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20 Questions With Shane Cloutier

The tattooed hulk talks discord, Lauryn Hill, crocodiles, PBB sammiches & more.

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Shane Cloutier is not what you expect. And he likes it that way. Looking at the muscle-bound, tattoo-sleeved singer-guitarist (and member of Frank Marino’s Mahogany Rush), you might expect his music to be brutally loud, fast and heavy. You’d be wrong. Cloutier’s two solo albums are introspective, emotionally cathartic indie-folk that find him confronting personal demons and wearing his heart on his sleeve. Today, Cloutier goes the extra mile and confronts my stupid questions — and comes up with a few unexpected revelations. Which is what you should expect from him, I guess. If that makes any sense. Anway, read on:

 


 

Introduce yourself: Name, age (feel free to lie), home base, other details you’d like to share (height, weight, identifying marks, astrology sign, your choice). 
My name is Shane Cloutier, I’m a singer-songwriter from Ontario. My image doesn’t always match what people would expect to hear from my music but I kind of like the juxtaposition.

What is your musical origin story? 
My Mom used reverse psychology on me at a young age: She suggested I probably wouldn’t be very good at guitar. Of course, I had to prove her wrong. It got to the point where my parents were trying to encourage me to leave my room and spend time with my friends because I was playing guitar so obsessively.

What do we need to know about your latest project?

My latest music came so naturally and quickly there was no time to overthink it. It’s acoustic with an edge. I experimented with beats and cello to bring out the guts, I’m really happy with the emotion they pull in.


What truly sets you apart from other artists?
Do I need to be set apart? I think I’m in some pretty great company. Honestly though, I love to find beauty in discord. You’ll find chord progressions and structures that are a bit unorthodox in my music. I try and use melody to tie dissonance together and stay as authentic as I can in my writing. If it sounds contrived it gets torn apart.

What will I learn or how will my life improve by listening to your music? 
I’m sure I can’t improve your life, but the topics I sing about may resonate, maybe during those moments the listener won’t feel so alone. I’ve been through tragedy, and music has helped me survive.

Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played and what you got paid. 

The first song I wrote was with my high school metal band in Grade 9 — angry teenage metal written at short notice for a basement gig. I was paid in beer. The song sucked, but we were so excited.



What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you gave?

During an intimate songwriter’s circle at the Simcoe St. Theatre in Collingwood, ON with Graham Trude (Singing Soldiers) and Brian Good (The Good Brothers), I played a song that I had just written. The atmosphere was right, the audience was truly listening, and the sound was great. I played Troubling for the first time and when I finished there was a thick silence. Some guy in the audience said, “Holy shit” and then the applause broke out and I could finally breath again. My love for songwriter stages, hearing the other artists and the adrenaline of trying a new song made it a great night.

What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you’ve seen another artist give?
Although I wasn’t there, the live performance of Lauryn Hill on Unplugged. That performance tore apart and mended my heart several times over. It felt shockingly honest to me. On another note, Napalm Death at The Opera House in Toronto blew my mind. That band was tighter live than their recording, I was so impressed.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years? 
I hope by then we’ll be out of this creepy COVID situation, although honestly, I’ll probably still be writing music in my basement! I do miss human connection though.

What living or dead artists would you collaborate with if you could? 

Yo-Yo Ma, Danzig, Adele, Frank Zappa

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What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?  
I mostly listen to metal, I’m obsessed with Napalm Death and Slayer. But I love being exposed to a range of styles. You’ll catch me listening to Run the Jewels or Ella Fitzgerald.

What are your favourite songs / albums / artists right now? 

Orville Peck, hands down. He’s a country/alternative artist (which is completely the opposite to my taste). I admire that he has the balls to be himself in a genre with a bad track record for tolerance. I love his album Pony; it’s heartfelt and authentic and his music comes from the gut. The first time I heard it I listened to it a dozen times on repeat.

How about some other favourites: Authors, movies, painters, you name it.

I love all the old classics but I’m a big Marvel fan too. A recent discovery of British television has also brought me to resent laugh tracks; I can’t un-hear them now.



Who would you be starstruck to meet?
Ozzy.

What’s your favourite joke?
All of my own Dad jokes. Mostly because of my kids’ reaction to them. They’re not amused.

What do you drive and why?

Toyota 4-Runner, because it looks like a storm trooper.



What superpower do you want and how would you use it?
I already have one. I’m “in the way” guy. I would never save the day, but I’d delay all the bad stuff by 10 minutes so the real superheroes could save the day.

What skills — useful or useless — do you have outside of music?

I’m pretty great at Magic: The Gathering. I can also install a garage door. I went to school for DSW and specialized in working with people with brain injuries and ASD.

What do you collect? 

Guitars, vinyl, Magic cards. I also have an unnecessary amount of books on WW2.

If I had a potluck, what would you bring? 
An appetite and beer (it makes me handsome).

What current trend or popular thing do you not understand at all? 

Mom jeans. Also, my kids do these TikTok dances that honestly to me just look like bad dancing. They call me “boomer.”

Tell us about your current and/or former pets. 
Sam, cat, RIP
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Sarjeant, dog, RIP
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Abby, dog, RIP.
Pickles, hamster, RIP (short lived).
Malachi, smarmy cat, RIP.
Juni, dog, still kickin’, best dog ever, Weimaraner.
Willow, new addition, total brat, Weimaraner.

If you could have any other job besides music, what would it be and why?
Zoologist, specially focused on herpetology, because crocodiles fascinate me. I even jumped in a crocodile enclosure once (crap idea)!

What’s the best advice and/or worst advice you were ever given?
Best: Frank Marino — “Fuck ’em, play whatever music you want.”

Worst: Unfortunately many individuals — “You should be playing this, you should be playing that.”



BONUS: Feel free to write and answer your own question here if you want. How is the perfect peanut butter and banana sandwich made?
I’m soooo glad you asked! It starts with fresh sourdough bread 1 inch thick toasted, peanut butter evenly spread exactly 1/2 inch thick on both pieces of toast, this is also the point where you take a deep breath and tell yourself that it is not too much peanut butter and everyone who says otherwise can shut up. Then take one fully ripe banana and cut it into coins exactly 3/8 inches thick, put as many of these as you can fit without it going over the edge (be persuasive) finish the assembly. Best enjoyed with beer and classic Chuck Norris films.

Watch Shane Cloutier’s videos above, hear more of his music below, and keep up with him on his website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.