Take Me Home: In Conversation with Shawn Hook

What life is like for a performer during a pandemic and how a snowstorm made for a magical video

Just before the pandemic lockdowns began last year, Canadian singer, songwriter and producer Shawn Hook was in Sweden at a writers’ camp and doing some shows. Within two weeks, the chatter went from “something is happening” to “you’d better get home”. He arrived in Toronto and finished up his song “Take Me Home”.  “Thankfully, I was able to finish this song before I went into lock down, because it’s my livelihood! I’m so thankful I have music out right now” Shawn tells me. “[Take Me Home] cost me a relationship but I’m thankful I did finish it.” He adds, “But it was all good. It’s for the better.” 

A year into this pandemic, “Take Me Home” seems a perfect song of the moment, with so many unable to travel to visit their family, their annual trips “back home” cancelled. Or, maybe it’s because ‘home’ is more of a feeling or way of life that we long to get back to. Either way, the refrain “take take me home” is one so many of us feel deeply. 

“It was sunny and there was snow in the mountains and it was this perfect magical backdrop”

The last time Shawn visited his family, in the small town of South Slocan, just outside Nelson, BC, was October when he shot the music video for “Take Me Home”. The night before, as he traveled from Vanvouver, where he lives, to Nelson, BC, it started snowing and the mountain roads were closed. He had to double back and take a different route through Kelowna. Normally an 8 hour drive, it took him 13 hours to get home. The next morning, he was in a kayak at 7am on a lake, “And it was sunny and there was snow in the mountains and it was this perfect magical backdrop and I was like ‘OK, this is great. Thank god!” 

Shawn says that when we can travel again, home, South Slocan, is the first place he’ll go. But, after that, he wants to go back to New York City. He’s a guy who likes to be around people and so he figures that’s why he’s thinking of New York.  “I miss the energy of that city,” he says. “The hustle and the bustle of the people on the streets.  I don’t know if we’re ever going to go back to that. For some ways it is going to be good; some ways, I’m going to miss that. What are concerts going to look like in the future? What are public gatherings going to look like in the future? I think it’s going to take a while to get back to any pre-pandemic socialization.”

“I’m a very regimented person and my brain can only do one or two things at a high capacity so I was completely committed to just the performance.”

To fill the time usually filled with touring and putting on live shows, at the beginning of the pandemic, Shawn started a weekly Instagram Live session every Thursday for 10 weeks. “It became everything. Throughout the week, I’d bring the guests and I’d rehearse. I’m a very regimented person and my brain can only do one or two things at a high capacity so I was completely committed to just the performance.” He’s going to do more live shows in the future but “Instagram is a challenging one to do a consistent live show. It’s not just even the consistency, but more the technical aspects as well.”

But live shows online don’t compare to performing in person for an audience. I asked Shawn what it’s like inside his body when he performs. 

“Once I’m on stage and it’s show time, I leave my brain, in a good way. I leave my thoughts. I close my eyes and play music. It’s a complete expression of emotions.”

 “It’s euphoric,” he says.  “I don’t know what it is but it feels like I become someone else. Once I’m on stage and it’s show time, I leave my brain, in a good way. I leave my thoughts. We all have these thoughts, internal dialogue and I’m a Virgo so I’m always in my head thinking about everything and over analyzing things, being super-critical and trying to figure out the world’s problems. When I’m on stage, all that goes away. I close my eyes and play music. It’s a complete expression of emotions and I feel like I just channel that. And then when you have fans that are reacting and feeding off of that, it enhances the whole entire experience. Fans are such a big part of every show. That energy is just so powerful.” And it’s not just big crowds that make him feel this way. He says, “Growing up, when I was just starting, playing in coffee shops, I still had that energy, I still had that feeling.. That’s something you can’t create on a Zoom call!

Shawn Hook released his Take Me Home EP at the end of 2020 and is currently writing and producing a new album.  When he’s not working, he’s spending time listening to audiobooks and podcasts and binge-watching shows like Queen of the South  (“it’s pretty dark but it’s interesting”). Most important, though, is getting outside. “I love being outside. And, just taking some fresh air and going for a walk and trying to get out of the negative thoughts of ‘oh my god. We’re trapped!  When’s this going to be over?’… It brings me joy, literally, to just get outside and go for a walk and enjoy nature.”

 

Watch the full interview above.