Catching Up With SiairaShawn
I recently interviewed indie artist SiairaShawn. This San Francisco native has already released one album, A Taste, and plans to release her second album, The Outsider Inside, this fall. Her performance experiences include regular appearances in the Bay area as well as sharing the stage with such artists as Goapele, Bilal, Kindred, and Dwele. SiairaShawn says she’s on a quest to raise literacy through her lyrics. I’d say her songs are undoubtedly well written, and I was glad for the opportunity to hear more about her music. Here’s the interview, where she describes her new album, her music-making process, and her future plans:
Mimi Soul: If you could only use 3 words to describe your music, which 3 would you choose?
SiairaShawn: soulful, thought-provoking, nourishment
Mimi Soul: I read that you attended the San Francisco School of the Arts with a concentration in theatre. Do you have any plans to add your music to any theatrical performances?
SiairaShawn: Yes, theatre is a love of mine that I miss. It’s just hard to do that, sing, and work. I would love to have my music used for that. I still have a little dream of being on Broadway or in a musical production.
Mimi Soul: What’s a typical day in the studio like for you? Do you write and produce your songs?
SiairaShawn: I get in there when I can. I LOVE being in the studio and I wish I could record everyday. Unfortunately, it’s not an everyday thing because I have to work. I’ve started to record scratch tracks at the home studio of my main producer; which are tracks where I sing how I want the track to sound, ideas about melody, but no harmonies or anything. Then, on another day, I’ll go into a really nice studio in Berkeley, California and usually try to record one or two songs. I try to make sure everything is perfect. So, sometimes I can spend a lot of time on one verse or note. Then there are other times when I hit stuff the first time. Engineers and producers I’ve worked with have nicknamed me “one take wonder” (laughing).
I do write all of my songs. I don’t produce but I come up with the melodies, harmonies, and most of the vocal arrangements. With this new project, we worked on some songs from scratch, where I just sang my melody and arranged it a little and we built from there. I work with George Hearst, who’s a wonderful producer, and some younger Oakland producers such as The League 510. I also work with some great musicians including Maya Kronfeld on keys and Jimi Fisher on guitar and bass
Mimi Soul: What influenced your decision to offer your first album, A Taste, for free download on last.fm?
SiairaShawn: I originally wanted to print a lot of copies. But, I had a car accident and the money I saved had to go into taking care of that. So, I printed 100 copies and I sold them all. In retrospect, it happened for a reason because that album for me was as the title says, A Taste, for people to hear a little something from me. I decided not to put too much into it because after it was done, I liked it and people seem to feel it. But I knew I wanted to present something better; something that really showed my voice and sound. I think that project gave enough, but not all I wanted to give. So, it was used as performance material for me and I built on those songs for this next project.
Mimi Soul: How will your upcoming album be different from your first one?
SiairaShawn: As I said, the first album was literally a taste; the tip of my iceberg. I’ve grown so much as a writer and artist. I realized that in the past I was working a lot with rap producers and I was trying to fit my voice to the beats. A lot of times the music was overpowering my voice, which was always something people commented on. So, this time around, I am really crafting songs, not just beats that I sing over. There are two songs from the other project that I made over, re-produced and sang again to make them better songs. My voice is the centerpiece and the music compliments that. I’ve done a lot of live instrumentation and I think a lot more of my musical interest and influences are coming through. So, I’m really excited for people to hear it!