“If I had any advice to give it would simply be to be yourself! I know its very cliché but in the music industry people connect with music that is real and honest so as long as you stay true to who you are people will resonate with that.”
– Helen Shanahan
Musician and Singer/Songwriter
I heard about Perth Singer/Songwriter Helen Shanahan through a friend and am very excited to start off the 31 days with her beautiful music. Described as Acoustic/Folk/Pop, check out her title track Driftwood, and read on to find out more about Helen and her work.
I love the song Close to you on your latest album Driftwood. Out of your 8 original songs, which is your favourite and why?
Thank you very much! I am probably my own worst critic so it is hard for me to pinpoint a favourite!! However the song I loved hearing come to life would probably be Driftwood, as it was a last minute addition to the album but it ended up being the title track! I borrowed a special guitar for the song and it had a nice stripped back sound, which I thought added a nice point of difference on the album.
Musically, who would you say is your biggest influence?
My biggest influence musically would probably be Missy Higgins. She was the first singer/songwriter I heard that I thought ‘I want to do that too’. Her melodies are so beautiful and her songwriting is very honest. I think I may faint if I ever got the chance to meet her! Joni Mitchell is also another great influence along with Laura Marling and Patty Griffin.
When did you first pick up a guitar?
I first picked up a guitar in grade 5, and after many attempts to quit my dad kept encouraging me to keep on going! Of course he is taking credit for it now, but I am truly grateful to him for making me stick with it! I am still having lessons now as there is still so much to learn with the guitar!
Where do you like to go for creative inspiration?
I usually get inspiration from my own life experiences and for some reason if I can’t explain how I feel I find it easier to write. For inspiration I love watching live music and hearing really great songwriters. There is a great hub of local talent in Perth and it is inspiring to hear their songs. Also just listening to my favorite artists inspires me to keep writing!
Is it an emotional experience sharing your personal songs with your audience?
It is definitely an emotional experience sharing my songs with an audience. As I said earlier I write from my personal experiences so it can be quite soul baring. Especially if it’s something I have just written it feels very raw and sometimes it takes me a good few months to share something new, as I need to get used to the idea of people possibly hearing it!
Are you used to performing in front of large crowds now, or is there always stage nerves?
I am a very nervous person and no matter how large or small I always feel the pangs of nerves!! However the nerves have got a lot better since I first started! My first gig was at an open mic night at Mojos in North Fremantle and I remember clinging to the guitar for dear life and hardly speaking at all! I feel a lot more comfortable now but there is still that element of nerves.
Who plays in the band with you when you perform?
When I perform I have some amazing musicians who studied with me at WAAPA (West Australian Academy of Performing Arts) and also some who were my teachers at the time! I feel so honored that they want to play my music and every time they play with me I am amazed at what they come up with and what they add to the songs.
If you had any advice for future solo performers, what would you tell them?
If I had any advice to give it would simply be to be yourself! I know its very cliché but in the music industry people connect with music that is real and honest so as long as you stay true to who you are people will resonate with that.
Tell us more about your regular gigs.
I have one regular gig on Friday nights at the Torch Bar in Scarborough opposite observation city. It is from 7.30pm -10pm and I play a mix of covers and my original material. Next year I have a 12 month mentorship with Mushroom Music and they are helping me with gigs over East, so I am hopefully going to be organizing a tour and many more gigs in Perth! I will be revamping my website in the next few weeks but I will always post gigs on my Facebook page til then!