A man driven by the humble truths of staying happy and keeping positive, singer-songwriter Robbie Shirriff of Old Towns shares his hardships and triumphs within his music. An important reminder that a musician is their words and their presence–smoke and mirrors distracts from what's really important. He sings, plays his guitars, and that is all it needs to be. Have a listen.
Before we get started, what do we need to know about you and your work?
Old Towns is the name under which I produce music, mostly acoustic singer/songwriter these days. What started as a creative outlet for my hangovers, driven by a passion to tour extensively in order to meet people, share my craft, and fulfill some odd sense of self, has become more recently my full-time job and major creative focus. Old Towns is music written by a sad old soul wasting his days leaving places behind in order to seek answers to unknown questions. I’ve been writing as Old Towns for four years now, which has allowed me unique opportunities to exchange music with people all over the world.
What do you want to say about your artistic endeavours so far?
A lot of people with a lot of talent have worked a lot harder than I have. At this point I’m just a guy that can sing and lives out of his van. We’re all individuals in how we create and express. Although it’s self-fulfilling, I hope that my music and messages can bring positivity to anyone involved.
What is the biggest pain in the ass in pursuing something creative as a career?
We live in a competitive world. No matter what you do to make ends meet, you’re part of the hustle. There’s a demand for the arts and entertainment, but not everyone wants to support it. I play music for a living. Someone could potentially come to an Old Towns gig, pay $10 to watch live music for an hour or two, or they have the option of spending that money on a streaming account to listen to endless amounts of diverse music online. People also have a need for instant gratification these days, which is taxing on an artist’s ability to create within their own timeframe. You need to constantly be booking shows, writing music, promoting yourself, maintaining an online presence, convincing people to support you before and after they’ve even experienced the art in its organic form. The biggest pain in the ass for me is that I spend a hell of a lot more time working around my art than actually on my art.
What characteristics do you have to possess to follow an artistic career path?
Persistence, motivation, leadership, determination, and hopefully enjoyment and passion for what you’re working on. Sometimes I get caught up in the business and forget why I’m pursuing an artistic career in the first place. Fortunately, it often doesn’t feel like work.
What's the crappiest job you've had?
I worked as a door-to-door salesperson for a time. It was much like self-employment as an artist, in the sense that I was in charge of my revenue based on how talented I was, save for the fact that I was the opposite of passionate about what I was selling/providing. Wandering the streets for hours at a time during an Edmonton winter, having strangers slam the door in my face, and putting money directly into the capitalist pockets sucked. Sure, I could provide customers with a good deal on internet and cable, but I’m of the opinion that people shouldn’t be spending their money of those things anyway. The takeaway was frostbite and just enough cash to pay rent. Listen to your friends: don’t be a door-to-door salesperson.
Is the artistic life lonely?
I meet amazing people every day, but I also leave them behind. We’re all part of the shared human connection. Lonely can be a subjective feeling.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
Thank you for perpetuating creative endeavours. Respect to everyone out there creating, expressing, and sharing.
Old Towns most recent release 'Breakfast at Bon's' is available on all major streaming sites (Spotify, Deezer, Rdio)
Check out more of Old Towns website
"Let’s take care of this world and of each other." - Robbie Shirriff