Shiv Shanks - wherever the wind takes you

Posted by Ernesto Tomas on 1 July 2013

“I try to live in a way where I can walk wherever I need to. If you let your life fall to chance and you just let the wind blow you along, you can wind up in some interesting places,” says ex-bouncer Brett Shanks.

Shanks has certainly had an interesting life so far, all of which come to a head in his greasy, gritty blues folk songs. From pro wrestling school and cage fighting tournaments to janitorial work at a strip club, Shanks’ path has been unconventional, to say the least, but it’s culminated in him getting selected to play the Calgary Folk Music Festival this summer. His songs draw from his eclectic catalogue of experiences, such as working with German butchers hanging sausages. “You’ll NEVER be a sausage man!” they told him. He wanted to quit, but stuck with it for two weeks. By the end he was good at his job. It was here that he “learned how to learn”: going in each day, putting in his time and thinking throughout about something that he loved and thought about every day — music. He was hearing songs and melodies in the cacophony of machines and tools clanging and knowing he could be putting this same time and effort into playing and writing music. He left inspired and with a renewed respect for learning and practicing.

Before long, he received a call about a blues show he’d played months before and a conversation he’d forgotten about. It took time to contact the mysterious Shiv Shanks, who is evocative of Tom Waits. He had no website or Facebook page for his music at the time. “I’m kinda like the Mad Trapper,” he says. As fate would have it, his completed CD came the next day and his dream was coming true. He was going to have an audience at the site of his best musical memory, a magical jam with Cassius and Ellen McIlwaine at a past Folk Fest workshop.

“What lies beyond your wildest dreams?” replies Shanks when asked about other projects or recordings aside from Folk Fest. It’s clear that, even in the face of achieving some of his life-long goals, he’s remains steadfast in his philosophy to live and learn one day at a time