Creative Manitoba’s Artist Spotlight is happy to feature singer/songwriter and past GerryFest mentee, Shay Wolf. GerryFest is an annual arts festival at The St Norbert Arts Centre, honouring Gerry Atwell’s memory and contributions to the artistic community. GerryFest hosts the SNAC Rise Up Mentorship Program for emerging artists.
Thanks so much for talking to us, please tell us about yourself!
Hello! My name is Trista and I perform under the moniker Shay Wolf (she/her). Shaylynn is my middle name, and Wolf is my mother’s maiden name. I am a prairie-born, classically-trained pianist turned singer/songwriter. I started playing piano and competing provincially 23 years ago and I have sung to myself for as long as I can remember. I used to wake up singing and I still sometimes sing myself to sleep. My music centres around my voice and the piano, and it’s my goal to sing my way into the cracks of your heart, leaving you feeling like you’ve just daydreamed for hours while watching the clouds go by. Some have compared me to Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell. My debut EP, ‘Stay’, was released in March of 2023, and that’s only just the beginning!
“At a certain level of piano, it became liberating to bring to life music that was written hundreds of years before. With this intimate understanding, I had the ability to add colour to a single note on the piano. A single note that was so simple could bring tears to my eyes”
When did you first discover the power or feeling of artistic expression?
I discover my artistic expression every day. Ironically, I think the first time I discovered the power and feeling of artistic expression was through playing other composers’ work. At a certain level of piano, it became liberating to bring to life music that was written hundreds of years before. With this intimate understanding, I had the ability to add colour to a single note on the piano. A single note that was so simple could bring tears to my eyes. Notably, the piece that still holds my heart in this way is Chopin’s Nocturne Op 9 No. 1. As an artist, once I stepped away from the piano and started playing ukulele in 2016 with friends around the campfire, it kind of hit me that the soul that I put into the classical music I had played all my life could also be put into my own songwriting to connect with others. That was the second evolution of discovering the power of artistic expression that has put me on the path I am on today.
Can you describe a key experience in your life that influenced the direction of your artistic vision?
I am influenced by my past as much as by ideas of the future, and the realization that you have to choose to be present in the moment. It is always a battle, but one that influences the perspective I take in my songwriting. I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan with wide open prairie skies, lots of space to run around and a lot of time spent alone. This hugely influences my songwriting and who I am today even when I am not aware of it. As I write for my next album, I look up to artists like Charlotte Cardin and Dermot Kennedy, who blend the worlds of singer/songwriter with pop. They are influencing the direction of my next album.
How did you get involved in the GerryFest Mentee program?
I applied and feel so fortunate to have been selected! As an independent artist you deal with a lot of rejection and this program was so valuable that I feel grateful to have gotten in.
What changes do you feel have come directly from your participation in the GerryFest Mentee program?
Ashley Bieniarz has been a great mentor. Her feedback has helped me elevate my performance and given me great points on which I can improve. This is something that I will be working on to connect with my audiences on a higher level at my shows. She and I also worked on an independent showcase with two other women-identifying artists from Manitoba for Breakout West in Kelowna this year. The value of meeting people, mentors and mentees alike, is a highlight!
” I used to always say that when I grow up, I want to be happy.”
What artistic goals have you set for yourself?
So many! I have both business and artistic goals. As I mentioned previously, I’m working to elevate my live performance to connect with my audiences on a deeper level. I’m also writing for my next album and creating a home studio so I can realize the pop/indie/folk sound that I envision for the album.
And finally, what aspect of your work brings you joy?
I love this question! I used to always say that when I grow up, I want to be happy. So reflecting on joy and fulfillment is so important to me. I love singing, it’s the main reason I have chosen to pursue a career as an artist. Singing is cathartic to me in so many ways, it brings joy and peace in so many moments. As an emerging artist, I’m filled with excitement at a career that I get to uncover. Many times I’m filled with fear and self-doubt too, but it is the love of singing and music that reminds me that this is worth pursuing.
Take some time to explore Shay Wolf’s music and story and connect with her via social media: