On the Way Up
by Jane Ledwell
Sometimes people want stories like a warm cup of tea—and that is powerful in the right dosage,” says musician Colin Buchanan, who is now a newly minted theatre co-writer and director with the production of Story at The Guild. He adds a “however…”: “Storytelling is often a lament for the past, or we’ve looked at the past with rose-coloured glasses… We wanted something with more mystery, more mystique.
“When I started creating the concept of what would become Story, combining storytelling and songs is not a new concept, especially around here—marrying that charming emcee-like character with a musician.” He smiles warmly. “But we delved deeper into the idea of why people like that. Why people are drawn to that storyteller character. Who is defined as a storyteller? What is a storyteller? And it’s not just stories or music. Storytellers are all around us,” Colin says.
“When (co-creator) David Weale first approached me with the idea of a new storytelling show, I immediately had a much larger vision of what the show could be,” Colin says. David got some funding, and they decided, “Let’s make something special, that can last.” They settled on a show that would tell stories, but also “define why it’s important for Islanders to tell stories about ourselves.”
Colin says, “Technology has changed, and it empowers us to be storytellers—whether it’s the beautiful camera you carry on your phone, or whether you produce an album in your bedroom with songs from your own point of view. It is inherent, that want for storytelling.
“How I go about presenting it is exemplary of elements of oral storytelling, musical storytelling, animation, photography, film,” Colin says, adding that Story is stories “with an Island lens,” exploring also “what that means for new generations.”
He enthuses, “One thing that’s fun for me about the production is exemplifying the different media. They are literally all the things I love to do. Photography, film, video, animation—all the things I’m into.”
Colin certainly is into a lot of things. Best-known as a members of Paper Lions, his band is writing music and preparing for a fall tour, and Colin still has lots of music going on. “I’ve been a professional musician ten years, since I was 17 years old. It’s a true love, a passion. It still surprises and excites me… One of the greatest joys of my life is to make music and travel the world with childhood friends—and to grow together and still be friends.”
Colin has also branched out into producing albums for other bands. With evident joy in the odd juxtapositions, he says this summer he’s been “working on a heavy metal album, electronic mixes, and Story… I’d be at David Weale’s place and he would be asking deep questions—‘What is a story,’—and I would have to go cut guitars for Death Valley Driver. And they would bizarrely feed into each other.”
His philosophy as a producer is, “Whether it’s on stage or in studio, you have to coax a performance out of someone. No amount of gear or tricks can replace human performance.” He muses, “A producer takes someone else’s idea and runs with it, so there’s a lot of trust involved,” but, he says, “There’s always something great that comes out of it.”
He says, “I see band dynamics all the time as a producer,” and he is grateful for the positive and supportive dynamic of Paper Lions. “The band members are the first to believe in me and encourage me. They don’t care it’s ‘spreading myself thin.’ There’s no fear of the well running dry.”
Colin Buchanan says, “I feel like Charlottetown is really killing it these days. You follow your passions, and the community will support you. The film industry has swelled, even in the past two years. We’re outputting beautiful sounding albums, and the songs are better, better stage performances. Charlottetown is on the up, culturally speaking.” It’s a success story Colin Buchanan is proud to be part of.