Shad talks about the making of Flying Colours

For our Fall 2013 issue of Mixtape Magazine, we asked Shad to tell us a story. He told us about the making of his album Flying Colours. Today the album was named to the 2014 Polaris Prize shortlist so we feel like this is a great time to share the story again.

Words by Shad

A lot of things felt good about the making of this album; there was a lot of genuine inspiration, a spirit of camaraderie, and many moments that felt fated. I spent lots of summer and fall days writing and recording at Dreamhouse Studios, a great little space in essentially a back-alley in downtown Toronto, and a lot of days in-between working through ideas from my apartment in Vancouver. I drank lots of McDonald’s coffee, took breaks to play basketball and also to visit my aunt at Mount Sinai Hospital, and overall, I worked harder than I ever have. I wanted to push my talent, energy, and courage as much as I could.

Fortunately I was frequently visited in the studio by some very positive and committed collaborators and “creative consultants” from my dudes Elijah Walsh, DJ T Lo, and Ian Koiter, to the homies Skratch Bastid and Ian Kamau, and a whole host of others who contributed expertly and pushed me at every turn. I always felt a sense of gratitude for the growing community of talented artists around me and for the opportunity to give so much to a project like this.

From the outset, I wanted to explore success and failure – what they mean generally, what they mean to me in my life, and if it’s possible to carry forward in our stories in a way that’s honest and good. I chose to call the album Flying Colours because I like to believe that ultimately, in spite of how self-critical we can be and in spite of all of our hurts and regrets, the surprising truth is that we’re all doing so incredibly well in this life. I wanted to convey something of the spirit of that idea; the feeling you get when someone you love tells you that they’re proud of you.

After about two years of writing and recording, I finished Flying Colours. It was a long haul but I feel like I did what I set out to do, which was to give this album my strongest effort yet. When you’re a working artist but far from a superstar like me, every album could be your last. That’s always a little scary, but regardless of the outcome I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to work at something that matters to me. And after a couple of years of thinking and writing about success and failure, I’ve come to think that trying is worth it even if you fail.

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Photo of Shad: Adam Scotti