By Jessica Robinson, Staff Reporter
Half an hour before he steps in front of the crowd at Laurentian University’s Welcome Back frosh concert, Shawn Hook is sitting on a table in the Bahnuk Lounge directly overlooking the main stage, running a quick vocal warm up. The crowd is gathering, the openers are playing their hearts out—and Hook is gushing about his man crush.
“John Mayer,” Hook nods. “A great lyricist, a great guitar player, amazing. He’s hilarious, too. This is turning into a John Mayer love-fest,” he laughs.
Shawn Hook goes on to cite the Beatles, Major Lazer, Kenny Chesney, and Marvin Gaye as other artists he loves, quickly acknowledging that he’s “all over the place” when it comes to his musical interests. “There’s just so much going on right now in music,” he says earnestly. “We can talk about it forever.”
Hook specifically highlights memories of his younger self from fifteen years prior, sitting at his piano and imagining being on stage, playing in stadiums. “Pretending I was Elton John, pretending I was Jerry Lee Lewis, pretending I was like all these amazing piano players that could sing,” he reminisces. “I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s cool that I’m actually headlining a show now, to my name, and things are moving forward.”
Things are definitely moving forward. Hook’s hit single, “Sound of Your Heart,” went platinum just days before he performed on the Laurentian stage. “It was pretty crazy,” he admits. He had been so excited when the record hit gold that he had wanted to order the gold plaque to commemorate the occasion, but his label and manager told him to hold off.
“When it went gold, the single was just getting radio play, it was just getting out there,” Hook explains, “so I was like, “Oh my God, we hit gold,” and the label was like, “No, we’re going platinum, we’re probably going platinum in September.” It’s a cool feeling,” he smiles. “It’s an affirmation moment, and something I’m proud of.”
For Shawn Hook, it’s all about the affirmation moments—the little nudges that remind him he’s moving in the right direction.
“The other day, I was kind of bummed—I can’t even remember what it was—and I got in my car, turned on the radio, and boom, my song’s playing. And I’m like, oh, sweet. Not such a bad day,” he laughs.
As a self-diagnosed perfectionist (he is, after all, a Virgo), Hook says these moments help him keep the big picture in perspective.
“For me, it never stops,” he says. “I always want to keep reaching. But yeah, every time I hear [my song], it’s a warm feeling.”
Other than his family, keeping an eye on the big picture is what helps Hook stay grounded in the music industry.
“I’ve been at this for a while, I’m not new to it. It’s taken me ten years to get a platinum record, so I’ve kinda been through a lot just to get here,” he says seriously. “And I still want to go a lot farther. Just the fact that I want to go farther than I am, I think, allows me to be like, yeah, it’s cool and all, but don’t get lost in it, it’s just a step towards where you want to go.”
At the end of the day, Hook isn’t interested in pretending to be anything he’s not, whether it’s on stage or in the recording studio. When asked to describe his own music style, he simply says, “I feel like there’s no bullshit to my music. If that makes any sense.”
“Maybe it’s not saying what it is, but what it’s not,” he muses. “I just feel like, every time I write a song, I have to find the honest cord, and when I perform, it’s to my best ability, and I’m not trying to pander to the audience. It’s just honest, true music.”
In fact, for Hook, the scariest part about performing live has nothing to do with the music.
“It’s in between songs,” Hook claims. “That’s the scariest part for me, my banter. I just want to put on a good show. And part of putting on a good show is interacting with the audience between your songs. So I focus a lot on that.”
Shawn Hook’s parting words before heading out on stage urge students to take their time: “I think too many people in their early twenties, it’s like paralysis by analysis. ‘I’m not sure what I’m gonna do, so I’m just gonna do nothing’—no, do everything. Do as much as you can, and live your life as much as you can, and do it shamelessly.”
–Photo by Kayla Perry