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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sunday, July 3, 2022
Oscar Anderson-Shortt
Oscar

“This is my time, I’ll do with it what I please.”

These are lyrics by Oscar Anderson-Oscar, also known as DRFTR, a powerful, raw solo folk act bred in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

And they’re fitting words, because he’s is indeed doing what he pleases — touring Canada as a musician.

He’s just come off a tour opening up for Niagara funk band My Son the Hurricane, is recording a new album, and preparing for a month-long solo tour (with his brother as his roadie) of Canada’s west coast in August.

The 28-year-old musician has quite the musical resume, having started singing at a young age. He credits his parents for encouraging — or not discouraging — him.

“I grew up imitating the singers on the radio, and my mom never told me to shut up. That’s how I developed my voice,” he said.

Growing up he worked on a number of projects, making a name for himself locally as a singer with bands like As Above, So Below, which had sort of a cult following in town for a while. 

During that time, he shared the vocal spotlight with longtime friend and fellow NOTL Dylan Turner, and started learning how to play a bit of guitar.

Since then, Oscar has taken his music to a new level as a solo act. He’s now well-versed with a guitar and a mic, and has even implemented some mouth trumpet.

Niagara-born drummer Jeff Luciani, who does work with Oscar, describes him as a “ferocious talent.”

Oscar is particularly excited about a song called Oiled Up from the upcoming album — one we just might hear pouring out of every device in the coming months. The song also includes some mouth trumpet.

“That’s the moneymaker. I’ve got to put that in every song,” said Oscar with a grin.

He said his inspirations range widely, his style having been influenced by a number of artists including Dallas Green of City and Colour, UK-based bands like Little Comets and Alt-J, and American bands like Pokey Lafarge and Texas jam-band Khruangbin.

You can definitely hear a touch of Dallas Green in his voice.

Jamming with friends is his current musical lifeblood, he said.

“It starts with nothing special, then it grows into something more. It’s fluid, you just lose yourself in the groove. This is becoming the most influential music in my life.”

He said his deepest influences come from his creative and supportive family.

“My dad was always in choirs and stuff. My brother Angus is a painter, my sister Aurora is an interior designer, and my mom is a carpenter,” he said.

His family members are also key members of his management team, helping him take his career to the next level.

Sometime last year his mother and sister asked him if he’d like to join them in a meeting with My Son the Hurricane manager Danno O’Shea, after deciding it was time for Oscar to take his career to the next level. 

They sought O’Shea’s advice on how to do that, which led to DRFTR’s recent June tour with the band.

Oscar is currently putting the finishing touches on a new album, recorded with Joe Lapinski of WOW! Recording Studio in St Catharines.

He tells a story of when he was touring with Band On a Couch a couple of years ago, and met a former member of the Guess Who. 

“The guy asked me if I planned on recording. I said I was in the process of doing just that. He said, ‘I hope it sounds physically the way it sounds in your head.’” 

Oscar said that’s why he chose Lapinsky to record his songs.

Lapinsky, he said, has the ability to not only manifest what’s in his head, but to make it even better. 

Putting it simply, Lapinsky is “the real deal,” Oscar said.

“He kept the feel, and took it to a whole new level.”

Lapinsky said it’s been a “wonderful artistic experience” working with Oscar.

“His music ranges from foot-stomping folk-rootsy styles, to more soul influenced grooves that’ll get your butt moving. But the first thing that always catches my ear with his music is his voice and the words he’s singing. His voice is like silk sheets on a pillowy cloud, floating above tree tops and mountains and city-scapes. He sings from the heart every time, and draws the listener into his stories. There is no denying his talent — and he’s a nice guy on top of all that.”

Oscar’s new album will be a far cry from his recently produced EP, he said, which was more a low-fi affair featuring just himself and his guitar, packaged in a brown cardboard sleeve labelled “HELLO my name is DRFTR.”

The new album will feature original artwork by artist Sam Estrabillo, a full band with Oscar on vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonies; Lapinski on bass, pedal steel guitar, banjo, and percussion; Niagara’s Laurel Minnes on back-up vocals/harmonies; Dave Clark on drums; Eron Stroud on keyboards and bass; Ben Goertson on cello; and Danielle Marconi on violin. 

He said with the help of his family and supporters, the sales and marketing efforts have taken a stratospheric leap in professionalism, which will hopefully lead to success.

As far as what he writes about, he said all of his songs are about overcoming something in life.

“I create the music first, then when I’m really angry or upset about something, the lyrics will just come out all at once. I’m just sharing these wildly personal songs. Like for the song Sikhokele, I had a hard time getting over a difficult break-up and then one day I verbal-diarrheaed out this very blunt song and I haven’t thought about the pain of the break-up since. Songwriting for me is a kind of therapy.”

When he’s not playing soulful tunes, Oscar spends his days working at Silversmith Brewing Company and Mahtay Café in St. Catharines, where he said he loves being surrounded by so much creative energy. He is very conscious of the people surrounding him, he said, especially as he carefully builds his team of people who will help him and his career evolve and grow.

He said he’s just now becoming more confident about asking to be paid what he feels is fair, which is an important step in a professional musician’s career.

“I spend a lot of time creating these songs. At first I would take any gig for any money. Not anymore. All the songs I’ve been writing, all the work I’ve put into my career, it’s worth being paid properly.”

That attitude has helped him move further than ever, he said, landing him in dedicated venues, as opposed to bars and restaurants.

“So people tend to listen more, to pay more attention.”

And pay attention they should, because it is DRFTR’s time.