Shane Koyczan used to spend a lot of time explaining what he does for a living.
That was before the Penticton-based slam poet was asked to perform in the cultural finale of the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Some 13 million Canadians saw him on television, standing on giant pedestal at B.C. Place, as he paid homage to the diversity of our country with his poem “We Are More.”
“That gave people a reference point for what spoken word is,” Koyczan says. “It made it a lot easier to do what I do. Agents call me everyday, and I actually have the luxury to say ‘no’ to them.”
It’s easy to label the 35-year-old an overnight success. But Koyczan knows the time he put in. For over a decade he performed small venues and at slam poetry competitions where his only payment was exposure.
“I really had to work at it for a lot of years and live on very little,” he admits, “it seemed hopeless at times.”
But now that he’s a recognizable face across the country, finding a paying audience for his work is no longer a problem. He’s spent the past year working with his band The Short Story Long to record their second album.
Released last month, Koyczan calls Remembrance Year his best recorded offering to date. In fact, it’s made him brake his rule of not listening to his own material.
“I never like to hear myself. I don’t watch my YouTube videos or read the interviews I’ve given,” Koyczan says. “This is the first album I’ve actually continued listening to after it’s finished.”
And audiences are eating it up. Koyczan has sold out every show as he tours across Canada.
“The fans are so supportive,” Koyczan says. “What I’m doing, it’s still not a mainstream thing, and some fans really go out of their way to tell me they appreciate what I’m doing. It feels really good.”
Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long stop at Capitol Theatre, April 18, 8 p.m. Tickets, $15, order by phone at 250-352-6363.