peter Performing Art Centre.
Being popular and in demand was not always the way for poet, but that pain has inspired his life’s work.
Reaching these levels is not something he ever really expected when he jumped into the world of being an artist.
“There is no path into this, you’re really just hacking away with whatever is at your disposal just trying to clear a path,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone that gets into poetry or starts writing poetry would be with the notion that this is going to make me famous — I’m going to have a successful career based on poetry. Everyone out there is telling you not to do it and for a very good reason, it’s not easy.”
Koyczan drives deep into the depths his of his youth, he talks about bullying and the lasting effects it has on the bullied, about cancer, about loss, about mental health, about being raised by his grandparents and much of the rest of his life.
Writing poetry and going through his life has been a cathartic process for bearded artist.
“A lot of it is taking that anger or joy or whatever it is and nailing it to the page,” said Koyczan.
“A lot of the times when you get an idea and you have a feeling and you want to write about it, you have to try to keep it there on the desk with you. It’s hard because it wiggles and it squirms and it wants to get off the table and runaway a lot of the time. You really have to focus in and take advantage of the time you have when you do write those things. When it happens you delve into yourself quite deeply. I find the gems that sparkle the brightest are the ones we dig deepest for.”
This journey through his life eventually led him to reconnect with his dad who he had not seen since he was a child. He spent four years filming the documentary Shut up and Say Something with friend and filmmaker Stuart Gillies and directed by Melanie Wood. The documentary has been a must-see production on the international film festival circuit since debuting in Vancouver a month ago.
The movie was completely different than anything he has done before.
“It’s thousands of hours of footage being distilled down into basically a drop — 90 minutes,” said Koyczan. “You know in your core what it took to get to that place, what you went through to do those things, but none of that ends up on film. It’s a jarring experience to have to watch, but I’m glad I did it because it opened up this other world to me with my family.”
Constantly unwrapping his story to the world does have its drawbacks. For as much truth as he speaks, it can paint a false picture of himself through other’s interpretation.
Despite spending his professional life in the spotlight, he is admittedly socially awkward. People tend take his words and write themselves into his work and project that story onto him. And for as much as he is surrounded by a theatre full of people for two hours a night, it can still be a lonely existence. People think they know him by his work, but they do not really know him.
“It’s really hard when you go and you’re telling people ‘here are these personal things’ and they’re immediately attaching their own thing to that,” he said. “As you get more popular and successful, you think your circle increases. … But the people that were around in the beginning become more and more important, because you start to realize that these are the people that have seen the journey since the beginning.”
Koyczan is done writing about himself for the time being. He started a new production company with Gillies to work more on film, allowing his heart to repair itself “from the swiss cheese it’s become over the years.”
He is focusing his new material on the world around him about the good and the bad and the issues that define this generation like climate change, the online world and tragedies.
“They’re still emotional works, but they don’t come from an emotional place,” said Koyczan.
His show is a little different every night, much of it depends on how he feels heading into the performance, or if there is some kind of an anniversary. But he will not just sit on one emotional level for an entire show. He will balance it out with a full range of the human psyche.
“I think that life is messy. It consists of all those different things,” said Koyczan. “What I try to do with a show is I try to take people on a tour of their emotional range, because we all have that range …
“People are constantly being told to shut off that part of themselves, but it is important that they have those moments of release as well, that emotional release.”
He has toured around the world, lived in major cities like Vancouver, but finds himself gravitating back to smaller centres like Penticton where he currently lives. Koyczan says playing smaller communities like Camrose has given him some of his favourite memories on the road because of their unpredictability derived from an absence of expectation.
“I enjoy smaller communities … because they still have a sense of what community actually is,” he said. “A lot of cities are starting to lose that.”
Tickets are available at the Lougheed Centre box office and at camroselive.ca with curtains at 8 p.m.