Rising Canadian singer Shaye Zadravec interprets Ian Tyson classics and others on her new album Now and Then.
Over the years, Canada has produced artists who have had a huge influence on what has become know as “Americana”—sort of folksy and not quite rock. Think Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, k.d. lang and Sarah McLachlan. That influence has also worked into Western music, most notably through Ian Tyson and more recently with Corb Lund (who was identified by Tyson early on as part of a new generation celebrating their era’s West). Now making waves on the music scene is a young talent, who like most, recognizes the mastery in Ian Tyson’s writing.
Shaye Zadravec is a song stylist in her mid-20s from Calgary, Alberta, who covers two of Tyson’s songs, “Summer’s Gone” and “Silver Bell” (on which Tyson appears). The songs are included in her sophomore album, Now and Then, released in July of this year from Canada’s Indelible Music. This follows her debut EP Norway, released in 2018. She describes herself as a “singer, sometimes songwriter,” but she is singer of exceptional talent who plays guitar, ukulele and auto harp (think John Sebastian’s 1960s hit “Do You Believe in Magic?”). Listening to Zadravec, it would be easy to describe her voice and presentation as a throwback. She’s a girl with a guitar who uses no effects—what you hear is what you get. The throwback interpretation may be because she is so influenced by the big ballad sounds of Linda Ronstadt, Patsy Cline, Harry Nilsson and even Frank Sinatra.
In a phone conversation with Zadravec and Neil MacGonigill, founder of Indelible Music, I asked her about her influences for the songs on her new album.
“I was exposed to a lot of different music from an early age,” she explains. “And the song, ‘Silver Bell’ in particular, I picked because it was my dad’s favorite song—at least one of his favorites anyway. He has always been very supportive, and musical, so I seem to have been exposed to all sorts of different genres, singers and songwriters. I see an album almost as a timeline of my musical upbringing.”
Another song on the album is “Biloxi,” written in the late 1960s’ by singer/songwriter Jesse Winchester and was a breakout hit for Jimmy Buffet on his 1977 album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.
“ ‘Biloxi’ is probably one of the older songs in my brain that I can remember from an earlier age,” she says, “yet ‘Windfall’ is a brand new song to me that I had never heard before. So, I think each song has its own place for me.
“The album was truly a musical discovery from different generations and genres, and it’s hard for me to limit myself to one genre when there are so many great songs out there. I wouldn’t want to limit myself. I’m really looking for music that really touches my ear.”
The album includes songs featuring steel guitarist Bruce Bouton, who has played with Ricky Scaggs, Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks.
Zadravec’s connection to Tyson was aided by MacGonigill, who was the executive producer of Tyson’s landmark album, Old Corrals & Sagebrush. Released in 1983, the album is credited with helping start the early 1980s renaissance of cowboy culture.
“Summer’s Gone” and “Silver Bell,” the two Tyson songs on the album, seem to fit nicely into Zadravec’s approach of choosing songs that speak to her.
“Those songs really work for me,” she says, “I really enjoy presenting the breadth of the music I’ve chosen for my shows as it let’s me stretch creatively. I want the people at my shows to feel that I am somehow compelled to play each song for them and that they get to share in the diversity of my choices.”
When Zadravec and MacGonigill wrapped up production of Now and Then, MacGonigill realized they needed a video.
“We had just received the master and were heading to Ian’s ranch to play it for him,” he recalls. “So as we were listening to it in the car, I stopped and suggested Shaye drive. We shot the video for ‘Windfall’ on the road to the Tyson Ranch.”
Early in her career, a reporter from the Cochrane Eagle newspaper asked Zadravec what personal success looked like to her. She said, “I lead from my heart, so I would consider myself successful if in five years down the road I’m still playing and presenting the music I want to.”
That was three years ago, and it looks like she’s on her way.