Musician, Robbie Shirriff, left Saskatoon, moved to Edmonton and is now touring Western Canada in search of making a name for himself in the music industry
Robbie Shirriff, a 23 year old musician, originally from Sask. knows firsthand the thrills and challenges that go along with pursuing a career as a performer.
Shirriff grew up in Saskatoon with his parents and older sister. Though he never derived any real musical influence from his family, he was interested in the small arts and culture scene Saskatoon had to offer.
He lived a life of routine in his teenage years, studying to stay on the honour roll at school, working minimum wage jobs and skateboarding during the summer months.
The small music scene is what captured’s heart. “I remember my dad would drop me off a after school at this venue in Saskatoon called The Basement, it was in a sketchy area of downtown, and he would just drop me off, let me attend whatever show for a couple of hours, then he’d come pick me up,” said Shirriff. “It kind of blew my mind, this underground music scene I had no knowledge of prior.”
Shirriff’s exposure to these local bands at age 12 gradually started to pull him into the music scene, playing instruments with buddies from high school, jamming in a few local hard-core bands, but never taking it seriously enough to pursue.
After realizing his friends were making plans to attend post-secondary in their senior year at St. Joseph High School, Shirriff started to consider the possibility of life as a wandering, traveling singer songwriter.
“I was just really amazed at the prospect of being out on the road, playing music, and not have to go to school and follow suit with the typical expectation that was held for all my friends at the time.”
Three years ago in 2010, Shirriff packed up all that he owned and moved out West to chase the Alberta dream and landed in Edmonton where he discovered the beginning of musical project, Old Towns.
Shirriff, standing 5-10 inches on the stage of the Palomino Smokehouse, wears a smile confidently and innocently. His friendly, easygoing attitude is a style that bodes well with his modish haircut, denim shirts, and black jeans.
Photo by Brittany Sackschewsky
His voice is raspy and comes together with the upbeat twang of his guitar; it brings a fist-pumping, hoot n’ hollering’ good time to the people sitting the tables watching him preform.
His friends he grew up with in Sask., John Kendal and Regan Darbyshire, sit attentively at a table center-stage.
They drink beer and reminisce about the old times they shared in high school. Kendal recalls Shirriff when they were growing up, “He was always such a good guy. He was a good kid. He played in a bunch of metal shows growing up. He was always really good playing music.” Kendal then takes a sip of his beer and focuses his attention back on Old Towns.
The crowd seems divided by two groups, men and women, that sit in business suits that came to grab a drink after a day of work and there are fans that are in plain t-shirts and jeans that yell and applaud at the musicians on stage.
The bar is dimly lit; there are posters plastered all over walls. The red and green spotlights shine on the musician who tells the audience he’s driven all the way up to Edmonton to play at such an awesome venue. There is a table of friends sitting next to us that orders garlic fries and a burger, suddenly the place is filled with the scent of barbeque sauce. The hockey game plays on the big screen. People yell and scream in excitement after every one of his songs.
Though Shirriff’s career as a musician is just beginning, Old Towns is expecting wonderful things to come; their next tour across the West will bring them to over seven cities across Alta. and B.C., playing different venues at bars and house shows that pay him anywhere from $150 – $300 per show.
“The server life is very complimentary to the music lifestyle. I mean — I make nine something an hour; it’s the tip money that pays for me to go on tour. You have to worry about filling the tank with gas, accommodations, advancement costs with merch. It’s nice when we get a bar tab so all the money I make isn’t going back into the place.”
When Shirriff is not touring or howling into the microphone at local shows, you can find him stewing about his pistachio-coloured walls in his five hundred square foot apartment in Edmonton, drinking Guinness or Jameson Irish Whiskey with his pals, listening to his wide collection of records, playing guitar, or rough housing it with his two dogs, Buddy and Frank.
To pay for the costs of rent and touring, Shirriff bartends at a modern bar called Meat, which caters to a crowed that enjoys good brisket, beer and bourbon. It pays the bills and expenses needed for a musician who is gaining popularity in Western Canada.
After plans of touring this April, Shirriff would like to focus more on the home front; developing a fan base in Edmonton, as CBC wrote in 2013, “Old Towns are well on their way to making a name for themselves in Canada.”
With Shirriff’s charisma and devotion to his musical project Old Towns, success in the near future looks promising. Find him playing here in Calgary May 9th, 2015 at The Noelliot House.