In a move somewhat similar to the lead character in the TV show 800 Words who moves his family from Australia to New Zealand for a new start following the death of his wife…and to re-learn how to surf, singer-songwriter Andrew Shaver moved to Australia to “flip his chi” following a romantic break-up. Plus he learned how to surf! But while the Tasman Sea is a formidable distance to travel for a life re-boot, it’s nothing compared to the journey from Canada to Australia.
“We went from cold to hot in a 16-hour plane ride. It just sort of flipped things,” said Andrew. “It turned everything upside down for me quite literally. It shook a bunch of stuff out of me that I didn’t know was there.”
The result of that experience forms the basis of Artefact, the debut album from Clever Hopes, Andrew’s duo with Eva Foote. The two first met during the Montreal production of the musical "Once".
“It’s the Glen Hansard/Markéta Irglová musical that was based on the 2007 film the two of them acted in. Then it became a smash Broadway musical,” Andrew recounted. “I directed the Montreal production. I didn’t know Eva; she came in to audition for the female lead. She blew me away the moment she walked through the door. By the time she was halfway through her audition I said, ‘That’s her. That’s Girl.’ She then basically picked up the production on her shoulders and carried it across the finish line.”
A regular activity for the cast and crew was to head to the bar after a performance where they would have a few drinks and pass around a guitar.
“The whole cast were buddies of mine; it was such a terrific time,” he Andrew said. “We would all play songs downstairs, and I was able to contribute so long as we were playing covers. I could bash out a Gordon Lightfoot or a Neil Young or something. But as the run went on, the covers expired, and it was time to start playing originals. Then I became the guy who was passing the guitar from one person to the next. It really bummed me out ’cause I had written songs, but long ago, and I had forgotten them.”
After a lot of encouragement and cajoling from Eva, Andrew finally re-learned one of his songs.
“She was really supportive and said, ‘That’s a great song. You’ve got a great voice. You should keep doing that,'” he said. So the roles turned from me being the director to her encouraging me. I set about to write some songs and said to myself, ‘If we all get together a year from now, I want it to be different. I want to be able to hold my own in this group.’ It was almost a year to the day we went into the studio and recorded a whole album of my original tunes! I made good on the promise to myself largely buoyed by Eva’s encouragement.”
Following the end of a relationship, Andrew left Montreal for Toronto, where he took up residence in Matthew Barber’s spare room.
“Matt’s one of my oldest and closest friends,” he said. “He produced and mixed Artefact and plays on it.”
After coming up with the initial idea for the song 'Made You Mad' with Eva, Andrew finished most of the song at Matthew’s apartment before heading to Australia a few weeks later, guitar in hand.
“I knew I wanted [the guitar] because I was feeling inspired,” he said. “Nothing like a broken heart, travel, a new place, new people and the possibility to see yourself differently and re-invent yourself to inspire creative output.”
Upon his return to Toronto, Andrew set the wheels in motion to record his first album, although COVID restrictions meant he couldn’t rehearse the songs with Eva until the weekend before going into the studio.
“I wrote all of the songs from my perspective and for me to sing,” Andrew said. “I was hoping Eva would sing harmonies with me. It was the first time I heard Eva sing my words along with me, and it was thrilling. It sort of took on its own life in that moment. When we were rehearsing ‘Made You Mad,’ we stumbled into what I think is the most emotionally resonant part of the song, which is the other person’s perspective. We sing to each other.”
Taking that approach to all of the songs opened up the whole concept of Artefact.
“It made it a real partnership,” he said. “I had a hard time seeing myself as a songwriter. I finally brought myself to that understanding but I’ve always felt the need to collaborate in order to create something. So Eva coming on board like that brought everything to it. It brought a whole sense of confidence and accomplishment to the songs. They’re break-up songs, so they’re written about two people. So narratively speaking it just made sense to have the other person resonate in the song through Eva.”
Moving forward with Clever Hopes, the plan is to further the collaboration between Andrew and Eva in the writing process.
“I’ve got about half an album’s worth [of songs right now],” Andrew said. “Whether we write some songs together from the ground up or whether I write a half album and she writes the other half and we figure out how to make it a full album is what we’re discussing now. Eva would really love to write some duets for the two of us. It’s still to be determined how we go about it.”
What the duo has accomplished so far is beyond what Andrew originally envisioned.
“When I came into this process, it was in some ways a vanity project. The last thing the world needs is another Folk-Americana album,” he said. “My friends will like it, my family will probably like it, but [its purpose] was really just to have that experience for me as an artist. I really did think if I release it, and people pay attention, or don’t pay attention, it doesn’t matter. I’m overjoyed at how this album is being received and at the possibility of what we’re going to do next.”
For more on Clever Hopes, check out cleverhopes.com.