Watching the world change

Justin Brake
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Alberta songwriter Rae Spoon returns for festival performances

Rae Spoon — File Photo

All his life Rae Spoon was confronted with the possibility to conform, but he would rather observe, experience, write, perform and watch the world change instead.

The 30-year-old Alberta-born songwriter is both mover and shaker these days and, for the past decade, one of the outgrowths of his honest and open life philosophy is an evolving musical style that is increasingly catching the ears of keen listeners.

Spoon first established himself as a country singer in Calgary, then the rest of Alberta, and by the time he began touring the rest of the country and overseas in Europe and Australia, his Woody Guthrie-inspired tunes began to evolve into something else.

In 2008 he released his fourth record, “Superioryouareinferior,” an honest and astute critique of Canada’s colonial past. It earned him a spot on the Polaris Music Prize long list that year and was celebrated by critics and college radio.

With the country elements of his music all but relinquished and the introduction of electronic sounds to his vocally-driven folk tunes, Spoon’s latest release, 2010’s “Love is a Hunter,” is a likely contender for the Polaris Prize again this year.

“I kind of wanted to explore love in the way where people basically try to avoid intimacy but they can’t, you know?” he explains over the phone from Montreal, where he now makes his home when he’s not on the road.

“There’s a search for intimacy at the root of people, and there are people who search for it in places where they can get beat up for trying, like queer people in small towns.”

Life experiences

With “Love is a Hunter” Spoon weaves poetic narrative from his own life experiences with universals he holds to be true.

His willingness to uncloak himself through his music and sing about his trials, tribulations, triumphs and euphoria as a transgendered person coupled with the soft innocence of his voice leads to an unavoidable cognizance of the nature of his struggle.

And perhaps that what he’s striving for.

“That’s the thing with identity politics, you never separate (them) from your music or who you are, and that goes for everybody with a gender,” he says, explaining how his gender identity is inextricably a part of his artistic expression.

“If you’re male-socialized and you want to be a man, then you still have expectations put on you, and everybody has that, so I try to remind myself of that. It’s one of the first things that comes up about me because of my voice being high and people being like, ‘What, this is a man?’

“It’s very obvious that something is going on or very obvious that I’m trans,” he says with a humble laugh. “I’m not passing as a man but, you know, a lot of people do pass as men and they change their voices. But for me, I’ve just accepted it and I just wait for the world to change. That’s what I’ve been doing for 10 years,” he adds, pausing. “And it has been slowly changing.”

Spoon returns to St. John’s for a pair of performances at the Lawnya Vawnya art festival April 21 at The Ship Pub and April 23 at a location still to be determined.

For more information visit

Organizations: The Ship Pub

Geographic location: Alberta, Calgary, Europe Australia Canada Montreal

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