However she isn't solely focused on issue-based songs. She points out, "I also write love songs. I'm trying to bring to light small moments that might seem insignificant. I want to highlight them and make them vibrant and beautiful."
Lately Shawna's approach to writing songs has become quite disciplined. She explains, "The discipline came after I got some songwriting grants because once you have the grants then you have pressure to fulfill them within a certain time period, so I started doing a lot of daily writing practice."
She continues, "It's often the words that come to me first when I'm working on a song and they're what I give the most weight to. I love poetry so I like playing with words and crafting the text of a song."
There's a stereotype about folk music being "three chords and the truth" but Shawna brings more instrumental skill to bear in her songs. She says, "I studied classical guitar when I was in high school. When I went to York University, one of the classes I took was a folk guitar class and my teacher was a flamenco guitar player, so I have all of these different guitar influences. I love it because I play solo when I play live, but as a fingerstyle guitarist, I can bring an entire band with me in my fingertips."
That being said, on her upcoming album, she's focusing more on the lyrical content of her songs. Shawna says, "On my past three records, I really pushed the complexity and the intricacy of my guitar playing as a really big part of the recording. I'm putting more emphasis on the vocals for this record I'm working on now. I'm letting the lyrics come to the forefront of the song."
Another aspect of Shawna's creative life is her landscape painting. As part of her degree at York University, she had to take a fine arts course outside of her music major. She ended up taking a painting course and says, "I was really bad at it and I was afraid that I wasn't going to graduate because of it but I worked really hard and learned how to paint. After university, I put my paints away and didn't really think about it until a few years ago when I started touring as a musician."
She continues, "I found myself going to all of these beautiful places that I'd never been to before. When I got home, I had all these photos I'd taken of them and I wondered if I could still paint so I started painting landscapes from the photos. I made the paintings available at my shows as part of my merchandise and they were surprisingly popular!"