Cape based folk punk vagabond Jon Shaban has announced a co-headlining tour with American singer-songwriter Ian Fisher, proudly brought to you by Sit The Folk Down.
Ian Fisher is a prolific modern songwriter raised in Missouri, and is currently living in Vienna, Austria. His music is best described by Rolling Stone Magazine as “Half Americana & Half Abbey Road-Worthy Pop” and “A World Traveller’s Perspective on American Folk-Rock”.
How did this tour with you and Jon come about?
“I play music with a pedal steel player from Hamburg sometimes, and he has a friend who has a very good friend from South Africa, whose brother plays in the band with Jon. A few months ago we were on tour and a house concert gig fell through at the last minute. I called up some friends at this other venue that was close the where this house concert was going to take place, and I showed up to the venue and there was our friend Rich, who had driven all the way down from Hamburg to this little town in Austria, just to play this little concert with all of us. Then The Shabs were there. It just worked out that we all got on well. Drunkedly Jon said to me after the show that he needs to bring me to South Africa, and I said how about August, and it worked.”
Why have you settled in Austria?
“I have been in Austria and Germany for a while. I studied politics in Vienna. I have moved around a bit but I keep coming back to Vienna, because I really love this city. This is where most of my friends are. I really get inspired by this place; there’s something very beautiful and dark about it that I like.”
You mentioned you don’t like to settle down anywhere as you are this traveller but ‘Thinking About It’ address this concept of settling down – do you think you will ever live a conventional life?
“I come from a small town in Missouri, so stability and stereotypical normal life; a job, house… is what I was raised to aspire to, so maybe one day some deep sub-conscious desire will kick in. I don’t know. Part of the reason why I have travelled around like this, a part from wanting to make music and this being the only way for me to do it, is because I think I have been rebelling against that stability inside of myself. In my opinion all forms of stability are just a perception and I could go get a stable job, etc… but there are forces outside myself that wreck havoc against that stability. The path of the artist is just as stable as the path of someone more conventional.”
You’ve been described as Half Americano and Half Abbey Road Pop – explain that to me?
“I was lucky to get a review in the Rolling Stones Magazine who described me this way. When I play alone, like when I come to South Africa, the live performance is very rooted and traditional songwriter stuff with a strong folk, Americano influence. You can definitely hear that in the style of sound and singing. I view my lyrics to be heavily influenced by the general mentality of central Europe, which is generally more dark and pessimistic than the typical American optimism. These are cultural stereotypes, but I have been influenced by the musicians I have been inspired by in European and the general literature that I have immersed myself in and the general mentality here in Vienna. My lyrics are heavily influenced by Europe, and my music and style are heavily influenced by my roots in Mid-Western America. That is what happens when I pay live solo.”
“My last few albums have been with a band – my album Idle Hands, is songwriter based but it goes down the 70s song writer path of Bill Withers or James Taylor. I don’t really associate at all with modern songwriting so much. I am more influenced by Dylan and Neil Young, rather than Ed Sheeran for example.”
If someone, who has never heard of you before, had to ask you to play one song of yours that bet represents Ian at the moment, which song would it be and why?
“I would play one of the songs that I am recording from my new album now, so I can talk about that. But if I was to play a song that has already been released, I would play ‘Nero’, which I released a few years ago. This encapsulates a lot of my personality – it is very nostalgic. It is a very American country song with a Viennese mentality.”
Let’s talk about the new album?
“Technically I have several new albums. So I released an album called Idle Hands a few months ago. We focused on the rhythm section on that album, which is a first time for me. Most of my albums usually orbit around my acoustic guitar but this one was built on a steady foundation of drum, bass and keys and the guitar was secondary this time.”
“The one I am working on now is split – a lot of the albums I really love, like Harvest from Neil Young or The White Album from The Beatles, has so much diversity on those albums. I really miss that in a lot of modern music. A lot of modern bands release an album that stays in the same colour usually. Even the bands I listen to and like. I also did that on Idle Hands. With this album I wanted to move away from that. It will probably only be released in a year or two.”
Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to on your trip to South Africa?
“I am really looking forward to playing for the people there. I am also looking forward to learning about the history and politics in South Africa. That’s what I studied before I became a full time musician and so I have been doing my homework. I am really curious to talk to people, go to museums, see nature.”
Trapped on a desert island, you can only take one album with you, what would it be and why?
“I like Spontaneous Improvisations and Compositions by Charles Mingus – it is him on a piano, or perhaps Erik Sarti.”
2 August – STFD, CT**
3 August – Stanford Hills Estate, Stanford
4 August – TBA, CT
6 August – False Bay Folk, Clovelly
8 August – The House Of Machines, CT*
9 August – TBA, PTA
10 August – CaleXico Vinyl Lounge and Restaurant, JHB
10 August – Radium Beer Hall, JHB
11 August – Hell’s Kitchen Melville, JHB
14 August – MiTH (Music in The Hills), Hilton
15 August – Khaya Records, DBN
16 August – The House in Zululand, Eshowe
17 August – 1854 Restaurant, Greyton
18 August – Rootspring Music, CT