Ian Sherwood's dirty secret

Ian Sherwood explores the strangeness of everyday life in his songs

- April 6, 2011

(Nick Pearce Photo)
(Nick Pearce Photo)

He calls it his “dirty secret,” because what self-respecting, singing-for-his-supper, traveling musician would fess up to an economics degree?

“Having an economics degree makes me know how much money I don’t have,” says Ian Sherwood dryly.


Ah well, you’ve got to do what’s true to your heart, which is exactly what he did, picking up his saxophone and guitar and moving to Toronto to study music following his graduation from Dalhousie in 1998. While there, he became part of the jazz scene, then returning to the east coast in 2005 to start again, this time as a singer-songwriter.

“I sort of overdosed on the whole jazz scene and it didn’t suit me: I was a square peg in a round hole and I wanted a solid break,” explains Mr. Sherwood, 34, over coffee at the Coburg Coffee House.

He’s definitely found his groove, writing his best songs when he’s on the road, singing lines over and over to himself until he can pull over and jot them down. He in demand as a session musician, as well as arranging and creating for other musicians.

His third CD, And Now the Fun Begins, is just out, along with a flurry of accolades, including being named for the second time, Music Nova Scotia’s Musician of the Year, and an East Coast Music Association nomination for best male solo recording. (The ECMAs take place in Charlottetown this year, from April 13 to 17.) Being an economic major is actually useful as he builds his career in the music business; there are business plans and grant proposals to write, people to network with, CDs to market and performances to set up—whether at a house party playing solo before a handful of guests or at a soft-seater backed up by a five-piece band and playing for hundreds.

“When I’m making music I’m cognizant of the audience: who’s going to want this and who’s going to enjoy this?” he says. “If I’m really going to work at this as a career, I have to look at the money-making side of it.”

He saves his dreaming for his songs, trying to imagine what a lost love is up to, halfway across the world in the wistful Cape Town or how good love can be in the intimate We’re Not Alone. He puts on an old-timey cowboy persona for the amusing What Am I Doing Here?, the raucous Old Duke Dixon, and the over-the-top hilarious You Shot Our Love Down. (Hmm, guess that relationship is over?) You’d swear the guy is wearing spurs over his snowboots.

Revelling in weird

Sometimes his songs are inspired by personal matters (perhaps a song on fatherhood soon? His partner Genevieve Steele, a Dal theatre grad, is having a baby) and the strangeness of everyday life. With a love of the Muppets and Jim Henson, he wrote the quirky song Sad Goat, thinking about Rowlf playing the piano to his little puppy friend, and, not remembering the lyrics, made up his own Rowlf-like song. (“Who are we to joke of a love between a sheep and goat?”)

“That sort of weirdness I really enjoy, to create something that isn’t real, that hasn’t been said,” he says. “And just trying to be as honest as possible.”

LINK: Ian Sherwood's website


All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus