Shawna Caspi

Shawna Caspi
Photo by Roni Hoffman

Shawna Caspi

I’m a singer-songwriter and fingerstyle guitar player and I’ve been on the road playing festivals, concert halls, church basements, living rooms, cafes, back porches, train cars, and anywhere else people want to gather. I also create landscape paintings of places that I see in my travels.

Tell us about your background. Who you are? Where you are from?

I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario but I’m now based in Toronto. When I was a kid, I sang in children’s choirs, which led me to attend an art high school in Ottawa where I studied classical voice. I also started taking classical guitar lessons when I was in high school, which is what inspired my fingerstyle guitar technique.

As a teenager, I started discovering Canadian singer-songwriters through festivals and online discussion forums and really got into supporting independent musicians in particular. I was drawn to folk music, and at the time Ottawa had three strong pillars driving the folk scene – the Ottawa Folk Festival, Rasputin’s Folk Café, and the Ottawa Folklore Centre.

I worked at Rasputin’s for a year, where I was introduced to a ton of amazing folk music and I bought the guitar I’ve been playing for 18 years at the Ottawa Folklore Centre. After high school, I moved to Toronto to study music at York University and have been in the city ever since.

What themes does your music explore and what do you hope the listener will take away from the experience?

I think my songs shine a light on the little things, moments that might otherwise be missed, amplifying voices that are being silenced. My goal is to be open, authentic, and uninhibited, and to tell the truth, even if it might be uncomfortable. And I hope the listener can relate, feel heard, feel less alone. I hope listeners walk away with something to think about, and maybe some questions to ask.

Were you influenced by a certain person, artist, or genre?

While I was classically trained, it was clear to me by the time I was in university, that I didn’t have plans to be a classical performer. I was a big Sarah McLachlan fan in high school, which led me to discover a whole bunch of other singer-songwriters through fan newsgroups on the internet – people like Sarah Slean, Emm Gryner, and Danny Michel, who were writing amazing songs and operating largely without the help of major labels. That was really inspiring.

As I became more connected with the music community in Toronto and the folk music community across Canada, I kept meeting more and more people who were doing what I wanted to do – writing original music and touring it across the country. I always come back to a Dar Williams show I saw back when I was living in Ottawa. It was just her and her guitar on stage at the National Library Theatre. And she drew in that audience with a brilliant, engaging show – one person, one guitar. That’s how I knew it was possible.

If you could compare your music to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why?

\I’ve heard people compare my music to other works…funnily enough, Dar was one of those comparisons. I suspect that had something to do with the way the text flows in some of my lyrics – a bit asymmetrical and thoughtfully poetic. I get a lot of Joni Mitchell comparisons, especially when I’m touring in the USA, I guess because I’m a solo female singer-songwriter from Canada who plays in all these weird guitar tunings and I also paint.

Tell us about your latest music and what inspired you.

My latest album is called “Forest Fire” and it’s a bit of a darker album. I chose that title because it felt like all the songs were about renewal and growth, where something had to be burned down or someone had to hit rock bottom before they could build upwards again. I have been and continue to be inspired by people I meet, relationships, politics, poetry.

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