An Interview with Therese Owen

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Written by Therese Owen

Trying to manage musicians is like herding cats. They are difficult by nature and their artistic temperament means they often struggle to focus on the practical aspects of life. Shannon Hope, for all her passionate energy, is not one of those musicians. She books her own gigs, drives herself around the country, does her own sound engineering at gigs, runs her own website and basically manages her own career. This solo pianist and singer is dramatic, fearless, even ferocious on stage as she performs her emotional music. Off stage she is sweet but determined.

“I have been in too many bands that haven’t worked, which is why I perform solo,” she says firmly. “It is also a financial choice. But I am slowly introducing guitarists. The end goal is to do both. Also, I would like to perform with an orchestra one day.”

Shannon is riding high on her second album called Fight a New Day. Her musical history includes Caffeine Substitute in 1998 with Meghan McCrae as well as her own band, Ketamine, which she started in 2001. The band lasted four years. “Then in 2005 my life fell apart and I quit music. But by 2009 I realised I missed music and I quit my job as an admin manager.”

The move culminated in her launch at The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. “The launch was my dream show. It’s like the Fugard was built for me. I walked in and there were 20 people preparing the theatre just for me. I nearly cried. I asked them what I must do and they replied: ‘go and chill and have a glass of bubbly’.”

“Someone told me that there two important days in your life – the day you were born and the day you find out why you are here. That launch date was that day for me. It was on Guy Fawkes day and I did it on that day because I am awesome like that.

“I never believed in more than who I am than now. I recently read my essays from varsity and I realised that she needed help. She needed to be committed. It’s amazing to do the music that I do. I sing about believing in yourself. If you want to do something, just do it. Why get stuck?” Here she pauses and you can visualise the mental cogs turning. “Maybe because you get scared, I suppose.”

“That evening at The Fugard is one I would like again and I think I will have it all the time one day. It’s a theatre so people are quiet. I don’t mind people talking, but the best way to appreciate my music is to listen to my words… My vibe is to have an emotional experience and then afterwards you can go out and get drunk.”

The reality is that when Shannon Hope performs, she commands your attention by her sheer talent and emotion.

“Apparently I was singing before I could talk. I used to play on my gran’s organ before my parents sent me to piano lessons at age six. I said I wanted to be Liberace. I want this with all of my heart.”

Well, she’s getting there. She was awarded the 2011 Standard Bank Ovation Award for her performances at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. This was in recognition of “artistic innovation, excellence, the exploration of new performance styles and the courage to open new conversations through the arts”.


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© Shannon Hope 2017