The seeds of Shane Koyczan’s public success were sown in the most private and secluded of places: the ink of his teenage journal pages. “When I first started writing, it was just journaling. I didn’t have anyone to talk tol; I didn’t have any friends,” said the internationally renowned spoken-word artist who performs at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on Tuesday, March 21, at 8 p.m., with Jamie DeWolf. In the course of a lifetime, he has gone from being the classmate everyone else shut down and no one wanted to hear to being one of the most cherished voices on the spoken-word scene.
He got here by being true to his truest feelings, no matter how revealing. “Anytime I get in front of an audience, there’s going to be a certain level of emotional nudity,” Koyczan said. With his deeply personal poetry, the Canadian slam poet has uplifted audiences multimillion-strong in artfully conveying his most vulnerable feelings with meditations on bullying, body image, and death. His piece “To This Day” has become a global must-read. “In school, I was very isolated, set apart from everyone else … What this has done has sort of showed me that there are tons of people who are dealing with the same thing,” he said. “It makes the world seem a little smaller and tighter. All of a sudden, you’re making strangers less strange, and that’s a pretty rewarding feeling.”
Koyczan has had to go deep within himself, and continues to uncover layers of character as yet unvoiced. “It’s all about excavation — the jewels that we unearth that are the brightest and most precious are the ones we have to dig deepest for,” he said. Recently, he reconnected with his dad, resulting in perhaps his most challenging subject matter to date. “I didn’t know him at all growing up, and what I’ve discovered is it’s dangerously easy to be angry at someone you don’t know, especially when you don’t know their story,” he said.
He will be performing solo at SOhO due to the present-day difficulty of bringing a band into the U.S., but he anticipates it will be all the more intimate. “We live in a world now where people are told to sort of shut off their emotions for the sake of productivity,” he said. “People are always looking for permission to be emotional. I’m giving them that because I’m doing that, as well.”
4·1·1 Shane Koyczan performs Tuesday, March 21, 8 p.m., with Jamie DeWolf, at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.). See sohosb.com