Shawn Hebb Makes The Long Journey Home

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Depending with whom you speak, the travelling associated with being a musician is either the worst thing in the world or is one of the perks of their job.

While being on tour does sometimes afford musicians to see the cities in which they are performing, more often than not, sightseeing is minimal at best. But virtually all musicians will agree on one thing: The 90 minutes or two hours they get to spend on stage makes the travel worthwhile.

To this end, Nova Scotia’s Shawn Hebb is a bit of a wandering spirit. The son of a military man, Shawn spent much of his life growing up in Brighton, Ont., but also lived in Germany. So exactly how did this world traveller end up calling Nova Scotia his home?

‘My father and his family all called the South Shore of Nova Scotia home,’ Hebb begins. ‘It is where I spent the bulk of my summer vacations and holidays when I was growing up. It was the place that didn’t really change throughout my life. I still have family here… My aunt lives in the house that my father grew up in.’ Before Hebb was calling Nova Scotia home, he got some serious world travels under his belt.

While he technically lived in Toronto, he began performing on cruise ships to help make ends meet. He says that experience is largely responsible for furthering his on-themove spirit.

‘I was never that keen to play on cruise ships but the experience is really what instilled the idea of moving out of Toronto in my head. Toronto was a great place to live when I was in my 20s and 30s. I had a lot of fun and really, had no responsibility. And then I guess that I started growing up and got serious with a pretty girl I met. Neither of us were big city folks. She was working 10 hours a day with those crazy Toronto commutes and I was working on cruise ships, gone for four months at a time. It really wasn’t all that fun at all.’

The idea that Shawn and his wife would make the move to Nova Scotia was planted while they were on vacation in the province. Hearing the ocean and various aquatic wildlife as well already being familiar with the relaxed pace of life helped to cement their decision to permanently relocate.

In a roundabout kind of way, it is Hebb’s frequent moves that have contributed to the diversity of his music. If you had to apply only one label to his music, folk would probably be the best catch-all. But what is interesting about his music is that shades of many other music genres find their way into it.

‘I think that moving around in the military had a lot to do with my musical diversity,’ he says. ‘I would end up having new friends every couple of years and with those friends would come new musical tastes. I never really hung out with one particular clique though. I’d be just as comfortable hanging out with the guys who listened to heavy metal as I would the jocks or the goth kids.

‘Having been born in the ’70s, I think that is a big reason why my music tastes are a little more diverse, as well. Back then, it seemed as though music was constantly changing and evolving. I saw disco, hard rock, punk, new wave, heavy metal and grunge all rear their heads, so to speak.’

While Hebb’s debut record Tourist was recorded at his home in Toronto, his sophomore album Long Way Home was recorded at his home in Nova Scotia. Thanks to today’s significant technological advances, independent musicians need not enter a recording studio at a cost of $500 a day to create a world-class sounding album.

Hebb says he has enjoyed the process of making his records at home.

‘I very much like the do-it-yourself approach,’ he says. ‘If you have an idea, you can do it. I’m lucky that I am able to play other instruments as well and you simply learn as you go along.’

For all of the benefits of recording at home, however, Hebb admits he was sometimes his own worst critic when it came to finding the right sounds and vibe for his songs.

‘When you take the time to make an album at home, you spend a bunch of time just working out where to put the microphones and what kind of guitar sound you want. If you spend too much time on those details, the creative spark just goes out. I know that in the past, I’ve recorded something that I come back to listen to the next day and end up scrapping the whole thing and starting over. It isn’t exactly conducive to finishing albums,’ he says.

While he is happy to work on his own, Hebb doesn’t rule out the possibility of bringing in a producer for guidance on future releases. While he admits he can be relatively stubborn, he says that having another voice and another vision involved in the process is something he and his music could benefit from.

‘I would love to work with a producer, especially to have someone bring a vision to the table that I might not have thought of. The goal is to be creative and have fun, after all.’

Article published in the June 17, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript