From a ship’s cabin, to a Toronto apartment, to YouTube and onto the world, the Daily News chats with Shelley O’Brien about the amazing twists and turn of her career so far. The piece follows:
SONGSTRESS FALLS FOR THE UKULELE AND LEAVES CRUISE SHIPS BEHIND
By Jason Hewlett
Daily News Staff Reporter
For some, making a leap from piano player to globetrotting ukulele songstress might not make sense. For Shelley O’Brien it was a natural progression.
O’Brien spent three years as a piano bar entertainer on a cruise ship, playing three-hour jazz sets each night. Although the work was enjoyable, the songs were covers and she wanted to spend more time writing her own music.
“I wanted to keep on writing and couldn’t have a piano in my room,” O’Brien said during a phone interview from Vancouver.
“A friend of mine on the ship had a ukulele and I tried it and fell in love with it.”
The ukulele is a quick instrument to learn, she said. Most adults are able to strum out a song within three hours of picking one up.
O’Brien left the cruise life behind in 2006 and traded it in for a Toronto apartment. She began making YouTube videos of her ukulele playing and quickly found herself performing at venues worldwide. A touring career was born.
Her first gig in Kamloops takes place Friday, April 27, at The Art We Are, 246 Victoria St. There is no cover charge and the show begins at 6 p.m.
Having travelled to Hawaii with her family several times as a child, she expects many people’s vision of a ukulele songstress is someone playing island tunes in a grass skirt.
She describes her music as ethereal pop expressing her love of nature. O’Brien grew up in Terrace and has never lost her affinity for the outdoors of northern B.C., she said.
“One song, Mountain Hymn, is literally me reflecting on how much I’d like to be climbing a mountain right now. Instead, I’m sitting in my Toronto apartment imaging it and writing about it,” said O’Brien.
Copies of her latest album, Vivarium, will be on sale during the show.
She said the ukulele has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity of late. She attends many ukulele festivals all over the world and has witnessed performance by bands that are 50 members strong.
Her nine-show B.C. tour kicked off last night in Vancouver. Kamloops will be the last stop on the trip.