By Mike Baker
Shannon Roszell’s love affair with music began, in her own words, in the most Canadian way imaginable.
“My first memories of music were listening to Gordon Lightfoot while driving around with my mom in the car. It’s like the most Canadian thing ever,” Roszell admitted.
Having recently released her debut single Gonna Love You, Roszell, a member of the Haliburton County Folk Society, shares the unique story behind her foray into the world of music. It’s one of perseverance, and should serve as inspiration to anyone looking to chase their dream.
Very much a late bloomer, Roszell was 30-years-old before she really picked up a guitar for the first time. Having spent years in school, completing teachers’ college, obtaining a Master’s degree in performing arts and beginning a PhD program, Roszell decided to pivot. She had just been through a tough break-up and packed up all that she owned and moved to Vancouver.
“This whole thing basically started with me hitting rock bottom,” Roszell said. “I was living in a basement apartment, playing my guitar and singing. I had agreed to sing for my best friend at his wedding, so was practicing for that. I would spend five hours a day, every day just playing.”
With each passing day, music became a more significant part of Shannon’s life. She attended an audition for the Granville Island Busking program. Before long, she was entertaining people on the streets.
Looking to progress even further, Roszell paired up with another musician. Together, they spent months meeting and playing, toying with the idea of writing a song of their own. This was back in 2013, when, Shannon says, she was still trying to discover her sound and figure out how to truly make music.
It was during those early days that Roszell first conceptualized Gonna Love You.
“It took me years to write it, because it’s just this really big topic that I didn’t really know how to address or talk about,” Roszell said. “It started as an improvisation on the environment, how I feel about it and what we should be doing to protect it, and was like 11 or 12 minutes long when I first recorded it.”
The finished article, which includes a music video, is four minutes and 15 seconds long and still very much centres on the themes that inspired her all those years ago.
“It’s a sort of post-apocalyptic love song to our damaged earth. It is about the constancy of love set in the landscape of environmental decline,” Roszell said. “With this song, I wanted to remind people and governments that we need to take environmental action alongside dealing with the pandemic. We need to build back better, healthier and greener.”
The single was released on April 22, which also happens to be Earth Day. Roszell was quick to point out that that was no coincidence. Following in the footsteps of global superstars such as Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Barenaked Ladies, Roszell signed the Music Declares Emergency declaration this year, vowing to do her part to “help protect all life on Earth.” The declaration has been signed by 2,613 artists across the world, with the mandate of standing together and calling on world governments to respond to the global climate crisis.
Roszell is currently working on an album, which she says will carry a symphonic indie rock sound and feel.
“I think that’s kind of my own made up genre, because there really isn’t a genre that, I found, describes my music very well,” Roszell said. “I call it symphonic because it has all these orchestral sounds in it. It’s not rock like you would think, with the traditional backing band. There’s no bass, or drum – just me with an electric guitar. Combined, it’s a beautiful orchestral voicing that, to me, feels pretty anthemic. It’s a big sound.”
As with most performers, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner into Roszell’s plans. She was hoping to release her single and then immediately start playing live shows, steadily releasing more songs from her upcoming album. While those plans have been temporarily shelved, Shannon says she is planning to host an outdoor concert, in some format, this summer.
Where her career goes from there is anyone’s guess, Roszell says. She plans to take a pottery course at the Haliburton School of Art + Design this summer to keep her options open.
“It’s hard to say where I see this thing going. For me, the more people that hear my music, the better. Am I chasing fame and fortune? I don’t think so. The reason I write songs and perform them is because I enjoy making art. It brings me so much joy, internally, to know that I’ve made music and can share it with people, and talk to people about it,” Roszell said. “What I want to do, and what I plan to do is just continue writing and releasing music, doing other things that interest me, and see where that takes me.”
As Shannon says, simply going with the swing of things has served her well thus far.
For more on Shannon’s career, and to listen to her music, visit www.shannonroszell.com.