Perth-based singer-songwriter Helen Shanahan has today announced her new single Canvas, an emotional and vulnerable track about allowing oneself to be completely taken over by another person, out today. The soulful artist has also released a powerful video to accompany the track, following the life of a young girl as she grows up, learning to lessen herself to suit others, made in collaboration with filmmaker and photographer Jane Tionowidjaja. Canvas is just a taste of what is to come ahead of the release of Helen’s new album of the same name, to be released on March 4 – fans can pre-order now. Helen will be celebrating the album with a local launch show at Night Owl Studio in Morley, WA on March 5.
Canvas is evocative of Ladies of the Canyon-era Joni Mitchell, Kacey Musgraves, and Australian superstar Missy Higgins – what Helen shares with these impressive women is an innate understanding of songwriting – how to weave a story and set it to the perfect melody, the most poignant chords. She’s at her best on Canvas; soft, acoustic guitar travels steadily beneath her unique, buttery voice. Canvas is quite a sad song, but introspective, reflective as well – like a person in their 30s may look back on their behaviour during their late teens. Speaking about the song, Helen says, “The single was inspired by a theme from a songwriting group (I Heart Songwriting Club) I joined in 2018. The theme was ‘lessons’, and it made me think about how I learnt to make myself small and essentially a doormat for a particular group of people. The song brought up lots of mixed emotions, as it unravelled how that relationship effected my adult life and how I had to ‘unlearn’ my feelings of low self-esteem and worth.”
The video for Canvas encapsulates this inspiration perfectly. The viewer follows a young girl – eventually, a young woman – who has learnt to make herself small to suit the people in her life. The video demonstrates the sadness that follows, and the confusion that occurs when you’ve spent so long making other people happy you’re not quite sure how to do it for yourself, as the clip’s director Jane Tionowidjaja explains, “The music video revolves around the concept of what it means ‘to be’ and how we become a summation of our own life experiences. It’s what we learn over time but also what we decide to tolerate when we relate to those we love.”
Making an album during a global pandemic is no mean feat – but Canvas, the upcoming album, is nothing short of a triumph. Helen’s songwriting prowess has always been impressive, but Canvas sees her reaching new heights; previous single and album opener Deer In Headlights powers ahead with a killer chorus, the reflective and contemplative No seethes amidst a bed of strings and percussion, while the edgy Chemical Help takes influence from the pop world. Recorded in Perth with Jon Clements, and produced remotely by Brad Jones in Nashville, Canvas takes influence from the likes of Taylor Swift while still staying true to Helen’s country singer/songwriter roots. Speaking on the themes of the album, Helen says, “…a lot of the songs on the album ended up pertaining to my high school years where I developed a lot of anxiety and low self-worth. Now in my 30’s, I am in more stable relationships, and able to observe how these relationships made me behave- and how they made their mark on my mental health. While there are a lot of darker themes on the album, the opening and closing tracks celebrate the ‘better times’ and positive relationships.”
Excited to bring the songs of Canvas to the stage, Helen will be playing an album launch show at Night Owl Studio in Morley in WA on March 5. Thrilled to be playing for live audiences once again, she says, “I am so excited to perform these songs with my wonderful band. We are set to perform the album in full at Night Owl Studio, where we will also aim to live stream the event. The audience can expect a faithful representation of my recorded work, and some of my older songs too.”