Parsing through the uncertainty of life is core to the human experience. For Toronto-based guitarist and songwriter Dylan Forshner, it’s part of what brought him to music in the first place.
“What Am I Doing?” is Forshner’s debut as a songwriter, fit with the authentically raw trepidation of a musical caterpillar with the chops of a chrysalis ready to crack. Over a grungy riff with enough tempo to replicate the confusion of an occupied mind, Forshner repeatedly asks the most rhetorical of questions:
“What the f*** am I doing?
What the f*** am I doing?
Who told you I was okay
I’m ‘bout to drink until we parlay”
Forshner fashioned the song at 2 a.m., unable to sleep and working over lyrics and a chord progression he’d created. After three and a half years of playing guitar covers, the musician was finally branching out into original songwriting, and the quintessential existential thought crossed his mind: “What am I doing?”
“This phrase captured not only how I felt in relation to that moment but how I was feeling emotionally at the time with various struggles in my life having me feeling overwhelmed,” Forshner said. “It encompasses the thought of not knowing what you’re doing contrasted with a sense of optimism to let go of that feeling of helplessness and power on.”
It’s an appropriate, honest open from someone who’s admittedly green. For most of his youth and young adulthood, Forshner was not playing the guitar or writing songs – he was learning and working in the black-and-white world of finance. But that left him feeling unfulfilled, and he changed careers to find something less stressful and with a better work-life balance.
While on leave from work in December 2019, the then-27-year-old decided to pick up the guitar. Forshner fell in love with learning riffs and eventually playing full songs, and he was hooked.
In October 2022, he did his first open mic. Knees and voice shaking, he fought through the nerves and got his first taste of performing live. One month later in November, a friend in the music scene set Forshner up for his first gig. He admits he wasn’t ready for it, but he delivered anyway, doing his best to take the songs he knew and give the crowd something to enjoy.
“This felt like a turning point to push harder and harder to learn as much as I can and perform as much as I can,” Forshner said.
In May 2023, Forshner took his first stab at writing his own music, and everything took off from there. He’s since been steadily gigging, writing, and jamming with other musicians, his life completely alien to how it was just five years ago.
He’s now making and releasing his own music, with “What Am I Doing?” an early introduction for the world to the Ontario artist. Though the track was released under Forshner’s name, the final version was a group effort. Drummer Marcelo Maltez of The Howlin Gales and bassist Cas Lucchetta of The Kaspers agreed to practice and perform with Forshner as a favour for his first-ever full band performance. From there, it quickly evolved, and Mark Sinclair of The Howlin Gales got involved to help on lead guitar.
“Without the help of my fellow musician friends in the Toronto music scene, I do not know how this would have ever seen the light of day,” Forshner explained. “I am eternally grateful for everyone who has shown support to keep on trucking as I venture into the journey of a songwriter.”