by Paige Hopkins
If you were to sit down and binge listen to Sean Balsillie’s YouTube channel (like I did), you may expect him to be a somber, heartsick young man as many of his songs cover familiar subjects of love, relationships and heartache. However, this is not the case. When I first met Sean this summer at the Moosehide Gathering, I was struck by how friendly, positive and conversational he was. This energy translates to his stage presence, which curiously contrasts with his sentimental style of music.
Born in Whitehorse, Sean had the kind of childhood you would expect many Yukon kids to have. He spent his days outside with friends, exploring, biking and being happily immersed in the surrounding wilderness. The outdoor adventures were balanced out by days inside playing video games like Pokémon and Mario Cart. He did very well in high school and is presently in his last year of Engineering at Queens University. His love of math and sciences is what influenced his decision to become an engineer, but university is also where his love of music expanded into his music career.
Before he began to tune his strings at coffee houses and open mics, Sean was an avid shower and car ride crooner. His thoughts were “I don’t sound too bad, why can’t I start bringing these to people on my own?”
Influenced by musicians like Ed Sheeran and bands such as Passenger his acoustic performances gradually brought in his friends and other keen listeners. With the support of his friends and fans; Sean began opening for other bands and playing his own shows. He remarked on the shift “These people want to come hear my music and hear what I have to say and have a good time.”
Along with his solo project, Sean is also involved in a couple of other bands. One of his favorite memories is playing with his band ‘Wild Card’ “We played in our friends basement. It was just crazy, we had the whole place filled up with 120 of our closest fans and everything we played they were eating it up. It was such a great time. Just, music is such good way to connect people. And this was the realist I have ever seen that in person, I guess.”
Another notable experience was when his (now) Koala Kings band mate opened up for one of his solo performances. “It was so cool to see him take to the stage for the first time because I had always known how incredible he was. It was awesome to get to see everyone else seeing that.”
Though initially inspired by acoustic and folk-pop genres, Sean’s music development has been influenced by more high-energy groups such as Good For Grapes, whom he saw perform at Atlin Music Festival in 2018. “And I saw how they had this really high-energy stage presence. And I started listening to other music where the vocalist would belt out crazy notes.” With this in mind, his style shifted from mellow, relax-you-to-sleep verses to a more lively and energetic sound.
Being open to different genres and styles of music has helped him along in his musical development and he encourages young aspiring artists to do the same. “If you limit yourself to a genre and you say: ‘“I’m only this kind of artist. I can only create this kind of music.”’ I think that you will put a huge limit on what you can do, [and] your capabilities.” He also encourages beginners just to practice and to make that practice something that you love doing and “all the growth will come from there.”
Variety and balance are important themes to our Sean. He dabbles in different types of music (he recently joined an acapella group) and pursues his interests in academics as well as sports. He keeps an equilibrium between his schooling and music career with both ventures and is finding success in each. Just this summer, he played at both the Adäka Cultural Festival and at the Moosehide Gathering and will be graduating from engineering next spring. That being said, I would recommend you go check out his YouTube channel ‘Sean From The Yukon’ and keep an eye out for his future appearances.