Perth-based singer-songwriter Helen Shanahan is due to release her new album Canvas on March 4th. Recently releasing the single of the same name, an emotional and vulnerable track about allowing oneself to be completely taken over by another person. Helen will be playing a local launch show to celebrate the album on March 5th at Night Owl Studios in Morley WA. We caught up with Helen for a quick Q+A
Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with Hear 2 Zen, what have you been up to today?
Hi! I’ve been looking after my 1 year old daughter Bonnie – while trying to do some music admin in the small windows of naptime!
Tell us about yourself, how long have you been performing/creating music for?
I’ve been writing music since my teen years, and started performing and releasing music in 2009. It took me a long time to get the courage to put myself out there, but when I did, I knew that it was where I wanted to be. I am now a published songwriter, so my songs are in the Mushroom Music Publishing library to be pitched to TV and Film. I have been lucky to travel overseas and perform and record in Nashville, and spent 2019 living in London.
Who are your greatest inspirations? Why?
My greatest inspirations musically, are people like Missy Higgins and Joni Mitchell. I love their honest lyrics and unique voices. I think staying true to yourself is very hard in this industry, so I look up to people that haven’t changed who they are to get their music heard.
How do you create music? Are you lyrics/story driven, or does the music/melody come first? Explain your process.
I have always kept a journal with me since my early school years. I did it to help me manage my anxiety, and it’s something that I still do to this day (although the entries are getting more spaced out now I am running after a toddler, haha!). I then look through my journal and search for something that might inspire a song, and when I find that I start writing lyrics. After I’ve jotted a few lyrical ideas down, I’ll get out my guitar (sometimes piano) and start seeing where the melody wants to go.
What has been your greatest challenge so far in performing/creating music?
My greatest challenge in performing music is definitely the negative self talk before and after a performance. It’s been something that I’ve really had to work on. At first I could barely talk to the crowd, it’s now much easier (although I probably do nervously ramble too much now!). I think we’re always our own worst self critic, and it’s definitely a challenge I’ve faced over the years.
Tell us about your new single ‘Canvas’, how did it come about?
The song ‘Canvas’ was born from the theme of lessons. I thought about what I had learned over the years – and as a people pleaser, I had definitely learned how to make myself small and say yes to things that didn’t always make me happy. The song was written quite quickly, it was cathartic to write.
‘Canvas’ is from your forthcoming album of the same name due out March 4, what can fans expect from the album?
Fans can expect a similar feel to my 2017 album ‘Every Little Sting’, but the themes on this album are perhaps slightly darker. Brad Jones produced both my albums, and he is the master at bringing these songs to life with thoughtful and interesting arrangements.
Tell us your favourite Zen practice.
I meditate every evening, and during the day when I can- using the app ‘Insight Timer’. I don’t think I could cope without it! I also journal when I can which really helps me clear my mind.