Picking up and moving on after a hurtful or traumatic experience is never an easy thing. And sometimes, the pain and the damage suffered can be so profound and lasting that reconciling with one’s frail and vulnerable state might feel like the only feasible option. In such instances, regret over past actions can often feel like a futile and meaningless task, especially when confronted with the emotional and psychological wasteland that comprises the present moment.
In the case of Ontario singer-songwriter, Shae Tull, this numbing sense of intimacy with the fractured pieces of a shattered self informs the rueful lyricism in their latest single “Bedsit.” A soft-spoken and intimate acoustic ballad, “Bedsit” presents the listener with a narrator whose internal world has seemingly been turned upside down.
Although we’re never told exactly what transpired that led to the singer’s fragile mental state, Tull does provide us with vivid descriptions of an abject and lamentable world littered with dead orchids, “spoiled milk,” and faceless “mannequins tossed around by wind.” In this spiritual post-apocalyptic no-man’s land, both past and future appear as distant concepts divorced from the immutable state of decay that defines the singer’s broken heart.
Yet it’s also out of this unsavory and irremediable state of affairs that Tull manages to salvage kernels of hope and glimmers of truth. Bolstered by an affliction that tugs at their heart’s core, the speaker comes to accept and appreciate a pain that is both healing and transcendent. And in the end, this deeply existential epiphany brings a measure of comfort to the grieving narrator, as it irrefutably reinforces the power and beauty of a life that’s still worth living.
How long have you been writing and composing music?
I got into it seriously at about 18-19 years, in the mid 2010s. I used to make these silly joke songs, when I was a bit younger. I probably didn’t understand that I was actually decent at writing songs until I was maybe 21.
Who would you cite as some of your biggest influences?
My number one biggest influence would have to be Daniel Johnston. I got into his stuff when I was 16/17, a very rough place in my life at the time. and I was quite obsessed for a while. I’ve always kind of been a social outcast, and I feel like he was probably a hero to a lot of people like that. I can honestly say I had no intentions of writing music before I got into his stuff.
I listen to a lot of music, so it all kind of finds its way in my music, but other big influences include: Neutral Milk Hotel/all of Elephant 6; anti-folk artists such as as Jeffrey Lewis and Kimya Dawson; The Beach Boys (mostly the harmonies)…there are a lot of influences.
To what extent does your environment shape or influence your songwriting?
Without trying to sound overly sad or anything, I’ve had to be by myself a lot, and certainly a lot of inspiration draws from that feeling of isolation/longing. I do imagine that it’s conveyed in a lot of my recordings. I’m definitely more able to write a song if I’m actively around close friends.
How has the pandemic affected you as a musician and artist?
It’s truly unfortunate honestly, no other way to say it. I’ve felt a bit lost, I’ve always been partial to going to random record stores and giving whoever is working there a tape, and I certainly can’t do that right now. I’m forever dreaming of a time where I can play a show again. I play online sets sometimes, but it’s certainly not the same. Generally it’s a lot harder to keep busy.
What do you see in your horizon as a musician?
I really can’t tell, there are too many variables. What I’ve done so far has felt very slow. I’m hoping to one day be apart of a real tour or something, though I’ve never been good at booking shows. As for future projects, I have a friend who’s thought of making a DIY home studio in the future. If it happens I would really like to record an album of songs that were originally recorded on tape, I feel like some of them deserve a new life. I just know I can’t stop, because I wouldn’t really know what to do at that point.
Any advice you’d like to share with other up-and-coming independent artists?
Never been good at advice. In general, I’d say it’s very good to be patient, there will be times where it seems like there’s no interest but there could shortly be an event that proves it wrong. Perhaps, try not to be afraid of looking silly while putting yourself out there.