I LOVE ‘Glee.’ Not shocking Have you heard this amazing performance by teen Filipina songstress, Charice? She’s got some amazing pipes and some serious soul. WOW! I hope she can really break through to the American market because she’s already a youtube sensation and has made a splash with her new role on ‘Glee.’ Here is another track she performed with Iyaz called, “Pyramid.”
You may have heard this ubiquitous song, “Impossible,” that is tearing up the Billboard charts, by the West Indian singer, Shontelle, who is a prolific songwriter and talented singer whose story is not a typical one. First, she attended a “Cadets” camp where she was a drill sergeant over someone you may have heard of, Rihanna. As a teenager, her family was not keen on her pursuing a career in the music industry and so Shontelle decided to attend the University of the West Indies where she pursued a degree in Entertainment law. Soon after, she started crafting songs for a number of top Caribbean artists, all while attending the University. Producers Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken of SRP Records , who had discovered Rihanna in Barbados and brought her to the world stage, heard one of her songs on a Bajan radio station and felt that it had international hit potential.They sought out the writer of the song to license it for a cover version, and had a pleasant shock; “We couldn’t believe that she was such a great singer and so young and beautiful, and hadn’t been discovered yet” says Rogers. They signed her immediately, and spent the next six months creating her debut album. Soon after, she signed with Universal Music.
I had a chance to speak with Shontelle about impossible dreams, touring with BEYONCE (Yup, you read that right), working with everyone from songwriter Diane Warren to hit-making producer Sean Garrett, and of course, her advice to anyone out there with a dream.
Shontelle great to speak with you. So where are you now? NYC/LA/Barbados?
In NY right now. I miss LA though!
So, tell us how you got started singing? Did you know that you wanted to be a recording artist since you were very young? Who were your musical influences?
I definitely knew that I wanted to be a singer, performer and recording artist since I was a little girl. I didn’t call it that when I was little. I had no idea how to make it happen. It was my dream and I’d watch “The Little Mermaid,”and could relate to how Ariel “wanted be part of that world.” I wanted my Sebastian who was from Trinidad and I thought…people in my world can be part of Hollywood. I would hide in the closet and sing there so no one would hear me. My Mom knocked down the door and said, “Shontelle, we can hear you from next door so why don’t you sing for everyone!” By the way, if Disney ever needs a mermaid, I’ll be here.
Love it! You were studying to become a lawyer before you were discovered by the SRC label. What changed for you? Both are such different fields.
Law was my backup plan. By the time I got to an age to get a degree, I knew for a fact that I want to be in the Entertainment industry. But hey, you never know…the singer thing might not work out. At least, if I could do Entertainment law, then I could rep an artist, manage an artist, learn about publishing. I figured it was a smart thing to study, the business of entertainment.
That’s awesome, so basically no one can mess with you.
It definitely helps. It pays to know what’s going on.
As an artist, how do you get inspired to write a really amazing track or lyrics? How do you get in that creative zone?
I think my method is random. I can actually have an idea in my head, and then start writing words that start out as a poem. I can hear a melody in my head and think, “Where is this going?” Sometimes producers send me beats with music and I’ll just write to it. Sometimes we go in the studio and start from the ground up. We just put our heads together and build the song, the lyrics, the melodies, from the ground up. And I usually walk around with a digital recorder because ideas come randomly. I always want to record it to save my ideas because you never know what could end up in the song.
I’m obsessed with your hit song “Impossible.” Congrats as its climbing the Billboard charts…tell us how this track came about. Also, “Licky,” is a really sexy song… both are really different so tell us how these songs came about.
When I first heard “Impossible,” I lost my mind. I heard the demo and was like, almost intimidated because I was like…I’m such a new artist. All I have is the song, “T-shirt,” and are they going to accept me for doing a big song? I knew I had the potential to do it so I went straight to the LA studio and recorded it. For a song this big, I have to bring AAA game. Well, I had the best teacher for 2 months because I had just toured with Beyonce and she’s amazing. “Licky” was the track I did with Sean Garrett and DJ Franky. I had so much fun touring since my first album that I just wanted to be risky, not crazy, just risky. The vibe is all about the summer, clubs, and singing a hook that’s catchy. I just was like..this is about having fun. We made an awesome video and we could be cliche and put this in an ice cream parlor or just rock out crazy outfits and go over the top. But we went being a Fierce Diva..snapping your fingers. Being fierce.
Very cool. So..you toured with Beyonce. Do tell.
She is the Queen. Epic. She embodies what I’d like to become as an artist because she’s not just beautiful on the outside. She is just a sweet, genuine person and really disciplined. A truly powerful woman. She’s works hard, has endless talent, and is really driven. That’s how I’d like to be. Women like Alicia Keys, Beyonce, and Mary J. Blige who have overcome odds, but they remain strong and grounded.
What was it like to tour with Ms. Single Ladies Herself?
Being on tour with Beyonce was amazing. She took time to meet and hang out with me, and she even gave me notes on my performances and videos. Afterwards, I went to the afterparties with her and Jay. Its unreal that I’m on this tour. I don’t think you understand..she changed my life. We were like almost in tears..so cute. I just had to tell her that. Being able to work with an artist of that caliber and that level was amazing. And then you see the discipline to become and execute that..I just learned so much from the band, crew, her, her team. It was an eye-opener. That’s how you run the game. She’s so epic that everywhere she goes..everyone who is EPIC shows up whether its Bono or Sade.
I love the track “Stuck with each other” that you did with Akon for the “Confessions of Shopoholic” soundtrack. I usually play that song in my car and its really for any of those couples who are like, “We might fight all the time, but we’re crazy about each other.” Tell us about that track.
That was a great song and again, this was another epic event because Diane Warren wrote that song. I mean it was Rodney Jerkins/Dark Child/ and then Akon. I was like..this is my first album, and it felt like hitting the ball out of the park 3 times in a row..OMG. It was pretty amazing to have all that cool stuff happening. I’m so blessed. This is why I work so hard.
Seriously. So, do you hate the constant comparisons to Rihanna or do you not mind it? It’s obviously because you’re both talented female artists from Barbados. What are your thoughts?
Luckily no one has asked me in a way that offended me. It doesn’t bother me. I mean, you expect that. It’s natural that it would happen. It’s your right of passage, you know, being compared to previous artists. How can I connect with this? It’s a double edged sword. But I like Rihanna and I’m so proud of her that she’s doing well. She’s the shit and she’s doing so great. I expect it and understand it.
Okay, now back to you. Who are some of your dream collaborators whether they be artists or producers?
I’ve been really lucky so far and have worked with some amazing people from Diane Warren to Sean Garrett. But I’d love to work with Bruno Mars, Tony Kanal, Mr. Hudson, Alicia Keys, T.I. Definitely something really cool with an epic musician..with a rapper. I really love T.I. because a lot of his songs are empowering and his message..his whole story inspires me. Oh and Jason DeRulo. Love him.
I’m a huge T.I. fan! So, you recently said that you wanted to go more edgy and rock, but that you didn’t want to be compared to anyone in particular. How would you describe your musical and fashion style?
My style varies on my mood and whichever track I’m working on. For “Licky,” we went over the top, high fashion, rogue-ish with lots of Alexander McQueen, Dolce and Gabanna, LV, and Marc Jacobs. I absolutely love fashion and my style can be edgy or beach girl because that’s who I am. I am a beach girl from Barbados. When I’m in LA, I usually look like I walked out of the water with wild curly hair and a flowy dress. It just varies. I love fashion. If you take me shopping..I go nuts.
Top 5 songs in your ipod right now?
Bruno Mars and BOB/ Airplanes by BOB with Hayley Williams/ Empire State of Mind with Jay-Z/Young Money.. Jay Z, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Kesha. And I have to admit. Justin Bieber’s “Baby”. All the new music. Jason DeRulo. Le Roux..”Bulletproof.”
Beauty secrets? lI’m very low maintenance and lazy. One thing though that I always take care of is definitely moisture I’m always walking around with lotion. Also, don’t sleep in your makeup. If you want beautiful skin, don’t fly in makeup.
What about social media? How active are you on Myspace or twitter?
Haha. I’m a twitterholic…I’m on twitter like a goon. I’m so addicted it’s ridiculous. They have to pry me from my G1 because I’m so in touch with my fans. Facebook/MySpace/Twitter..I’m all over it.
You seem to be living your dream. What would you say to all the little kids out there who have a big dream and are trying to figure out how to achieve it?
I really hope that my story can inspire people because coming from a small island you know..I’m living this big life. It always seemed unreachable, impossible or unattainable. You know..if you just want to do something big, you have to just go for it. There’s always some sort of obstacle, a challenge, but what I always tell people is that dreaming is great, but it starts with that. I say..don’t chase dreams. make them. Create them. Don’t let nobody break them. Whatever it is that you want to do, you have to be focused on it. Study your craft, know what you want, and ask questions. That’s how you learn, so don’t be afraid to fail. Try learning new things and surround yourself with people you can trust who believe in you. You have to believe in yourself. If you do that, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be unsuccessful. There’s nothing in the world you will do better than that. Figure out your passion. Create your world around it. You’ll be successful.
Shontelle, you’re an inspirational gal. And check out her hot single, Impossible, that is rising on the Billboard charts as we speak. Thanks for your time!
Yo. My name is Kat Ahn, and I started this blog to maintain my sanity while working at a tech start-up. Who am I? A Philly-born Actress/Writer/Performer. A former people pleaser who has a penchant for drawing bad stick figure cartoons and rapping spoof songs. Did I mention my parents' own a cheesesteak shop called Boo's? True story.
Meghan Moeller at Principato Young Entertainment
(310) 274- 4474