Thirty-five years ago, a future world-renowned poet was born in Yellowknife. After being bullied as a child in Penticton, Shane Koyczan emerged as an acclaimed spoken-word artist. He was the first Canadian to clinch the Individual Championship honour at the American National Poetry Slam. Since then, he has appeared at various book and writers' festivals, filling the stage with his moving words and passionate intonations. Six years ago, he formed a band called the Short Story Long, and they now engage in collaborative efforts to compose accompanying music to his poetry.
Remembrance Year, released on March 16, is the Short Story Long's second major album release. It is more mature than the previous one, according to Koyczan, with developed sounds and solid themes that he feels are "a better offering from what I had put on in the past."
The album commemorates the landmarks in a person's life. These milestones accumulate and shape individual experiences. Koyczan explains the need for us to pay "homage" to certain moments in our lives.
He said the most challenging thing he faced in the making of Remembrance Year was "[the song] 'My Darling Sara.'
"It was the hardest to record. I could only do [the recording] once a day, and then I have to wait two more days to do it again. I had to get the right feeling and emotion for it," says Koyczan.
"My Darling Sara," along with other tracks like "Visiting Hours" and "Insider," hold a special place in Koyczan's heart because of the emotional connection he has to all of them.
"I just hope that [listeners] will see that regardless of whatever differences you may have with other people, [we have] connectivity with each other," says Koyczan. "And while not every experience is the same, they are not entirely unique either. There are universal themes. People suffer and enjoy the same happiness, and we can share it with each other."
Aside from the release of Remembrance Year, Koyczan has his third book, Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty, lined up to hit stores on April 18.
This collection of poetry introduces the idea that we are constantly moving and travelling, something Koyczan sees as riding our deathbeds throughout our lives.
"[Our deathbeds] are kind of like horses, steeds that we ride into the sunset. How much effort you put into your life is how much you are going to get out of it -- you ride," he explains.
The book touches on personal journeys that Koyczan himself has experienced. He suffered from depression at one point in his life, and turned to levity and humour to cope with it. He likes playing the curator, handing people the keys to his "museum" and letting them observe what is on display.
"They should try not to break the glass, though," laughs Koyczan.
Koyczan also plans to work on the script for the latest addition to the Australian action film franchise Mad Max after the Short Story Long finishes the Canadian tour on April 21 in British Columbia. He also hopes to start touring on the folk-festival circuit this summer.
Koyczan mentions that despite his troubled schooldays, he is very glad and blessed to have come this far.
"I didn't really start writing until [I reached] university," Koyczan reveals. "For a long time, I was told nothing I said or wrote held any value or meaning. It wasn't until I had that moment in university when I started to break out and express myself.
"The greatest accomplishment I achieved is [being] a writer. I'm pretty proud that I stuck with this and it has been amazing. The opportunities that have come my way have been absolutely incredible," remarks Koyczan.