Local singer James Andruski reveals quite the natural knack for putting together tunes that tap into an array of genres on his latest disc Anthology.
Something that really stands out as the tunes unfold is his ability to change his vocal style to match the sensibilities of a given song. The disc is divided into two parts – The Studio Sessions and The Shed Sessions.
A couple of the tunes appear on both parts – with of course a different result.
For example, the rendition of Proud of My Wife which is featured on The Shed Sessions clips along – driven by a simple acoustic guitar line – and Andruski’s voice melds with the folk-country nature of the tune perfectly.
“I think it’s just a feeling I get when I sit at the amp and just start playing,” he explains during a recent interview. “The voice and the guitar on The Shed Sessions are more of a blend – the feel of it is just coming out honestly.”
Shelly’s Song is again built around an engaging guitar melody, but his voice takes on more even, clearer tones. Meanwhile, the disc’s opening cut Get It Up treads more into rock territory, with Andruski again adapting his voice to suit the energetic kick of the song.
Blue Whisper slows things down to a more vulnerable, reflective place. Midday Summer Daydream – an attractive instrumental – is aptly named.
Andruski hails from Winnipeg originally. There were aspects to those formative years that weren’t easy by any means, as he recalls instances of teasing. “I lived there till I was about 13 – doing pretty much what every kid did, playing hockey, going to school. I was kind of an introverted person – very quiet, very shy.”
He recalls blushing easily, which in turn led to more teasing, which heightened his embarrassment during those painfully self-conscious adolescent years.
He recalls being teased with the Ukrainian jokes, the Polish jokes, the blonde jokes – it just accumulated. “But I also was the luckiest guy in the world, because when I was the shyest most introverted guy, there’d be a couple girls at a school dance and they’d come and drag me onto the dance floor. It got me out of my shell a bit,” he laughs.
During those years, music also provided a kind of comfort. He recalls spending time in the family’s garage working on projects and listening to all kinds of songs on the radio. An interest was sparked. “You would be phoning in requests to the stations – those were the best times,” he adds with a laugh.
Eventually, the family headed west to Brandon, Manitoba.
“When I left Winnipeg at 13, I thought, well, maybe this will be a new start.”
Andruski, 49, continued playing hockey, but soon found something else he seemed to have a knack for – songwriting. “I wrote a couple of tunes, and never really cared about it until I was 17. Someone at my house found the tape, and my girlfriend and some of her friends were saying, ‘Who the heck is singing on that tape?’
“I said, I think it was just me and a buddy, so that kind of got things going.” He had also been taking guitar lessons since he about 10-years-old, so that skill was being honed while he was finding his voice as well. So as he started growing more confident in his musical sensibilities, he started playing in a few garage bands over the years as well.
“Or we would just sit down in the basement and play. They’d want to play heavy metal but I wasn’t into that. So I’d get them to play country, or country rock.”
He eventually began a career in construction and surveying, but music was always a part of his life. While attending Red River Community College, he met a fellow by the name of Dave Gordon who was a local DJ at the time. “He listened to a couple of my tunes, and he really liked this Blue Whisper song. His mom was married to a record executive, so we proceeded to tape it on four-track.
“She said, ‘That is one hell of a song. You had better do something with it’.”
Life continued with a busy career, marriage and an eventual move with his wife Tammy to Central Alberta in 2001. But as already said, music was never far from his heart and mind. There would be times when a demo of a song would be playing and folks within earshot would seem to take note.
He started singing at house parties. “The first time I played a club was in about 1989; it was at a songwriter’s club – one of the better ones in Winnipeg,” he recalls.
“I had to go up before the house band, so I had to just get into my head – play the song and get right into it. The whole place went quiet.” The chatter started up when he was done, so he promptly performed another. Things quieted down again. Then he jammed on Sweet Home Alabama with another guy and had a blast. The confidence continued to grow.
Meanwhile, there is nothing like creating and performing music to enrich a person’s life. “All my songs are from my soul,” he said. “That’s what so important for me – it’s got to be the guitar, the voice and the feeling of what I’m going to write about.
“It’s also soothing. It has brought me out of depression, too.” He recalls being in his apartment back in 1987 at a particularly low point. “I started to sing and play about what was bothering me – I sang it out, and I felt a lot better. If you ask me what music does for me – it’s complete therapy.”
For a sampling of Andruski’s music, check out a couple of postings on YouTube. His CDs are also available at the Sound House and David Gilmore Guitars in Red Deer, and Lacombe Audio Video in Lacombe.